How to Create the Best Powerpoint Presentations, With Examples

Some presentations are better than others. Some have gorgeous designs. Some have insanely actionable takeaways. Some just give down-to-earth advice. But the best presentations represent all three.

And if you’re looking to get started making your own presentation, why not learn from the best of the best?

To help you kick your own presentations up a notch, we’ve curated 24 awesome PowerPoint and SlideShare decks below. 

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When you’re clicking through the presentations below, notice how they weave an interesting story through the format, design their slides, and make their presentations interactive with features exclusive to the platform on which they were created. These are all crucial elements to making an awesome presentation — ones that you can certainly adapt and apply them to your own, with the right approach.

Even better … you may just learn a thing or two about marketing while you’re at it.

How to Create the Best PowerPoint Presentations

1) Less is more.

Here’s the thing — SlideShare exists for a reason. It allows users to view information in a presentation format without having to go somewhere else to see it presented. When you, a human being, deliver a presentation, chances are that that’s part of the reason why people are tuning in. They care about the topic, but they also are curious about the person speaking on it.

That’s why it can be valuable to keep your slides simple when delivering a presentation to an audience in-person. You want the focus to be on the message, rather than just the slides themselves. Keep the slides on-topic, but simple enough that people can still pay attention to what you’re saying, using the visual presentation to support your message.

2) Keep text to a minimum.

One way to accomplish the aforementioned simplicity is to reduce the amount of text in your presentation. People recall information better when images are paired with it (as opposed to text), so to help your message resonate with the audience, focus on visual content when you create your slides — we’ll cover more on that in a bit.

You certainly won’t be alone — even Google CEO Sundar Pichai practices the reduction of text in his presentations. “Since stories are best told with pictures,” he reportedly remarked at Google I/O 2017, “bullet points and text-heavy slides are increasingly avoided at Google.”

3) Rethink visuals.

When you reduce the amount of text in your slides, you’ll need compelling visuals to support the message you’re delivering to your audience. But that doesn’t mean you can just throw some nice-looking photos onto your deck and move on. Like any other content strategy, the visual elements of your presentation need to be strategic and relevant.

Templates

While PowerPoint templates have come a long way since the program was first unveiled to the world, chances are, they’re still commonly used. To help make your presentation unique, choose a theme that your audience hasn’t seen dozens of times before — one that matches your brand and complements the topic you’re speaking about.

Sometimes, it pays to look beyond to other presentation platforms other than PowerPoint to find unique templates, like Prezi. There are also many visual content design sites that offer customizable templates that you can adapt for your own brand and topic, like Canva. In fact, in addition to templates, Canva also offers its very own platform for building presentations from scratch, which you can check out here.

Charts and Graphs

One of the best ways to support the message you’re delivering in your presentation is by including data and statistics — and the good news is that they, too, can be represented visually, rather than bulleted out in text.

That’s where charts and graphs come in: They provide a colorful and engaging way to present the details that support your point. That said, make sure they fit in with the rest of your presentation’s visual theme — otherwise, it’ll distract the audience from what you’re talking about, rather than enhancing it. 

Color Themes

There’s been some research around the way color can influence our emotions, especially when used in marketing — in some cases, changing the color of a CTA button boosted conversions by 21%.

And while the goal of your presentation may not necessarily be to make a sale, you might be trying to invoke certain feelings or impressions, which a strategic use of color can help you do. Check out Coschedule’s guide on the psychology of color in marketing, which highlights the ways different tones, shades, and combinations can influence purchasing decisions.

Fonts

When you do include text, you want it to be readable enough for your audience to fully consume and interpret it easily enough to avoid becoming distracted from your message. If you include text that’s too small or dense to easily read, they’ll become too focused on trying to decipher it to pay attention to what you’re saying.

That’s why the designers at Visage recommend choosing Sans Serif fonts that opt for “legibility over fun,” noting that text should not only be big enough for people in the back of the room to read it, but also, presented in the right color to maintain visibility over your background.

Image quality

Incorporating this fabulous visual content into your presentation will go to waste if the images are low-quality. Make sure your photos and other visual assets are high-resolution enough to be crisp and clear when displayed on a huge presentation screen.

4) Incorporate multimedia.

There’s a reason why we love examples. You can give out the best advice available, but sometimes, in order to believe it, people need to see it in practice.

Multimedia is one way to achieve that — in a manner that can also capture and maintain your audience’s attention. A simple Google search for “music in presentations” yields enough soundtrack results to suggests that it’s a unique way of engaging your audience, or at least create a welcoming atmosphere before and after you speak.

Within the presentation itself, video — as it is in so many other applications — serves as valuable visual content to keep your audience engaged. After all, 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers, often because it helps to illustrate and explain theories in practice in a way that the spoken word or photographs can’t do alone.

24 Great SlideShare & PowerPoint Presentation Examples for Marketers

1) “How to Produce Better Content Ideas,” Mark Johnstone

We all get writer’s block sometimes. You’ll stare at a screen, hoping for inspiration to strike — and for that idea to be amazing.

But that’s not actually the best way to think of ideas. In the presentation below, Mark Johnstone outlines a better way to brainstorm ideas that will help build your business.

2) “How Google Works,” Eric Schmidt

Ever wonder what it’s actually like to work at Google? The presentation below from Eric Schmidt (Alphabet, Inc.’s Executive Chairman and ex-CEO of Google) could clue you in — it outlines some of the top lessons he and his team have learned from running and hiring for one of the top companies in the world. Besides giving you a peek behind the scenes of a top company, it could inspire you to make changes to the way your business runs.

3) “Fix Your Really Bad PowerPoint,” Slide Comet

Okay, maybe your PowerPoint isn’t that bad, but this presentation has some awesome takeaways we all could learn from. Even if you’re following all the tips in this presentation, you can sure be inspired by its expert copy and design.

4) “KPCB 2017 Internet Trends,” Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Mary Meeker’s report on the latest internet trends is one of the most hotly anticipated data reports of the year. Even if you gave this presentation a gander when it first came out, it’s worth revisiting — the data’s fascinating, current, and relevant to marketers in any industry.

 

5) “Why Content Marketing Fails,” Rand Fishkin

Sometimes, the most helpful pieces of content tell you what not to do. Rand Fishkin’s presentation does just that. He takes an in-depth look at the most common reasons people fail at content marketing — and offers practical, original advice on fixing it.

6) “The What If Technique,” Motivate Design

Most marketers are looking to grow … but sometimes they can get stuck making incremental improvements. While these improvements are growth, larger, bigger growth jumps are what most people want. To help you get unstuck from incrementalism, Motivate Design outlined a process in the presentation below.

7) “Digital Strategy 101,” Bud Caddell

Even though this presentation is almost 100 slides long, its content is pure gold. Caddell answers some of the biggest FAQs about digital strategy in a very accessible way. The reason his slides are so straightforward is because of the way he’s laid them out. He’s really adept at making “animated” slides explain his story — something we all should learn how to do.

8) “10 Ways to Win the Internets,” Upworthy

Even though Upworthy’s got a bad rap for creating clickbait headlines, their lessons on going viral are incredibly interesting. Besides having great advice about going viral, Upworthy does a great job of making its presentation interactive using clickable links.

9) “Crap: The Content Marketing Deluge,” Velocity Partners

Even though this SlideShare is a few years old, it’s one every content marketer should flip through. The reason we love it so much is because the message — and delivery of that message — is pretty much flawless. Definitely take a second to flip through the presentation, as you’ll learn a great lesson while also soaking up a great piece of SlideShare content.

10) “What Would Steve Do? 10 Lessons from the World’s Most Captivating Presenters,” HubSpot

Not to toot our own horn, but this presentation has been one of our most successful ones, so we wanted to share it with you. I personally love how actionable tips are provided in a visual way. For example, in slides 47 through 49, the author explains the difference between “showing” and “telling” by putting the word “circle” next to a picture of a circle. Although showing, not telling, is a key storytelling technique in writing, it’s especially effective in presentations.

11) “How I Got 2.5 Million Views on SlideShare,” Nick Demey

Feeling inspired to create a SlideShare of your own? Make sure you flip through Nick Demey’s presentation first. He shares some tried-and-true tips for creating awesome presentations that rack up tons of views.

12) “10 Powerful Body Language Tips for Your Next Presentation,” Soap Presentations

This presentation is inspirational from a design perspective — we especially love the color scheme. Using complementary colors (colors opposite each other on the color wheel) can be overwhelming at times, but because Soap Presentations uses them with lots of white space in the background, the colors draw your attention to the content of the slides.

13) “What 33 Successful Entrepreneurs Learned From Failure,” ReferralCandy

Learning from mistakes is a crucial part of growing in your professional and personal lives. But sometimes, it’s better to learn from others’ mistakes instead of making them yourself. This presentation outlines some core lessons successful entrepreneurs have learned by making mistakes. Read on so you don’t have to make the same ones.

14) “Displaying Data,” Bipul Deb Nath

We admire presentation for its exceptional display of data — now this post will explain how to do the same in your own presentations. I also love how this presentation is very concise and minimal, as it helps communicate a fairly advanced topic in an easy-to-understand way.

15) “Design Your Career 2017,” Slides That Rock

This presentation’s advice is applicable and its design admirable. The whole black-and-white color scheme really makes the salmon accent color pop — and the SlideShare creatively combines these elements for different slide layouts. Definitely bookmark this presentation as an example of a great SlideShare design.

16) “A-Z Culture Glossary 2017,” sparks & honey

The first time I heard the phrase “on fleek,” I had no idea what it meant. (Apparently, it’s a term that means “on point,” in case you were wondering.)

If you’re like me and feel like it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the latest cultural trends, spend time with the presentation below. It’ll outline the most popular trends you should know this year — most definitely worth a read.

 

17) “The History of SEO,” HubSpot

SEO’s changed a lot in the past two decades. Most of us are concerned with keeping up with the latest and greatest changes … but have you ever taken a minute to step back in time? The presentation below will walk you through SEO history from the very beginning — it’s been a fascinating ride.

