Unriddled: "Not a Media Company" Facebook Launches a Quarterly Publication, Apple Fights Election Interference, and More Tech News You Need

Welcome one, welcome all to another Wednesday: the day that marks the halfway point — almost — to the weekend.

The tech industry has seen quite a busy week, so we’re bringing you another edition of “Unriddled”: the HubSpot Marketing Blog’s mid-week digest of the tech news you need to know. 

It’s our Wednesday tech news roundup, and we’re breaking it down.

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need

1. Facebook Launches Grow: A Print Quarterly Publication for Business Leaders

Despite repeated insistence from its leaders that it is not a media company, Facebook has launched a print quarterly publication in the UK — Grow by Facebook — which it describes as “a thought leadership platform shining a light on people, companies and trends that challenge the status quo.” According to the Grow website, a permanent online “home” for the publication (which Facebook won’t call a magazine) will launch soon, and feature content like niche brand case studies, as well as profiles of business leaders that achieved seemingly impressive feats. The Press Gazette’s Charlotte Tobitt has more. Read full story >>

2. Apple’s Fight Against Election Interference

Apple News — which was rumored to be experimenting with products competing with those of Google News in April — will now have a dedicated section for the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections.

With a mission of “providing a new resource for timely, trustworthy midterm election information,” Apple is drawing attention to a key factor that differentiates it from other tech giants who are fighting election interference, like Facebook: human editors.

(Twitter, too, announced on Tuesday new efforts to combat the spread of fake content and platform abuse — largely through machine learning.)

According to its official statement, Apple will employ a “team of editors focused on discovering and spotlighting well-sourced fact-based stories,” which will include exclusive pieces from the likes of the Washington Post and Axios, as well as coverage from televised news sources. Read full statement >>

3. The Less-Than-Successful Meeting of Big Tech and Intelligence Officials

Within the realm of preventing election interference, several representatives from eight tech giants — including Facebook (which hosted the summit and recently published an update on its efforts to fight fake news), Apple, Google, and Twitter — met with representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to discuss how they can better fight election interference in the months leading up to November’s midterm elections.

(Facebook, meanwhile, announced yesterday that it has removed 10,000 fake Pages, Groups, and accounts in Mexico and across Latin America because they violated Community Standards — though it is unclear if the removal is related to possible election interference.)

The desired outcome, it seems, was to compare potential meddling activity each company had witnessed on its own platform to what U.S. intelligence has been monitoring and intercepting, as well. But those hopes were all but thwarted, with the U.S. government officials sharing no intelligence and leaving the business leaders assuming they would have to fight election interference without any federal intervention or assistance.

It’s a particularly interesting outcome considering April’s congressional hearings, in which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was challenged with questions about the potential regulation of the company, as well as its Big Tech peers. But that potential regulation — should it materialize — does not appear as though it will play a role in the company’s efforts to cease the weaponization of social media sites by foreign actors. Sheera Frenkel and Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times share more. Read full story >>

4. New Metrics Emerge for Time Spent on Social Media

According to new data from SimilarWeb, the average Instagram user spends about 53 minutes on the app each day, trailing closely behind an average 58 minutes on Facebook. (Snapchat, evidently, isn’t too far behind, with an average of 49.5 minutes.)

The data comes at an interesting time, after recent announcements from Apple that it will include a Screen Time app in the next version of iOS to help users manage the time they spend using their phones. Not long after that feature was unveiled, Instagram confirmed it was testing a “time well spent” feature and rumors emerged that Facebook (which owns Instagram) is experimenting with similar technology.

But despite the efforts of the latter two apps to, on the surface, help users better manage time spent on them, both have released new long-form video products — as well as newly-released group chat options and a redesigned explore tab from Instagram — over the past few weeks that appear to be designed at least in part to encourage more time spent on each platform.  Recode’s Rani Molla and Kurt Wagner explain why these metrics matter. Read full story >>

5. Uber is on Probation in London

Since Transport for London revoked Uber’s license to operate, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has spent much of his time doing “damage control” to repair the company’s relationships in the UK, as well as in its U.S. homebase. Now, the ride-sharing company has regained a license to operate in London, after a UK judge ruled that it can legally offer its “digital services” there. But it might not be permanent — the ruling comes with 15 months of probation, which is three months short of the 18-month period the company was seeking. Politico‘s Mark Scott has more. Read full story >>