18) “5 Killer Ways to Design the Same Slide,” Crispy Presentations

Once you start designing presentations, it’s easy to fall back on tried-and-true layouts, photos, fonts, and colors. While keeping everything consistent can be good for branding or for shipping a deck quickly, it can also prevent people from noticing the awesome new content you’ve put together. The quick presentation below shows you a few different ways you can design the same slide — all depending on what you want it to accomplish.

19) “The Seven Deadly Social Media Sins,” XPLAIN

Besides having some great takeaways for any inbound marketer, I love how this presentation successfully uses Creative Commons images in almost every slide. It’s pretty inspirational — even if you don’t have budget for stock photos, you can have an engaging presentation.

20) “The Minimum Lovable Product,” Spook Studio

When they’re first getting started, many startups and agile teams talk about creating a minimal viable product — using the smallest amount of resources to produce something that’s good enough to begin testing. After all, why pour tons of resources into something that you don’t know will work?

This presentation challenges the MVP concept in favor for creating something that people love. Check it out — it has lessons even for those of us who aren’t building technology every day.

21) “How to Teach Yourself HTML and CSS This Month,” Ryan Bonhardt

Lots of people have “learn to code” on their to-do list … but they never get to it. In marketing, knowing how to navigate code is becoming even more important to being successful. If you’ve been waiting to get started with coding, check out the presentation below.

22) “How People Really Hold and Touch (Their Phones),” Steven Hoober

When you hear the phrase “design for mobile” what do you think? Probably that you need to create a responsive website, and that’s about it.

But that’s not all you need to worry about. When you’re creating mobile-optimized content, you need to know how people actually use their phones — and the presentation below will you a great overview of consumer behavior.

23) “How to Really Get Into Marketing,” Inbound.org

If you’re graduating from school or making a career change and looking to get into marketing, it can feel tough to actually get started. It’s one of those “you need experience to get the job, but you have no experience” conundrums.

Well, that’s where this presentation comes in. Hull growth marketer Ed Fry — once employee #1 at Inbound.org — gives real, actionable tips to help you get your foot in the door at your next marketing gig.

24) “Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing,” Velocity Partners

Sometimes, it’s easy to get bogged down and think you’re doing “just marketing.” You’re not operating on people and saving lives, right?

From the creators of “Crap: The Content Marketing Deluge” comes the following presentation. If you’re ever feeling down-in-the-dumps about marketing, I’d highly recommend reading it. It’s thoughtful, funny, and a great presentation to keep in your back pocket for a rainy day.

 
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Why the “Pivot to Video” Is Misguided

When I read that the average American spends five-and-a-half hours per day watching video content, I scoffed — because between video explainers on Facebook, Game of Thrones, and Netflix, that average is closer to my daily minimum time spent watching videos.

After all, 2017 is “the year of video” — so why shouldn’t people consume more videos, and why shouldn’t creators make more?

As it turns out, there is such a thing as too much video — and it happens when publishers “pivot to video.”

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pivot gif friends.gif

No, not that kind of pivot. I’m talking about the “pivot to video.”

What is pivoting to video? No, it’s not changing seats on the couch to get a better view — it’s the latest example of marketers and content creators being so eager to adopt a new platform or medium that they ruin it.

What Is Pivoting to Video?

Pivot to video (verb): To decrease or entirely shutter written editorial operations to focus on creating more video content

Synonyms: restructuring, reorganizing, refocusing

If this sounds like a joke … well, the dictionary definition is kind of a joke. But “pivoting to video” consists of publications deciding to focus so entirely on video that entire writing and editorial staff are laid off completely.

It started with MTV News.

You might not be surpised to hear this — after all, the word “television” makes up two of the three letters in MTV. But after an organizational restructuring at MTV in 2015, long-form editorial and video content about politics, culture, and social issues helped improve the network’s ratings and engagement on web properties. MTV News staffed its team with content creators who produced documentary-style videos and 4,000-6,000-word long-form written pieces — most of whom were let go in June of this year, when MTV News “pivoted” to create more short-form music and entertainment video over long-form editorial pieces.

Twitter was flooded with tweets from former employees announcing their newfound employment status, friends calling for publishers to hire them, and content creators from all media decrying — and defending — the strategic pivot.

But the pivot didn’t stop there.

Over the past year thus far, several major publishers have pivoted, structured, reorganized, and refocused on creating video content — at the cost of writers’ and editors’ jobs. Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, Vice, and HuffPost have all focused efforts on creating short-form video content — and all have laid off writers and editors. One publication — Vocativ — laid off its entire editorial staff “to focus exclusively on video content.”

In fact, “pivoting to video” has become such a ubiquitous term in the digital space that it’s become a joke in and of itself.

But funny tweets notwithstanding, we need to talk about why you shouldn’t pivot to video — at least, not fully.

What Pivoting to Video Is All About

Let’s call a spade a spade — publishers are pivoting to video to make money.

In the age of pre-roll and mid-roll advertising, it’s harder to ignore a video ad when it’s the only thing standing between you and a video you want to watch. Ads are easier to ignore when they live in the side margins and on top of written long-form articles, so publishers might see a greater opportunity to make money from placing video ads over video content.

And the biggest piece of the digital advertising pie now goes not to advertisers or publishers — but to Facebook and Google. So it’s understandable that media companies and publications are doing whatever they can to drive ROI on the content they produce.

But the pivot to video isn’t happening at random — these strategic reorganizations are also a nod to the growing popularity of video content, which we can’t deny — nor would we want to.

We’ve blogged at length about video being engaging, in-demand, and a smart way for brands to diversify content and connect with audiences in new ways. And making videos is smart — it just shouldn’t be the only content your brand produces.

It’s true that videos are growing in popularity — your audience wants to see videos, videos drive results for your business, and videos are an extremely favorable medium across different social media platforms. It’s also true that the human attention span is waning. But this doesn’t mean you should send your editorial staff packing. You don’t need to “pivot to video” to develop a smart video strategy as part of your content production engine — and we’ll show you how.

Why Pivoting to Video Is Bad (and What You Should Do Instead)

1) People like to read.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that the written word has been in existence for several thousand years (Thank you, Flinstone family), the popularity of video content and written content aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, audiences want more written content and more videos — so can’t we all just get along?

Last year, we learned that almost half of consumers want to see more video content — but almost the same amount also wanted to see more news articles.

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And in a new HubSpot Research survey forthcoming later this year, we learned that the popularity of video content is increasing — especially among people in their teens and early 20s. But people of all ages wanted to see more in-depth multimedia articles, ebooks, and blog posts, too — and you shouldn’t cast that segment of your audience aside in favor of solely creating content in the latest and most popular medium.

Content consumption preferences are always changing, and they vary across different age groups, content formats, and subject matter. There are some cases when the written word is a better way to share information than video content, and in some cases, audiences don’t want videos at all. For example, in the United States, NiemanLab found that video isn’t growing as rapidly as one might think.

In fact, roughly half of those surveyed didn’t watch any online news videos — and more than two-thirds said they consumed most news in text format. Most video being consumed was short and sweet and entertaining — leaving plenty of room at the table for written content consumption, too.

nieman video news consumption.png

So, people are watching videos, but they’re also consuming a lot of text content, too. How should publishers and content producers address the diversifying content preferences of audiences?

The Solution?

Make great videos, and write great articles. In fact, ideally, you should be writing articles and reports, and then incorporating videos and other multimedia elements into them. Give the people what they want — which is written, visual, and audio content.

Think about how your audience wants to learn. According to the survey above, people are more interested in consuming in-depth news information by reading it, whereas they might be more interested in watching shorter, more consumable video content. While a video might be a good fit for briefly explaining a complicated topic, it might not be the best fit for a detailed breakdown of SEO best practices — like in these examples.

If you don’t know the answer to this question, ask your audience. If you’re not sure about your industry or audience’s preferences, ask them. Using an email newsletter or a Twitter poll, ask questions like, “What would you most like us to produce a video about?” or “Do you prefer written or visual explainers?” to figure out where to get started.

The answer to the question of what types of content your audience prefers is an evolving one — and one that we constantly experiment with here at HubSpot. Read about how we’re changing up our social media video strategy in this blog post.

2) Videos are hard to make.

Videos are hard to make — and it shows.

The internet is populated with far too many slideshows and photos set to music that are masquerading as videos — like this one:

Videos like these don’t offer the viewer much more value than reading a story would, but publishers keep making them — presumably because they get more clicks on social media than an article would.

I don’t know about you, but I find these videos extremely annoying — they either autoplay when I open an article, or I click them to learn more and get no additional information out of them.

Instead, publishers and brands should be striving to make great videos — which are driven by great stories. You need good storytelling to create a compelling video, and — guess what? That will require the writing of a script or outline beforehand, and writers and editors can be of tremendous value there.

Additionally, if you remember our finding above, audiences don’t just want one thing — they want it all. Consumers want multimedia articles, in-depth research reports, blog posts, and entertaining videos. There’s plenty of room for cross-collaboration between writers, editors, and video producers to create excellent content that solves for constantly-changing consumer preferences.

The Solution?

Before implementing a video strategy, invest in resources to do it well, and experiment with creating different videos for different segments of your audience.

This means taking the time (and resources) to invest in video equipment, filming, and editing software, and freelancers or new employees who can make videos — more specifically, who can make videos well.

By investing in video content up front, you’ll ensure that your entire content production team is firing on all cylinders and creating video content that can both eventually rank in search results, and generate millions of views organically — not just as an ad.

3) Videos are tough to distribute.

With the exception of a few major publications — with content production budgets in the millions — it’s hard to crack the code of not only how to make great videos, but how to monetize them and use them to drive leads, customers, and revenue.

That’s partly because digital video is such a new content medium, and content creators are figuring out how to make great videos (see above). It’s also because Google search ranking factors and social media algorithms change so frequently that it’s hard to nail getting videos surfaced and seen by people on different platforms.

And now that more people are jumping on the video content creation bandwagon, search engines and social networks are getting saturated with more videos to compete against.

So you might think that video creation is the hard part, but that’s just the beginning. It takes concerted effort for videos to rank in YouTube and Google search results, or to rack up thousands and millions of views on Instagram and Facebook. And even if you do everything right, there could be a bunch of reasons people don’t want to watch your videos — they might not want to turn up the volume, they might be running low on their monthly data plan, or hey — they could even be sitting on the toilet.

People have their preferences, and in our forthcoming survey, we found that consumers want to watch video content and read in-depth news and research content — and that they want to watch videos on social media. Millions of hours of video content are streamed across social platforms every day, but these popular social videos might not generate leads at the speed a growing business needs.

So, we suggest creating multimedia content that serves a variety of purposes on a variety of different platforms. For example, keyword-specific blog posts and YouTube videos might quickly rank in Google and YouTube searches, to help drive visitors to landing pages and lead forms that help brands start selling. On the other hand, entertaining, short-form videos on Facebook and Instagram will help spread a brand’s message and attract more people to a website down the line.

If you’re just getting started with video marketing, we have ideas for the type of video you should make first. Use them to help guide visitors along your marketing funnel — alongside written content and offers to capture lead information.

The Solution?

Make specific types of videos for specific platforms in the same way you would for different types of written content. That way, the videos you create will have specific goals in mind — for example, video views, video view rate, or website clicks — that you can measure and iterate on.

Videos achieve outcomes on social media that written content might not, and written content can achieve search engine rankings that videos might not. The best scenario is to create both types of content — along with multimedia content — to meet audiences’ ever-changing preferences, and to attract visitors and leads throughout the marketing funnel.

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The 5 Best Messaging Apps for Marketing in 2017

Remember only being able to send 1,000 texts each month?

My mom definitely remembers our phone bills when I doubled that amount every week in middle school.

Thankfully, companies created messaging apps to provide free and unlimited messaging, which was a refreshing solution for rigid text message limits and their lofty costs.

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But messaging apps refused to be just another form of text messaging. They kept innovating and evolved into apps for almost every digital interaction possible.

Now, within a single app, you can chat with your friends, communicate with brands, make calls, play games, consume content, buy products, and even call a cab.

These added functionalities make messaging apps sticky. They draw users to the app more often and keep them there for a longer time. Today, messaging apps have over 5 billion monthly active users worldwide.

Most messaging apps also let businesses market to their massive, engaged user bases. Marketers can now use chatbots to provide customer service, send content to users, sell products, and advertise.

Naturally, different countries and age groups prefer some apps to others. Read on to learn how you can tailor your messaging app marketing for five different global messaging apps.

5 Best Messaging Apps for Marketing in 2017

1) WhatsApp

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Monthly active users:1.3 billion

Most Popular Regions: Latin America, Europe, The Middle East, Southeast Asia, India, Russia, and Africa

Age Group: 25-44

Marketing Features:

WhatsApp doesn’t sell ads, prohibits third-party bots, and limits its broadcast message feature and group chats to 256 people. How are marketers supposed to leverage the most popular messaging app in the world then?

Since WhatsApp isn’t conducive to large-scale content distribution, marketers must take advantage of its one-to-one messaging capabilities. And by interacting with WhatsApp users like a normal user would, marketers can execute hyper-targeted and personalized campaigns.

In 2014, Hellman’s Brazil created WhatsCook, a live recipe service that connected people to real chefs. This wasn’t a service that just recommended recipes, though. It created recipes with the ingredients users already had.

After signing up for the service on their website, users would send a picture of their refrigerator’s contents to WhatsCook. Then a chef would whip up a unique recipe using the person’s available ingredients and teach them how to cook it using pictures, videos, and other WhatsApp features.

Over 13,000 people people signed up for WhatsCook and each user spent an average of 65 minutes interacting with Hellman’s chefs. The service also received a 99.5% approval rating.

WhatsCook is a prime example of creative WhatsApp marketing. By attracting users with a helpful service, they engaged thousands of more people than they could by blasting content through a broadcast or group chat.

To start a service like WhatsCook, you just need users’ phone numbers or they can add your number to their contact list.

Fortunately, WhatsApp offers a click-to-chat link that you can embed in your website, email signature, or social profiles, allowing you to effectively promote your service.

2) Facebook Messenger

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Monthly active users: 1.2 billion

Most Popular Regions: North America, Europe, Australia, The Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa

Age group: 16-44

Marketing Features:

Facebook messenger offers brands a stockpile of marketing features.

For instance, you can serve destination ads in people’s newsfeed to drive them to your messenger and spark a conversation, send sponsored messages to people who’ve messaged you in the past, integrate messenger bots like Chatfuel and ManyChat to interact with customers, and more.

At HubSpot, we use chatbots to automate Facebook conversations with people. Whenever someone messages our Facebook account, our chatbot will message back with a menu of options.

People can then search and subscribe to our content, check out our software, look at job openings, ask for customer support, and manage their Facebook messenger blog subscription.

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3) WeChat

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Monthly active users: 938 million

Most popular regions: China

Age Group: 18-50

Marketing Features:

WeChat isn’t just a popular Chinese messaging app. Most Chinese citizens use it to run their entire lives.

In one app, they can:

  • Message friends
  • Post social updates in WeChat Moments
  • Read the news
  • Make in-store payments
  • Pay for bills
  • Transfer money
  • Shop online
  • Play games
  • Make voice and video calls
  • Book a taxi
  • And manage their personal finances

WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app for a reason. And it also provides marketers a lot of opportunity to engage and delight users.

But if you want to market to users in China, or 90% of the user base, your business must be registered in Mainland China.

Businesses based in the United States, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, South Africa, Taiwan, and Thailand can only market to around 100 million of WeChat’s international users.

To establish a strong presence on WeChat, you should set up an official account for your business. This will allow you to create a company micro-site, publish content, and provide customer services all within the WeChat app.

There are two types of official accounts. Content publishers usually sign up for subscription accounts that let you broadcast one message per day to your subscribers in their subscription accounts folder.

Big retail chains usually sign up for service accounts that let you broadcast four messages per month to your subscribers in their friend session list.

Verified service accounts have access to 9 advanced APIs and WeChat payment. With access to these APIs, marketers can:

  • Leverage personalized content marketing, location-based marketing, influencer marketing, and QR code marketing
  • Open micro-stores
  • And run lotteries

All accounts also offer bots that can interact with users and deliver keyword-triggered content.

BuzzFeed uses these bots to send WeChat users instant, personalized content whenever they message them a certain keyword like “dogs”, “lol”, or “fail”.

BuzzFeed WeChat.png

 

4) Line

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Monthly active users: 217 million

Most popular regions: Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and Indonesia

Age group: 10-49

Marketing Features:

Line is a free messaging app that offers a profile page, stickers, games, video calling, music streaming, ride-sharing, and about 30 other features. It dominates Japan’s messaging app market, where 94% of messaging app users use the app.

Line is chock full of opportunity for marketers. In its four most popular countries, 73% of monthly active users use the app every day. This abundance of user engagement allows brands to build huge followings and boost engagement rates.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal acquired 2 million Line followers in only 15 months, which is the fastest social channel growth they’ve ever seen. They also claim that 30% of its followers like, comment, and share all their posts.

When brands sign up for Line official accounts, they can:

  • Set up a profile page
  • Send chat messages to each of their subscribers
  • Post content on their subscribers’ timelines
  • Activate chatbots that deliver keyword-triggered responses and content
  • Optimize Line advertisements based on user demographics and interests
  • Distribute free branded stickers
  • And reward customers with stickers after they buy a product

For Paul McCartney, Line is actually the best way to reach fans. His 12.5 million Line followers are more than all his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers combined.

And since he can send private messages to each of his 12.5 million Line followers, he also engages with them a lot more than he can with his traditional social media following.

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Photo Credit: TechCrunch

5) Slack

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Daily active users: 5 million

Most popular regions: United States

Age group: 25-54

Marketing Features:

Slack is the main internal communications platform for many businesses. In fact, 77% of Fortune 100 companies use it. If you work in B2B, Slack could be your most targeted marketing channel.

At HubSpot, we knew Slack could be an effective content delivery channel, so we decided to offer a Slack blog subscription. When users sign up for it, they add the HubSpot Blog app to their Slack profile, where they receive a weekly broadcast of content. They can also search for content in the app.

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What messaging apps do you use for your marketing? Let us know on Twitter!

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How to Create Compelling Content as an Amateur Writer: 7 Frameworks to Try

Just over a year ago, my business partner and I bet the future and success of our company on content marketing. We dismissed our sales team and put all our efforts into SEO and content.

As an engineer, I get the technical aspects of this process. I can use SEO tools to identify opportunities, I understand why links are important, and I can follow the link building process. But I’m not a professional writer and no one else on our team is either.

How were we going to create compelling content as a bunch of amateur writers?

Luckily, we discovered content frameworks.

What is a content framework?

A content framework is a basic system that guides you through the content creation process. It structures your article in a way that effectively presents your content’s insights.

Over the past year, we’ve explored seven different content frameworks. During this time, we’ve skyrocketed our organic traffic by more than 1,000% and ranked on the first page of Google for a lot of highly competitive search terms.

In this article, I’ll describe our experiences with each framework, the pros and cons of each one, my personal tips for success, and which frameworks worked best for us.

Let’s dive in.

1) Standard List Post

Everyone loves a good listicle. A standard list post will usually contain a short introduction, the list items, and finally a brief conclusion. The list elements will simply link to other sites or summarize the topic.

Positives

One of the biggest pros of a standard list post is that they’re easy to write. You don’t need to be a gifted wordsmith to put together a great listicle.

For us, listicles and the expanded-list post (covered below) have been some of our most successful pieces of content.

Negatives

If there are a lot of other listicles covering your topic, it may take some work (and time) for your list post to rise to the top of Google.

Pro Tip

Implement tactics like the Skyscraper Technique and Ego Bait in your list posts. If your list is longer, more comprehensive, and beautifully designed, it’ll overshadow all the other lists about your topic.

2) Expanded-List Post

The expanded-list post, coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, is an adaption of the standard list post. Like I mentioned before, there’s a ton of list posts on the web. How do you make yours stand out from the crowd?

Instead of listing a bunch of topics or links, the expanded-list post goes beyond a standard list post and take a deep dive into each item.

In the eyes of Google and your readers, these lists are rich with insights.

Positives

This has definitely been our most successful content framework. Our expanded list posts consistently rank on the first page of Google.