6. Facebook Will Allow Cryptocurrency Ads Again

In a statement released Tuesday, Facebook announced it would once again permit the purchase and publication of “binary options, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency.” The new policy follows a January decision to ban any “misleading or deceptive promotional” content related to financial products — which has been revised to allow such ads from pre-approved accounts only. Facebook and Google were among the first platforms to ban ads related to cryptocurrency, and were followed shortly thereafter by Twitter. Read full statement >>

That’s all for today. Until next week, feel free to weigh in on Twitter to ask us your tech news questions, or to let us know what kind of events and topics you’d like us to cover.

Featured image credit: Facebook


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Here's Exactly How We Got 105k+ People Using Our Chatbot

It’s not impossible for humans and even a lot of software to do exactly what chatbots do.

It’s how bots do it that matters.

When we work alongside bots, they make life easier. They help us do things faster and with more efficiency. They give us more time to do “human stuff� — and do it even better.

Bots don’t have to be as ubiquitous as searching the web. That’s not the point.
Bots do have to carve out a space as a different but equal resource that takes humans where they want to go more easily than ever before.

Chatbots can and will change business and marketing as we know it, if given a fighting chance.

But right now, they must win over naysayers crying “trend!� and comparing the budding technology to channels that have had decades to develop.

It’s easy to get wrong. And when we do get it right, it’s all too easy to run it utterly into the ground as we have with many marketing opportunities in the past.
This time around, we’ve pledged to use this powerful element of change for good instead of evil.

Here’s how we’re making a sales, marketing, and biz-building chatbot that doesn’t suck: GrowthBot.

Apps build a silo, bots fill a niche.

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Apple’s “There’s an app for that� has been the rallying cry for the past decade.
As such, it’s left the tech battlefield littered with millions of apps that do everything from letting you solve crime with your favorite celebrity avatar to ordering delivery with an emoji (OK, that one is kind of useful).

There’s more than just an app for that; there’s a name for that. It’s called app fatigue.

In 2016, comScore found almost half of all smartphone users in the U.S. downloaded a whopping average of zero apps per month. Yet in 2017, the Google Play store added more than 1,300 apps every single day.

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Why so many apps? Mostly because it’s what everyone else is doing. Marketers aren’t exactly known for having a lot of chill when it comes to the tech du jour.
That’s not to say apps are dead in the water, but we are starting to see a trend which indicates people are using far fewer apps than are being put on the market daily.
App Annie’s 2017 research shows people use the same nine apps per day and no more than 30 over the course of a month. On average, users only touch as few as one-third of the apps they’ve downloaded.

Millennials especially are using utilities like maps and search engines along with apps for social networking, messaging, entertainment, and retail.

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When users do open an app, it’s no surprise it’s rarely that one that lets you drink beer … without the beer.

Bots don’t add to the onslaught of app, decision, or fake beer fatigue. Instead, they live right inside and actually enhance the functionality of some of the most popular messaging apps.

For example, GrowthBot helps users access tons of marketing and sales data using an app they probably already have open all day — Slack.

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We have to agree with data scientist and software developer P. Daniel Tyreusin this case:

“I’m willing to speculate that it’s easier to acquire a user if the user doesn’t have to download a new app to use a service. I’m also willing to speculate that users are more likely to continue using a service that’s integrated into an app they already use.â€�

In the words of Seth Godin: If your target audience isn’t listening, it’s not their fault — it’s yours.

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Before we even began building our chatbot, we focused on exactly how it would create value in a way no other tool could for our audience.

We work consistently to grow GrowthBot’s natural language processing (NLP) skills because we know our audience and we know how much easier it makes their lives when they’re able to access and compare tons of data by typing a few quick phrases into Slack.

NLP enables chatbots to understand what a user is looking for. It also allows consumers to enjoy personalized conversation instead of interacting with the same tired “intuitive� menu in a vacuum.

That’s important when your bot functions as a customer service rep, personal shopper, or research partner and conversation is the ideal way to answer a request.
Dennis Thomas, CTO at AI-powered consulting firm NeuraFlash, knows the importance of understanding how users interact with your chatbot.