Expanded-list posts will usually be long-form content pieces, which Google prefers to show readers. Also, in comparison to competing list posts, the expanded-list post will be much more comprehensive, providing more value to your audience.

Negatives

Producing a stellar expanded-list post requires a significant amount of work.

For example, it took us multiple weeks just to collect the data for one of our posts about the best business apps.

It was worth it, though. Google ranks the post third or higher for number of competitive keywords.

Designing and organizing expanded-list posts may require more time too. You might need to group elements by category and provide jump links to different sections of the content. This will make your content more digestible.

Pro Tip

Similar to the Standard List Post pro tip, you want your article to be more in-depth and better than everyone else’s. So take your time when you design and organize the post. You need to make sure that your readers can easily find the information they’re looking for.

3) Go-to Guidebook

A Go-to Guidebook is a curated list of the top posts about a particular topic.

The biggest difference between this content framework and the list-type frameworks is that a go-to guidebook is normally organized like a book, with brief introductions to each sub-topic and links to the best content available around those topics.

Positives

This is one of the easiest types of content to produce. Even a complete amateur like myself can create a great go-to guidebook. You really don’t need to write that much.

It’s also a great way to re-purpose the best content that’s already available. All you have to do is source and organize the content.

Negatives

Since you’re promoting other people’s content with your go-to guidebook, the original authors should have an incentive to share and promote your piece. Unfortunately, they may not always care to promote it.

You also might have to curate content that isn’t fresh. We’ve managed to get posts in this style to rank, but it took a lot of research and work.

Pro Tip

Use graphics in your go-to guidebook to make it more visually appealing. The go-to guidebook consists of short paragraphs, so adding vivid pictures can make it feel like a real book.

4) How-to Guide

A how-to guide is a content framework where you explain how to use a product or perform a task. It’s much more focused than a go-to guidebook, so you have to rely on your own research or knowledge to create it.

Positives

Google generally loves it when your content can answer a question or solve a problem. And the how-to guide is a great way to provide value to your audience. So far, almost all our guides receive consistent organic traffic without us having to build a ton of backlinks.

If you can effectively optimize for search engines, Google might highlight your guide in the featured snippet, like the screenshot below.

By optimizing our “How to Post a Job on Craigslist Guide” to rank for the snippet, Google ranked it first. And we didn’t even have to build a single backlink.

how to post a job on craiglist.png

Negatives

How-to guides require significant time and subject matter expertise to produce. You’ll have to write more than you would for any other framework.

Pro-Tip

Clarify all of your guide’s takeaways. Even if it’s an obvious step or detail, just spell it out and make your content easy for people to understand. What is obvious to you might not be obvious to your audience.

5) Expert Roundup

An expert roundup is a collection of quotes or short interviews with influential people in your industry. You basically reach out to a bunch of experts, ask them specific questions, and compile their answers into an article.

To do this effectively, you’ll need to grasp a few nuances, but the great thing is that the experts you interview will write most of the content for you.

Positives

Once you’ve collected your experts’ responses, you can easily produce a really unique and great piece of long-form content.

Another big advantage of an expert roundup post is that your contributors will have an incentive to promote the article to their own audiences.

Our most successful roundup was about remote work. The article has over 100 backlinks, and most of the initial links came from the article’s contributors. This also helped us form relationships with a lot of industry experts, created other blogging opportunities, and piqued the interest of mainstream writers in our stance on remote work.

Negatives

While creating an expert round up post might not take much work, collecting your experts’ contact information and gathering their responses can be a handful, especially if it’s your first time doing it.

Your next roundups will be easier since you can interview some of the same experts again. But there will be a steep hill to climb during your first go-around.

Another significant con is that you’re depending on your influencers’ schedules to complete your piece. Compared to writing your own piece, you’ll definitely have less control over an expert roundup post’s production time.

Pro Tip

Take time to craft your questions because you’ll only have one shot to interview most experts. If your questions are clear and straightforward, they’ll be more likely to participate. 

6) Interview-Style Post

With this framework, you simply interview an expert on the topic you want to cover and turn the interview into an article. This is more of a journalistic approach to content creation.

Positives

After you conduct the interview, the article doesn’t require a lot of writing. The expert you interviewed can also potentially be asked to promote the article on their own social media channels and networks. And since you’re showing how an expert tackles a certain topic, your post will be unique and compelling.

Interviews provide an opportunity to produce content across multiple mediums. For example, we now interview small business owners and feature them in our podcast, our blog, and — down the road — in our own book.

An interview can be very insightful, so there’s a lot of opportunity for re-purposing it into multiple content formats.

Negatives

When we first tried this approach, we ran into a lot of issues scheduling the interviews. We also struggled to convince the experts to promote our content to their fans.

After our initial attempts, we actually thought the time investment wasn’t worth it anymore, but we tried out the approach again and have seen some success.

Pro Tip

Interview micro-influencers in the industry you’re covering. They’ll be more willing to promote your article, where a huge celebrity will have less of an incentive to help you out.

7) Infographics

Nowadays, infographics are very popular. They’re unique and engaging because they visualize data sets to tell a compelling stories.

Positives

According to Massplanner, infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than any other type of content. You can easily spread awareness for your infographics by sharing them on Pinterest, Visual.ly, and the Infographic Directory.

You can also reach out to the sources you cited in your infographic and ask them to promote it.

Negatives

You’ll need some graphic design chops to craft a great infographic. Or you can pay someone to do it. Tools like Venngage can help you create your own infographic, but these tools’ capabilities are somewhat limited, so the graphic could look a little generic.

The infographic market is also over-saturated. There are some really great infographics out there, but there’s loads of them that don’t do anything except collect internet dust.

Our track record with infographics hasn’t been great. None of our infographics have ranked that well on Google.

In terms of social shares, our Snapchat marketing infographic has performed the best, with over 800 pins on Pinterest. Its search value is still low, though

Pro Tip

When you create your infographic, make sure to breakdown the graphic’s content in your introduction.

Google can’t crawl your graphic, so you need text to explain your piece’s premise. This is the only way Google can truly know what your article is about.

Final Thoughts

As amateur writers, we rely heavily on the structure of existing content frameworks. They help us efficiently produce quality content and massively boost our search presence.

We’ve experienced consistent success with expanded-list posts, how-to guides, and expert roundups. Each of these frameworks help us create rich pieces of long-form content that provide a lot of value to our readers.

For us, these three frameworks provide the most benefits relative to how long it takes to create them. You could experience differently depending on your skill set and industry.

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How to Write a Press Release [Free 2017 Press Release Template + Example]

When it comes to content, sometimes old school can be a good thing (namely, when it comes to old school rap or Throwback Thursday on Instagram). But when it comes to your company’s public relations strategy, being old school isn’t advantageous for your business or your brand. 

Ten years ago, people still relied on morning papers for news. Today, the vast majority of your company’s customers and prospects scan headlines on Twitter or see what’s trending in their Facebook feed.Download our free press release template here to learn how to write a  top-notch press release. 

People now have control over where, when, and how they consume information. As a result, public relations is no longer about feeding into a traditional news cycle; it’s about providing relevant content when, where, and how your prospects, influencers, and customers will consume it.

Sounds pretty hopeless, right? Wrong. While relationship-building still helps you get into popular publications, we now have the opportunity to quit playing the waiting game and generate our own buzz. By turning your PR strategy into an inbound one, you create opportunities that weren’t there before and carve out a place for your company, building meaningful mindshare with your target audiences in the process.

One of the most crucial updates to make to your PR strategy is to think of press releases as an opportunity to connect to the audiences you care about — including, but not limited to, reporters. 

What is a Press Release / News Release?

A press release is an official announcement (written or recorded) that an organization issues to the news media and beyond. Whether we call it a “press release,” a “press statement,” a “news release,” or a “media release,” we’re always talking about the same basic thing.

Most press releases are succinct at just a page long. Two pages tops. Ultimately, companies want to provide enough information so that news outlets have sufficient material for publishing their own stories about whatever the company is announcing in the release.

And while it may be tempting to craft a press release that embellishes your company’s accomplishments or twists the facts to make a story sound more intriguing to the media, remember: Press releases live in the public domain, which means your customers and prospective customers can see them. So instead of thinking of a press release solely as a ticket to earning news coverage, you should also think of it as a valuable piece of marketing content.

How to Write a Press Release [With Example]

You’ve got your announcement in mind, and now it’s time to get it down in words to share with your community, industry, and followers.

Take Catbrella Inc., a fictitious ad agency, which just gained its 10th Twitter follower after two years of paid social media efforts. To announce its achievement, Catbrella could issue a press release like the one we’ve dissected below.*

Sample Press Release Format:

*Disclaimer: HubSpot is entirely responsible for the silliness of this faux announcement. 

press-release-example-hubspot.png

Rule 1: Make Your Headline Irresistible 

Just like writing the perfect blog post title, setting up your press release for success starts with your headline. You only have one line to work with, which can seem scary, but consider diction carefully to make your headline captivating.

Use action verbs, clear, understandable language, and keep your headline simple and short — fortune (and search engines) reward the brief, so keep your title to one line to clearly focus people’s attention on your topline message. 

Most importantly, make it interesting: Keep in mind that reporters get dozens, if not hundreds, of releases each day, so invest the time to write a compelling headline. It’s worth the time and effort on your part. 

Rule 2: Don’t Play Hard to Get

For reporters, analysts, influencers, or followers to be inclined to share your announcement, you have to tell them upfront why they should care.

The first paragraph of your release should cover the who, what, why, where, and how of your new launch, update, or development. Reporters don’t have a ton of time to sift through details and fluffy background information — they just need the facts that’ll help them tell your story to someone else from a position of authority. 

There shouldn’t be any new, crucial information covered after this section that the reader could potentially miss. 

Rule 3: Offer a Tempting Quotable 

Once you’ve set the scene, it’s time to bring your details to life with a quote that reporters can use for context around your announcement and help paint a picture of how your news affects the given industry, customer base, and landscape.