“Another place where NLP is a big win is when the bot’s objective is focused on helping users with the discovery phase of products or shopping. Finding the right item via conversation helps to drive the user’s goal, as well as the product criteria to match to the company’s inventory.�

By the same token, NLP could actually be a detriment in cases where text-based chatbots can make the process simpler.

“When you have a visual medium and buttons can accomplish the task in a couple clicks (think easy re-order), open-ended natural language is not making the user’s life easier.â€�

We didn’t throw everything we’ve learned about our audience out the window when developing new bot software. Instead we implemented that knowledge to make GrowthBot just useful enough without being overwhelming.

We believe chatbots should be useful first and useful always.

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NLP only accounts for half the conversation — the input part.

Output is just as important in terms of usefulness.

Your bot might have the personality of The Most Interesting Man in the World, but it will still suck if it can’t answer a user’s query.

You don’t need to build an entire search engine from scratch. You don’t even need to build an app. All you have to do is make sure your chatbot has access to enough data to prove useful in the niche you’ve chosen.

If it can’t do that, it’s no better than the aforementioned beer-simulating apps of the world.

GrowthBot has solid conversational skills, but it would be nothing without the marketing and sales data that help it achieve its goal — providing value to people who are growing businesses.

There are already tons of pieces of software and far too many apps for sales and marketing professionals. Useful chatbots don’t mimic, they empower users to find exactly what they’re looking for using a natural instinct: Simply asking.
Not spending hours customizing dashboards and poking through tens of different workflows just to uncover their own data. Simply asking.

Everytime we link a new database to GrowthBot, it gets more valuable for users. Right now it can pull information from dozens of sources; including HubSpot (of course), Google Analytics, MailChimp, social networking sites, and so on.

Bots are first and foremost data scanning machines. They take input, provide relevant feedback, and do so in a way that is easier to manage than any other platform.

“Products, like people, have personalities…�

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David Ogilvy famously understood the importance of personality in products. We believe that’s also the case for brands and bots. That’s why we made GrowthBot sound like someone we know and like.

If your brand already has a solid personality, translate that into the voice and tone your bot uses when interacting with people.

If not, there’s no time like building a chatbot to determine whom you want to be in the online world.

Because there are so many tools out there that take the technical aspect out of building a bot, creating a great conversational flow might just be the greatest challenge you’ll face.

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The messaging framework you build into your chatbot will influence the way people perceive the value of your brand, so give it some personality.

MailChimp is famous for its distinctly helpful personality that manages to be playful and humble at the same time. If your cat is wearing its very own monkey-themed knit hat right now, you know exactly what I mean.

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Cintell’s 2016 benchmark study on B2B buyers found that companies who exceed lead and revenue goals are two and a half times as likely to use personas than companies who miss lead and revenue goals.

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Today’s consumers have nearly countless brands to choose from. And they know it.
A well-defined voice that aligns with your ideal customer is an effective and low-cost way to develop return buyers and bot users.

For example, GrowthBot sounds like Dharmesh Shah — founder and CTO at HubSpot and loving father to the chatbot itself.

That means it’s light-hearted, respectful, and just a tad quirky all while being truly helpful.

We’ve found that a truly helpful voice in a world of chatter is more powerful than you might think.

Bots make life so simple, search feels painful

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Google search has made an impact. There’s no denying that.

It’s almost a force of habit to visit a search engine to find what you’re looking for. Habits are notoriously hard to change, especially the more gratifying and automatic they are.

Current studies show it takes an average of 66 days for a behavior to become “unchangingly automatic.�

Because search behavior is second nature to us now, bots must do what a search can’t:

  • Provide customer service conversations and solutions without the wait
  • Deliver the information a user is looking for in just seconds, on the first try
  • Make recommendations based on powerful personalization
  • Aggregate information from a variety of sources right inside the apps we’re already using

That last point is what GrowthBot is founded on. We make growing your business easier by using the power of a chatbot to put information at your fingertips — not siloed in more apps and interfaces than you can count.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what AI-enabled bots can do with enough data and well-planned conversational flow.