Ideally, quotes will be from key stakeholders in your company including your executive team, project leads, or those directly impacted by your announcement. Quoting key figures and authorities underlines the importance of your development. The chosen quote should shape your narrative and emphasize the core of the announcement. Don’t ask everyone in your office for a comment or feel compelled to quote all 25 people included in the acquisition — pick one or two critical spokespeople and focus the quotes around their unique perspective. 

Rule 4: Provide Valuable Background Information

In this last paragraph, keep in mind that the reader already has all of the vital details and information they need to file a story or spread the word.

It can be tempting to provide superfluous facts and tidbits about your company or the development of your announcement — we sometimes think a piece of writing is lacking if it isn’t drawn-out and just shy of being a novella. However, a press release needs to be helpful and concise.

Offer details here that strengthen your narrative, like creative or noteworthy ways your company developed the project or announcement at hand. Or, when applicable, comment on future implications of your announcement. 

Rule 5: Make the “Who” and “What” Obvious 

Twitter is chock-full of reporters lamenting press releases or pitches that don’t clearly explain what the company does or what the announcement is actually about, so instead of being the butt of a joke, make your release incredibly easy to reference. 

Describe what your company does in clear, plain English, include a link to your company’s homepage early on, and make your boilerplate succinct and straightforward. If you cite data, include a reference link for the data source, and make sure every name in the release has an associated title and company as well.

To keep yourself honest on this front, ask a friend or colleague to read the release without context and ask if they can easily and readily explain why the announcement matters, what your company does, and why the executives included are quoted. If the answer to any of those questions is no, get back to the drawing board. 

The key to keeping your PR strategy new school is forgetting preconceived notions of what public relations is and instead focusing on creating highly remarkable content. Traditional press releases can still be really valuable when executed well, so instead of ditching releases as a tactic, give them a modern makeover to make them more useful for your marketing. 

Think about how you’ve used inbound methods to transform your marketing strategies to be more personalized, approachable, and build relationships. Those same principles apply to your PR strategy: Create content to craft your own story and use tactful outreach to get reporters and analysts familiar with your brand.

When Should I Distribute a Press Release?

While there’s no cut-and-dried formula for when a press release should be written (and distributed), here’s a few reasons when it’s a good idea:

  • New product launches
  • Updates to existing products
  • Opening a new office
  • Introducing a new partnership
  • Rebranding
  • Promoting/hiring a new executive
  • Receiving an award

A regular cadence of (meaningful) news can help a company stand out and build mindshare with journalists over time, so that’s where the press release (or news announcement) comes in. 

Press Releases Can Be a Viable Content Type

Many people think press releases have to be chock full of buzzwords and branded terms. Big data anyone? Five syllable words you have to look up on Thesaurus.com? Quotes from every executive on the planet that go on for pages? We’ve seen it all. Unfortunately, so have reporters — and they are not fans. 

So instead of stuffing your next release with jargon, take a page out of our book (okay, fine, ebook), The Newsworthy Guide to Inbound Public Relations, and brainstorm some creative approaches for your next announcement. Can you include new data? A remarkable graphic or video? A shareable SlideShare? If so, a creative angle will often help carry your content and increase the likelihood of social sharing. 

Even so, a press release can still be a really valuable medium for communicating news to your audiences. You just have to make it readable, relevant, and relatable.

We have crafted this comprehensive, easy-to-follow press release template complete with a promotional plan and considerations for your next announcement. We use these same guidelines when writing and formatting our releases here at HubSpot, and created a faux, sample release to illustrate what content goes where and why.

Tips for Publishing Press Releases

Writing a press release is really only half the battle. Once you’re finished with production, it’ll be time to focus on distribution.

Of course, we’re all familiar with the traditional distribution levers we can pull, which include publishing the press release on our website/blog, as well as sharing the press release with our followers/subscribers via social media and email. But for ensuring a press release gets the maximum amount of distribution possible, here are some tips you can follow.

1) Reach out to specific journalists.

Instead of blasting a press release out to every journalist you can find an email address for, focus on a few journalists who have experience covering your industry (and company, hopefully) and send them personalized messages. Connect the dots. Show why what you wrote connects to what they write.

2) Don’t be afraid to go offline.

Most journalists have mountains of emails (and press releases) to sort through. Try sending your release through snail mail or another offline channel to differentiate yourself.

3) Send the release to top journalists the day before.

Give journalists some time to craft a story around your press release by sending it to them — under embargo — the day before it officially goes live. (FYI “under embargo” just means they aren’t allowed to share the information in the press release until the time you specify.)

4) To avoid competition, don’t publish your release on the hour.

If you’re publishing your press release on a distribution service like PR Newswire or Business Wire, avoid publishing it on the hour (e.g., 1 p.m., or 3 p.m., or 5 p.m.). The reason? Most companies schedule their releases to go out on the hour, which means if your release goes out on the hour too, it’s more likely to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, try going with a more distinct time (e.g., 1:12 p.m., or 3:18 p.m., or 5:22 p.m.).

5) Share your media coverage.

If all goes according to plan, and your press release gets picked up by the media, your job still isn’t finished. To keep the buzz going, you can release a “second wave” of distribution by sharing the specific stories that news outlets write based on your press release.

What other best practices do you follow when writing press releases? Share your thoughts with us below, and don’t forget to download our free press release template here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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How to Build a Remarkable 21st Century Brand

Economic disruptions produced by the ongoing technological revolution, rising uncertainty in global markets, and crises of complexity generated by social media all make this an exceptionally challenging time for organizations seeking to create or refine their brand identities.

Explored in what follows are critical issues to address in assembling a comprehensive branding program, based on challenges and opportunities that we at Siegelvision consistently encounter with clients.

The Inside-Out Approach

Henry Ford is often quoted as having said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Whether the words were his or not, they reflect what we call the “outside-in” approach — trusting customers to provide critical insights to help define a brand identity. But relying on customer feedback alone is akin to treating symptoms rather than the underlying illness.

While customers may be able to pinpoint certain problems they would like to see addressed, they rarely have enough information to understand the organization in sufficient detail.

An “inside-out” approach, on the other hand, helps achieve a distinctive and credible branding program by tapping insights that emerge from within the organization itself — a process largely contingent upon leadership support.

Validation research is then conducted, bringing employees and outside audiences together to react to concrete ideas, and helping ensure that the resulting strategy will be clear, compelling, and relevant.

Driving Brand Identity Through a Clearly Defined Purpose

Most organizations spend months devising predictable, and often garbled, mission or vision statements that employees ignore and that fail to guide decision-making in both day-to-day management and big-picture strategic planning.

An effective purpose statement defines your reason for being in business, the calling your organization aims to answer in the marketplace, and the problems you strive to solve.

Moreover, defining a clear and concise purpose statement creates coherence for your employees — coherence about what your company stands for and what inspires its work, beyond just the pursuit of money. Effectively crafted, it should be the driving force behind strategic decisions, investments, and other critical matters.

The Urban Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., was established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 to “help solve the problem” of inner-city poverty. Over the years, it’s become a respected source for intelligent, accessible analyses of economic and social policies. But despite the institute’s admirable aims, its impact was long undermined by a verbose and confusing mission statement, which read:

“The Urban Institute gathers data, conducts research, evaluates programs, offers technical assistance overseas, and educates Americans on social and economic issues — to foster sound public policy and effective government.

The Urban Institute builds knowledge about the nation’s social and fiscal challenges, practicing open-minded, evidence-based research to diagnose problems and figure out which policies and programs work best for whom, and how.”

The Urban Institute certainly does all of those things, but, as we learned during our immersive branding project, they do not comprise the organization’s core purpose. We replaced the institute’s lengthy and impractical mission statement with a powerful three-word purpose statement:

“ELEVATE THE DEBATE.”

The Urban Institute’s cogent new expression of its purpose — its essence — resonated deeply with all stakeholders. Defining the organization’s role in simple, concrete terms provides a strong guide for decision-making and acts as a beacon for employees at every level.

Creating Bold, Action-Driving Positioning

Americans are daily bombarded by vague, generic taglines that masquerade as brand positioning. Such identity imprecision appears everywhere, including among institutions of higher education.

“Fierce Advocates for Justice,” the highly effective positioning that Siegelvision developed for the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, provided the touchstone for an aggressive campaign to change the public’s perception of the school as a “cop college” into a view of it as a comprehensive educational institution, one that boasts a liberal arts curriculum coupled with world-class criminal justice courses for undergraduate and graduate students alike.

In a 2012 conversation, Jeremy Travis, the college’s current president, told me that the “Fierce Advocates for Justice” positioning “has allowed every member of our community to see a place for his or her interests in the brand of the college. The language we now use … [reflects] who they are and want to be. When we first put up [signage with our new tagline,] a student told me: ‘That wakes me up when I come to school every morning, to remind myself that I’m here because I’m a fierce advocate for justice.'”

Defining and Implementing Your Brand Voice

We define “brand voice” as the distinctive tone and style of an organization’s communications, which should reflect its personality and positioning and provide coherence for its brand across all communications platforms.

I find that these voices can be fragmented, driven to a large degree by advertising and public relations, direct-response mailings, and the uncoordinated management of financial and internal communications.

In recent years, corporations have strived to unify their diverse communications, but the internet has proven disruptive to such efforts. The production of corporate communications has now gone from being a professional operation to a free-for-all in which everyone, at all levels, communicates internally and externally via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms. Brand voice is becoming increasingly decentralized and social; the most successful organizations understand how to engage audiences and leverage the voices of employees and consumers effectively.

As digital platforms become more sophisticated and audiences grow more distinctly delineated, organizations must keep up by embracing experiential and personal communications that harness opportunities for consumers to engage with them.

Finally, the information immediacy that now so powerfully defines our lives means that messages are spread far and wide very quickly, a fact that underscores the importance of having an organized and unified brand voice.

Our work with The College Board provides valuable insight into the process of developing an effective voice that enhances and reinforces brand messaging. Driven by the College Board’s dynamic purpose statement, “Challenging All Students to Own Their Future,” we defined its voice as:

  • Refreshingly clear
  • Credible
  • Supportive
  • Galvanizing
  • Forward-thinking

Each of these terms was then defined to reflect the College Board’s messaging and public persona. To describe its most distinctive quality — galvanizing — we recommended the following: “We make things happen. We challenge students to persevere and make the most of their education. We rally our member organizations to challenge the status quo and extend the promise of education to all. We are motivating and collaborative, not confrontational.”

Culture Trumps Strategy Every Time

Employees will thrive and become powerful brand ambassadors if their organization’s culture embraces a set of values that resonate deeply and authentically. Building an atmosphere in which this happens depends on what you do, not just on what you say.

Wells Fargo, today a textbook case of poor corporate culture, communicates a vision and values that are shockingly discordant with its recent behavior. Even now, in the wake of its management scandals, Wells Fargo continues to speak of “integrity,” “principled performance,” and a tireless commitment to valuing “what’s right for our customers in everything we do.”

In an extensive 2015 document, “The Vision and Values of Wells Fargo,” CEO John Stumpf (who was fired the following year) defined the bank’s vision as being “about building lifelong relationships one customer at a time,” with the promise to “never put the stagecoach ahead of the horses.” What comedy.

A positive, top-down culture is crucial to the success of your organization and the people who work for it. This is powerfully demonstrated in the 2014 book “Any Wednesday” by Keith Reinhard, chairman emeritus of the global advertising firm DDB Worldwide. The title stems from the brief, encouraging memos he sent to everyone in the agency on Wednesdays to help them finish the week with optimism.

Even from his seat at the head of the table, Reinhard did not forget the importance of connecting creatively and personally with all employees. His memos show a person who has served at all levels in an organization and who understands better than most that there is no substitute for an inspiring and inclusive work culture. Here’s one of our favorites:

“When I first became head of the agency, I gave board members small potted plants with a note saying I expected each one of them to cause his or her plant to grow. It was a simple — perhaps simplistic — reminder that talent, like the plant, must be nurtured. Neither plants nor talented people can be instructed or commanded to grow.”

Impact

Ultimately, the best test of an organization’s voice is its impact on the market. ROI (Return on Investment), a conventional measure of impact, may work well in measuring tangible outcomes but does little to predict the effect of a product or program on an intended audience. We recast this formula as Relevance, Originality, Impact. The omission of any of these three elements can spell disaster for a branding program; by contrast, the most successful rebrands embrace each one with care and authenticity.

Our work for John Jay College exemplifies the importance of this ROI and its effectiveness in the marketplace. “Fierce Advocates for Justice” was a call to action to the younger generation to respond to the social injustices troubling our nation.

The motto was a stirring expression of purpose that made waves in the higher education community and inspired other schools to follow suit. And it was accompanied by a comprehensive campaign — aimed at having maximum impact on the targeted demographics — that included striking subway advertisements and geofencing around high school campuses to help attract prospective students — achieving relevance, originality, and impact.

Various metrics were developed to gauge the campaign’s reach, including measurements of awareness, familiarity, and reputation, as well as a willingness to provide financial support. “Fierce Advocates for Justice” generated highly impressive results: the number of alumni donors has increased by 35% since 2013; and the Justice Campaign — a comprehensive digital and subway ad initiative than ran in the fourth quarter of 2016 — has sparked an increase in applications of more than 40%. As a result, for the first time in its 52-year history, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice has a waiting list for enrollment.

Clarity Above All

Building a brand for the 21st century is no easy task. The advent of social media has provided podiums for customers and employees to voice their criticisms of once-impervious brands. Rather than fight this pervasive change, organizations would do well to evolve toward more transparent and authentic identities.

Siegelvision’s own mantra is “Clarity Above All,” which means clarity of purpose, expression, and experience. It is only getting easier today to identify organizations that fail to practice what they preach. Therefore, it is in the interests of everyone in your organization that you define and deeply believe in your purpose and positioning, express your voice coherently and empathetically, and promote an internal culture that eschews disingenuousness and places a premium on authenticity.

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How 11 Students Built a Company’s Inbound Strategy with HubSpot Certifications

If you’re familiar with the HubSpot Academy, then you know it offers online certifications and free tools to help people all over the world learn how to market, sell, and grow an inbound business.

Recently, HubSpot Academy launched its Education Partner Program, which helps college and university professors teach inbound marketing, sales, and provides guidance on using the HubSpot Marketing Software and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The mission of the program is to bring the theory and practice of running and growing a business into the classroom — and to give students the hands-on experience they need to launch their careers right out of school.

But when it came time to drive even more value for this program, there was much more we could for students. The program already provided educators with the software, resources, community and support to build leading marketing classes. We wanted to do even better at providing students with valuable, market-ready skills — by way of certification.New Call-to-action

Here’s what happened when we challenged 11 marketing students to get their HubSpot certifications in one semester — and build an inbound strategy for a real company in the process.

How HubSpot Certifications Helped Build an Inbound Strategy

The Hypothesis and Objective

The Certification

HubSpot Academy certifications are designed to help marketers stay up-to-date on the latest marketing and sales techniques, while also boosting their resumes. They allow users to take their inbound skills to the next level, with a confirmed completion of a qualifying exams.

When we looked at which certifications were being assigned by Education Partner Program professors — and which ones students were receiving — the HubSpot Marketing Software Certification (HSMC) was missing. But we didn’t despair at that finding. Rather, we looked at how we could address those barriers to adoption.

To say that the HMSC is “difficult” is a tremendous understatement. It involves an exam, a mastery of the Inbound Methodology, a practicum component, and a proven ability to achieve results using the HubSpot Marketing Software.

Having this certification can help a marketer stand out during a job search — especially a recent graduate.

InboundMethodology-5.png

The prospect of more students receiving their HMSC was a mutually beneficial goal for instructors, students, and their respective institutions. We wanted to show that students could get their HSMC within a single semester, so we created an experiment to do that, with the mentality that if it was successful, we could roll it out across the entire Education Partner Program community.

The Framework

The biggest HSMC adoption barrier for students seemed to be the practicum component, which requires users to carry out actual inbound marketing activities using HubSpot Marketing Software — and achieve tangible results. That meant we would need a real business to agree to let these students use its HubSpot portal to complete these tasks, while working toward the HSMC.

But a barrier to adoption didn’t have to be a deal-breaker. In fact, it turned out to be quite the opposite — in addition to building an experiment to show that students could get their HSMC within a single semester, our objective would now also require them to complete real-world marketing work on behalf of an actual business. Around here, we call that a “win-win.”

Using those factors as a foundation, we determined our hypothesis: Students will be able to earn their HubSpot Marketing Software Certifications within a single semester.

The Experiment

What We Did

To test the hypothesis, we first pitched the experiment to Randy Harrison, a senior member of the affiliated faculty at Emerson College’s Department of Marketing Communication. He had previously spoken of his desire for his students to become certified, and was eager to give them the real-world experience that came with completing the HSMC.

Since HubSpot has roughly 30,000 customers, we (optimistically) figured that at least one of them would be willing to let a classroom of eager students do free marketing work on behalf of the company. The idea was that the customer would add the students as users in its HubSpot portal, who would then work to complete the practicum requirements of the HSMC by way of the aforementioned marketing work.

But Professor Harrison was already way ahead of us. After we approached him with the experiment he convinced one of his business contacts to not only become a new HubSpot customer — but also, allow his students to carry out the marketing work for their HSMC.

Before jumping right in, we established some guardrails. If the experiment was successful, we wanted it to be designed to scale — and more seamlessly replicable by other educators in the future:

  • Every student should become certified.
  • The class would visit the HubSpot office at least once.
  • A member of the HubSpot team would visit the class at least once.
  • Professor Harrison would work with a member of the Education Partner Program team to design the course.
  • Professor Harrison would document this experience and allow it to be used publicly.

How We Would Measure Success

Success would be measured according to the following metrics:

  • Every student meets the practicum component of the certification.
  • 80% of the students complete the HSMC in its entirety.

The Spring 2017 semester began — and we were ready to get to work.

The Results

All in all, the experiment was a success.

Every student completed the practicum component with flying colors — which meant they were able to accomplish the objective of applying the Inbound Methodology to build and execute an inbound strategy for a real business.

Meanwhile, 66% of the students passed the entirety of the HSMC — which meant they both completed the practicum and passed the certification exam. And while we didn’t reach the 80% metric we originally established, the benchmark was high enough for us to take the experiment out of beta, tweak it to even better set up students for success, and replicate for the following semester.

And finally, here’s our favorite part: The company that became a customer for this experiment hired four of the students before they even graduated.

Where We Go From Here

Next Steps

As we mentioned previously, following the success of the experiment, we structured it in a way that has allowed it to become an official offering of the Education Partner Program. Working with our Customer Success team, we have established a system to match professors who want their students to obtain the HSMC with HubSpot customers, using criteria like product fit and shared expectations.

How Marketers Can Use What We Learned

When we carried out this project, we didn’t just learn more about Education Partners — we also learned some valuable lessons about experimentation in general.

Go Big

Pick experiments that, if they’re successful, will produce significant results. Design them with impact and scale in mind — for many, time is the most valuable resource, so don’t let it go to waste on an experiment that will only have minimal impact.

In our case, we needed a way to dramatically increase the value of the Education Partner Program for participating schools, professors, and students, and knowing whether the students could become HSMC in one semester was crucial to that. Even if our hypothesis was proven wrong, we would know to look for a different potential value source.

Recycle When Possible

Unless your company was founded yesterday, you likely have a wealth of resources to draw upon for your experiments — things like previous experiments, marketing collateral, fellow employees, and historical data.

Notice that we didn’t actually create any net-new assets to conduct this experiment — the only investment was sweat equity and time. Additionally, the other major stakeholder in the experiment, Professor Harrison, agreed to document the experiment, regardless of the outcomes. That meant we would be creating a new value point for the program, as we paved the way for other professors to get their students certified … or cautioned educators on what we learned, had it failed.

And About That Documentation

Document everything like your life depends on it. Use the scientific method, and be sure to debrief when it concludes — remember, if it succeeds you’ll be repeating it, and regardless of the outcome, you want to discuss ways to improve upon it.

And remember this: Many times, an experiment is more valuable if it fails. For that, we use this famous quote from Thomas Edison — “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What are some of the ways you’ve used HubSpot Academy certifications? Let us know about your best experiment in the comments — and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.

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You Need a Privacy Policy in 2017: Here’s How to Start

At this point, you might be asking yourself: Do I really need a privacy policy for my website?

If you’re starting any kind of company today, the answer is likely yes, you really do.

Starting a new business can be overwhelming — there are a lot of moving parts to manage all at once, and it’s easy for your privacy policy to get overlooked (or completely forgotten) in the shuffle. But with so many new data privacy regulations and lawsuits cropping up, skipping out on a privacy policy is just asking for trouble.

To give you an idea of what you’re up against, here are a few examples of regulations that require a privacy policy:

  1. California Online Privacy Protection Act
  2. Privacy Shield
  3. EU General Data Protection Regulation (effective May 2018)
  4. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule

Regulations around privacy policies don’t just end at your website: any tool that collects information from your site — such as website analytics, online forms, or chat widgets — will require a policy too. Google Analytics, the most popular web analytics tool out there, even has a privacy policy requirement in its terms of use.

And if you’re planning on running any online ad campaigns, both Google and Facebook require privacy policies in place if you’re collecting any user information. This is especially important for Facebook Lead Ads, which require a privacy policy URL link within each ad you create.

The FTC isn’t afraid of enforcing punishments for companies that violate consumers’ privacy, regardless of size or prominence. They’ve taken action against many companies — even ones as big as Google and Facebook — for failing to properly disclose how they used their customer’s data.

Okay okay, enough scary stuff. You’re hopefully convinced by now that you should probably get one of these privacy policy things.

But what exactly is a privacy policy?

Basically, a privacy policy usually lets your customers know what type of data you’re collecting, and what you’re doing with that data. It also generally provides information about how you’re collecting data, whether it’s through a form, or cookies on your website.

They also usually outline your policy for storing customer data. How long you’re planning to store data is a big deal — are you storing someone’s info in perpetuity, or do you promise to delete it after 90 days? Privacy policies typically inform users how long their data will stay in your possession.

Depending on where your company is located, you might also have to include where the data is being stored. Even if you’re not storing it yourself, you’d need to disclose the physical data center (e.g. an AWS US-East server in northern Virginia).

Privacy policies may also include information on who has access to the customer’s data. This can mean giving customers the right to request data if they want, and a process to do so. And it usually involves providing contact info if they have a question about the privacy policy. You may also want to provide an opt-out notice for users that don’t agree with the policy.

Finally, privacy policies often include the security policy you use to protect the data you’re collecting. This usually means an outline of the security measures taken to safeguard customer data by you, or the vendors you use. Here’s HubSpot’s security policy for reference.

Ultimately, privacy policies provide a safeguard for both you and your visitors. If you’re collecting data from visitors or users, it’s recommended to tell them what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and how it’s being safeguarded. The privacy policy serves as a declaration to visitors and customers what you’re doing with their data.

When writing a policy, it should be clear and explicit so any user can understand it.

So how do I get a privacy policy?

Ultimately it’s up to you to determine what kind of privacy policy your business needs, and you should consult with a legal professional.

However, here are some helpful links like this sample Privacy Policy from the Better Business Bureau to get you started. Likewise, there are privacy policy generators that often offer basic privacy policies for free (here’s an example of one focused on the aforementioned Facebook Lead Ads use case: link).  Additonally, the FTC’s website has a bunch of information to help guide US businesses in particular.

Again, we emphasize that you should consult with an attorney on what type of policy is best for your needs.

And Now, Some Legalese …

This blog post has provided information about the law designed to help our readers better understand the legal issues surrounding internet marketing. But legal information is not the same as legal advice — the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances.

Although we have conducted research to better ensure that our information is accurate and useful, we insist that you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is accurate.

To clarify further, you may not rely upon this information as legal advice, nor as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular legal understanding, and you should instead regard this article as intended for entertainment purposes only.

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10 Examples of Successful Co-Branding Partnerships (And Why They’re So Great)

Who else loved baking brownies when they were a kid? My favorite part was drizzling the chocolate syrup on top as a finishing touch.

As it turns out, one of my beloved childhood memories was a product of co-branding: Betty Crocker partnered with Hershey’s to include chocolate syrup in its signature brownie recipe.

Click here to download our ultimate toolkit for social and PR branding.

There’s something brilliant about that co-branded product: It’s a fun way to marry two classic brands into one delicious experience for fans of baking and chocolate alike. In fact, these brands still create new co-branded products to this day.

Co-branding is a strategic marketing and advertising partnership between two brands wherein the success of one brand brings success to its partner brand, too. Co-branding can be an effective way to build business, boost awareness, and break into new markets, and for a partnership to truly work, it has to be a win-win for all players in the game. Both audiences need to find value — like chocolate-loving fans of Betty Crocker and Hershey’s.

There are a ton of great examples of co-branding partnerships out there — too many to list in one post. Below, we’ve curated a list of 10 examples of great co-branding partnerships to inspire you.

10 Examples of Great Co-Branding Partnerships

1) GoPro & Red Bull: “Stratos”

GoPro doesn’t just sell portable cameras, and Red Bull doesn’t just sell energy drinks. Instead, both have established themselves as lifestyle brands — in particular, a lifestyle that’s action-packed, adventurous, fearless, and usually pretty extreme. These shared values make them a perfect pairing for co-branding campaigns, especially those surrounding action sports.

To make the partnership work, GoPro equips athletes and adventurers from around the world with the tools and funding to capture things like races, stunts, and action sport events on video — from the athlete’s perspective. At the same time, Red Bull uses its experience and reputation to run and sponsor these events.

“GoPro camera technology is allowing us to complement the programming by delivering new athlete perspectives that have never been seen before,” said Sean Eggert, Red Bull’s director of sports marketing. The collaboration allows exclusive GoPro content to enhance both companies’ growth.

While GoPro and Red Bull have collaborated on many events and projects together, perhaps the biggest collaboration stunt they’ve done was “Stratos,” in which Felix Baumgartner jumped from a space pod more than 24 miles above Earth’s surface with a GoPro strapped to his person. Not only did Baumgartner set three world records that day, but he also embodied the value of reimagining human potential that define both GoPro and Red Bull.

2) Pottery Barn & Sherwin-Williams: Color Your Room

One of the biggest benefits of co-branding campaigns is the opportunity to expose your product or service to a brand new audience. That’s exactly what home furnishing store Pottery Barn and paint company Sherwin-Williams did when they partnered together back in 2013.

Together, the two brands created an exclusive product line of paints, and then added a new section of Pottery Barn’s website that helped customers easily select paint colors to complement their furniture choices.

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Source: Pottery Barn

Customers could coordinate paint colors with picture-perfect Pottery Barn furniture for a mutually beneficial partnership — and style assistance for both brands’ customers to boot. “Paint Landing,” Pottery Barn’s landing page for the partnership, contains helpful blog posts and how-to ideas for do-it-yourself painting and decorating.

3) Casper & West Elm: Test a Casper Mattress

You may have already heard of Casper — it’s an online mattress and bedding brand that sells mattresses in a box.

Casper mattress unboxing videos like this one have become a hit on YouTube, but despite the brand’s 100-day return policy, some shoppers might still be hesitant to buy a mattress without getting the chance to roll around in it first.

Enter West Elm, a high-end furniture company. Casper and West Elm partnered so shoppers could try out the comfy mattress before purchasing — and so West Elm could advertise its chic bedroom furniture.

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Source: Casper

This is another example of a mutually beneficial co-branding partnership. It helps both brands appeal to a broader group of shoppers — after all, Casper doesn’t sell furniture, and West Elm doesn’t sell mattresses. It also provides shoppers with options — to try a mattress before buying, or to feel what it would be like sleeping in a bed frame.

4) Bonne Belle & Dr. Pepper: Flavored Lip Balm

Dr. Pepper-flavored lip balm. I mean, it’s genius.

Bonne Belle first debuted Lip Smacker, the world’s first flavored lip balm, in 1973, starting with flavors like strawberry, lemon, and green apple. Just two years later in 1975, they’d forged their first flavor partnership with the timeless Dr. Pepper brand. The result? A lip balm flavor that’s been famous for decades among teenage girls.

If you’re thinking the connection between lip balm and Dr. Pepper is a little thin, consider the copy on one of their vintage ads: “It’s the super shiny lip gloss with lip-smacking flavor… just like the world’s most original soft drink.” And later, “From Bonne Belle of course: the cosmetics company that understands your taste.”

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Source: Click Americana

5) BMW & Louis Vuitton: The Art of Travel

Car manufacturer BMW and designer Louis Vuitton may not be the most obvious of pairings. But if you think about it, they have a few important things in common. If you focus on Louis Vuitton’s signature luggage lines, they’re both in the business of travel. They both value luxury. And finally, they’re both well-known, traditional brands that are known for high-quality craftsmanship.

These shared values are exactly why this co-branding campaign makes so much sense. In their partnership, BMW created a sports car model called the BMW i8, while Louis Vuitton designed an exclusive, four-piece set of suitcases and bags that fit perfectly into the car’s rear parcel shelf.

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Source: Louis Vuitton

Although the four-piece luggage set goes for a whopping $20,000, the price is right for the target customer, as the BMW i8 starts at $135,700. A price like that kind of makes that luggage set seem like a drop in the bucket.

Not only does the luggage fit perfectly size-wise, but its design and appearance fit perfectly with BMW’s image: sleek, masculine, and high-quality. Turns out both the luggage and some parts of the car’s interior use carbon fiber, strong-yet-light composite material.

“This collaboration with BMW i epitomises our shared values of creativity, technological innovation and style,” said Patrick-Louis Vuitton, head of special orders at Louis Vuitton. “Our craftsmen have enjoyed the challenge of this very special project, using their ingenuity and attention to detail to create a truly made to measure set of luxury luggage. This is a pure expression of the art of travel.”

6) Uber & Spotify: Soundtrack for Your Ride

Music-streaming app Spotify partnered with ride-hailing app Uber to create “a soundtrack for your ride.” This is a great example of a co-branding partnership between two very different products with very similar goals — to earn more users.

Here’s how it works: When riders are waiting for an Uber ride, they’re prompted to connect with Spotify and become the DJ of their trip. Users can choose from their own playlists to determine what they’ll listen to.

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Source: The Verge

This smart co-branding partnership helps fans of Uber and Spotify alike enjoy better experiences thanks to the app. And they might be more interested in picking Uber and Spotify over competitors knowing they can enjoy their next ride listening to their favorite tunes.

7) BuzzFeed & Best Friends Animal Society

Some co-branding campaigns are more complicated than others. This example from BuzzFeed and Best Friends Animal Society is one of the simplest ones out there — and it goes to show a great co-branding effort doesn’t have to take months of planning or millions of dollars.

For this campaign, the folks at Best Friends Animal Society wanted to leverage BuzzFeed’s readership of over 200 million people. To do this, they partnered with the folks at BuzzFeed to set up and publish an article called, “We Interviewed Emma Watson While She Played With Kittens And It Was Absolutely Adorable,” which you can read here. The article is exactly what it sounds like: Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson answered fans’ questions while she played with cute kittens.

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Source: BuzzFeed

The article ends with a CTA advertising that the kittens featured in the video are, in fact, adoptable — a win-win for both partners.

8) Alexander Wang & H&M

Anyone who’s designer-conscious knows Alexander Wang and H&M aren’t exactly the same caliber when it comes to quality. Shoes by Alexander Wang tend to go for around $350 a pair, whereas shoes sold by H&M tend to go for more like $35 a pair. See what I mean?

But that discrepancy in pricing is exactly why the two brands decided to partner with one another. To support their brand positioning as trendy and fashionable, H&M has traditionally paired with high-end fashion brands to offer exclusive branded items for a limited time.

In exchange, those high-end brands — like Alexander Wang — can expose their brand name to “a new generation of potential consumers, who will increasingly aspire to owning more pieces from his high end collection,” writes Michelle Greenwald for Forbes.

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Source: Snobette

9) CoverGirl & Lucasfilm: Light Side and Dark Side Makeup

Whenever a new installment of the beloved “Star Wars” series is released in theaters, it causes global pandemonium, and the release of “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens” in 2015 was no exception. The series’ parent company, Lucasfilm, partnered with CoverGirl to capture a broader audience to get fans new and old excited about the movie’s release.

You might be wondering, “What do “Star Wars” and makeup have in common?” And the cleverness of this partnership is evident in the answer.

In the past, the space-age action movies were almost exclusively advertised and targeted toward men and boys. But in this day and age, that’s nonsense — because people of all genders can be interested in space exploration and makeup contouring alike.

The line was designed by famed makeup artist Pat McGrath, and it features two styles: the Light Side and the Dark Side, which loyal “Star Wars” fans will recognize as the sides of good and evil in the movies.

This co-branding partnership was a win for both brand. Lucasfilm captured more attention and got CoverGirl shoppers (many of whom are young women) excited about the film’s release. And CoverGirl hopped on the “Star Wars” advertising bandwagon that took over the internet, stores, and TV leading up to the film’s release.

10) Nike & Apple: Nike+

Athletic brand Nike and technology giant Apple have been working together since the early 2000s, when the first line of iPods was released.

The co-branding partnership started as a way to bring music from Apple to Nike customers’ workouts using the power of technology: Nike+iPod created fitness trackers and sneakers and clothing that tracked activity while connecting people to their tunes.  

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Source: Apple

The partnership has since evolved to become Nike+ — which uses activity tracking technology built into athletic clothing and gear to sync with Apple iPhone apps to track and record workout data. Tracking transmitters can be built into shoes, armbands, and even basketballs to measure time, distance, heart rate, and calories burned.

It’s a genius co-branding move that helps both parties provide a better experience to customers — and with the popularity of fitness tracking technology, Nike+ is ahead of the curve by making it easy for athletes to track while they play.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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How We’re Using Influencers to Drive Engagement on Social Media: A HubSpot Experiment

Ask any social media manager what they stress out about on any given day, and the answers you receive may vary.

Some worry about having enough content to publish while others might worry about posting on the company page from their personal account. But almost all social media pros will agree upon one: news feed algorithms.

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Social media algorithms are designed to serve audiences up the most relevant, interesting content possible — after all, social networks are about being social, and Instagram and Facebook want you spending more and more time within the apps interacting with friends — and content — you love.

But recent algorithm changes on major social networks have also made it tougher for brands and publishers to get content noticed and surfaced in busy news feeds — where billions of people are sharing content every day around the world.

We’ve started experimenting with different ways to leverage content on social media. Posting more frequently isn’t the answer — it’s posting great content that people want to share and interact with. Read on to learn more about the experiments we’re running and the early results we’ve seen.

How We’re Increasing Engagement on Social Media

1) Using Influencers and Gamification to Leverage Engagement

Facebook and Instagram each adjusted its respective news feed algorithm a few times last year. Instead of showing news need updates in chronological order, both algorithms now favor content from friends and family over publishers, and content that users interact with — by liking, commenting, viewing, and sharing posts.

Social media algorithm changes can be tricky for publishers and marketers — especially when we read stress-inducing statistics about Facebook’s algorithm reducing organic reach for publishers by roughly 40% over the last few years.

The answer to getting noticed in busy news feeds is to get people clicking, viewing, and interacting with your posts. But how can you get noticed in the first place — especially when there are so many users and pages also competing for attention?

We started experimenting with mobilizing and incentivizing our Instagram audience to engage more frequently with our posts. We’re rewarding people we think will love our content and engage with it by helping them see it first — and in some cases, win prizes.

Influencer Pods

The Goal:

We want to cultivate more engagement with our Instagram posts by creating our own influencer pod. Influencer pods are made up of — you guessed it — influencers in a particular vertical. They join specific, invite-only groups to engage with one another’s posts in an authentic and mutually beneficial way. Pods help content get viewed higher up in the Instagram feed, which makes it easier for even more people engage with the content — in their feeds, or in the Explore tab.

The Experiment:

We created our own influencer pod with several other well-known companies creating great content in similar worlds to us, such as social media, technology, and design companies. Whenever someone posts new content, they let the group know, and if the other companies find the post interesting, they will like the post and write a genuine comment on the post. Check it out in action:

influencer-pod-example.png

The Results:

Our pod has started to generate 10-20 additional comments per Instagram post from relevant influencers within HubSpot’s vertical. These engagements help us (and fellow pod members) rank in Instagram’s feed, and they inspire a little social proof, too. If Instagrammers see influencers and companies they know and love engaging with HubSpot on Instagram, they might want to check us out, too.

Instagram Comment Contests

The Goal:

We want to help our audience engage with content we think they’d love by running an Instagram comment contest. We want to generate authentic comments on our Instagram posts from fans — and reward them for it, too.

The Experiment:

We created the #First60 contest on Instagram. Here’s how it works:

1) We encourage followers to “Turn on Post Notifications” from HubSpot to make sure they didn’t miss the contest announcement.

2) We post an Instagram Story when we’re getting ready to publish a new Instagram post as part of the contest that urges followers to be among the first people to comment “#First60” for the chance to win a prize.

hubspot-first60-instagram.png

3) Our followers comment on our posts, and we select prize winners and send them swag.

hubspot-first60-instagram1.png

We’re rewarding people who love our content and engage with it by helping them see it first, and in turn, we’re able to generate a lot of engagement on our posts.

The Results:

Like the influencer pods, this Instagram contest generates 10-20 additional comments per Instagram post. The engagement helps us rank in the feed, turning on notifications helps us get our content in front of more of our fans, and everybody likes swag — the contest fosters good will with our audience, too.

Tl;dr: Social Media Engagement

Just like how we thought about different video devices like on-page SEO for social media, think about generating buzz and engagement on social media the way you think about optimizing search engine results with off-page SEO elements.

Inbound links from websites with high domain authority signal to search engines that your content is authoritative and worth clicking on.

Similarly, comments, likes, views, and shares are signals to social media algorithms that the content is authentic and that people like it. These engagements signal that the content should be bumped up higher in news feeds, which will help it then get discovered by more people to engage with it down the line.

P.S. We recently launched our first Facebook comment contest — with a much bigger prize offering. Check our the HubSpot Summer Startup contest here:

3) Rethinking How Social Media and PR Work Together

We’ve only just started this last experiment, so we don’t have detailed methods and results to share yet. But we wanted to give you a rundown of how we’re changing the way we use social media — to earn PR placements, instead of simply promoting them.

Simply put, everyone lives and breathes on social media. In fact, when you factor in messaging apps, social media is where people spend more than half of their time on their mobile devices — with Facebook at the helm.

And where PR used to be all about traditional media placements — in news outlets — it’s transforming to be about social, too.

We’ve found that, when pitching press outlets, you ned to help drive traffic through social to make it worth the effort of PR professionals. In addition to traditional outlets, publications are now generating traffic from native content within social platforms. So if you want to engage with members of the press and PR professionals today, you need to analyze their social media pages to learn what kind of content they’re sharing — before pitching.

The stories you pitch need to be relevant to their audiences — and not just yours. Whatever you learn about the outlets you want to target, incorporate that knowledge into content that you create.

The Goal:

We wanted to see if a social media-based PR campaign would get us more press placements and mentions on Facebook.

The Experiment:

With the Summer Startup contest, we pitched the story to journalists with accompanying data — about what people’s career dreams are, and what they love (and don’t love) about their jobs — to create a newsworthy, research-based story that earned coverage for our contest.

We waited until our video had achieved a meaningful number of views to use social proof to strengthen our pitch — which, in turn, drove more video views when publications started writing about it.

(Additionally, we spent significant budget boosting the post on Facebook, which contributed to the significance of its reach and view numbers on Facebook. We recommend sharing content on Facebook, waiting to see what picks up organically with your audience, and boosting high-performing posts.)

The Results:

We’ve earned more social media press mentions for the Summer Startup contest than any other campaign we’ve done in the past — and we’re not done yet.

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Tl;dr: Social Media PR

Social media managers across industries are revamping their social media strategies to engage with their audience. If you want a press outlet to share your native social media content, tailor your pitch to its presence on Facebook or Twitter — whichever it shares on more frequently. We recommend incorporating social media into PR pitches to craft a story that translates — in print, and in apps.

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