But things can still go wrong if you aren’t aware of and managing your users’ expectations.

Where Facebook’s Assistant M Got It All Wrong

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Chatbots are relatively new and their capabilities are varied. If you want people to love your bot, it’s important they understand why they need it and how to use it.
It’s not that Facebook’s Assistant M chatbot didn’t work. It’s that expectations weren’t managed; which overwhelmed the system and underwhelmed its users all at once.

“The first thing chatbots should do is quickly introduce their core competencies. Not only should chatbots start within a specific scope, they should always firstly tell you how they can help you and what they can do best.â€�
— Instabot

Clarify upfront exactly what your bot is capable of. Provide specific examples and invite the user to try out a few practice questions. Don’t make them learn any new tricks right away.

Using your chatbot for the first time should feel like starting an online chat with a new friend or customer service agent.

There will inevitably be times when users ask your bot to do something it can’t do yet. Offer them an alternative, but don’t let that learning opportunity slip away.
Scan your chat logs regularly, they’re the most valuable market research you’ll ever get on what people want your chatbot to do.

Wait, have I mentioned value already?

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Be on the lookout for every chance you can find to provide extreme value to your users.

Go above and beyond what people expect your chatbot to provide. Delight them with thoughtful little extras that make their days better.

Extreme value doesn’t have to stop when a user leaves your bot interface.

Offer to send customers an alert when their size is back in stock. Tell readers where they can find more articles like the one they just read on your website. Or, like us, celebrate with them every time you connect another tool that will make their jobs easier.

These kinds of interactions don’t just provide extreme value, they keep you top of mind and keep your customers coming back for more.

Nobody needs another app for this, that, or anything.

Instead, people need smart ways to accomplish more within the tools they already know and use regularly. When our chatbots deliver that level of service, we’re sure to start changing behavior and creating better automatic habits.

Fight back against bad bots. Build yours to be delightful to interact with, provide extreme value, and just not suck.

Originally published at blog.growthbot.org.

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The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing

The first marketing email was sent in 1978, resulted in $13 million in sales, and kicked off what has become one of the most highly used marketing channels even to this day. Given its early beginnings, email isn’t as shiny as some newer channels like messaging and social, but it is an effective way to build an owned audience that gets results.

Email isn’t dead. It’s one of the few marketing channels we can use to build an authentic connection with the humans that keep our businesses alive.

Email marketing isn’t spam. It’s not a personal note from an old colleague either. It’s something in between. Your customers don’t give their information lightly, and — if used right — email marketing can be both a relationship-building and profit-building tool.Click here to download our free checklist for writing perfect marketing emails.

You should use email to build upon an existing relationship with your subscribers and leads by providing relevant, valuable information that will help them take action on their goals.

That’s right, email marketing isn’t just about you, or your company. It’s about your customer.

If you keep this golden rule in mind, your subscribers will not only read your emails, but they will look forward to hearing from you every time.

Let’s dive into why email marketing is still one of the most important elements of your marketing strategy and how you can use it responsibly and effectively.

Here are some stats that prove how effective email marketing can be:

Unless you have the (wo)manpower, free time, and capital to individually build a personal relationship with each one of your prospects and customers, email should be your best marketing friend.

Use Cases for Email Marketing

Here are the many ways you can (and should) use email:

  • Build Relationships: Build connections through personalized engagement.
  • Brand Awareness: Keep your company and your services top-of-mind for the moment when your prospects are ready to engage.
  • Content Promotion: Use email to share relevant blog content or useful assets with your prospects.
  • Lead Generation: Entice your subscribers to provide their personal information in exchange for an asset that they’d find valuable.
  • Product Marketing: Promote your products and services.
  • Lead Nurturing: Delight your customers with content that can help them succeed in their goals.

Getting Started with Email Marketing

Before you get overwhelmed with the vast possibilities of email marketing, let’s break down a few key things to get you started building an strong email campaign that will delight your customers.

Create an Email Marketing Strategy

Each of your customers receives 121 emails every day. That means, if you don’t take the time to develop a strategy, your emails will get lost in crowded inboxes, or worse, be sent to the spam folder.

You can learn how to build an effective email strategy and send emails that people actually want to read. It just takes a plan (one that can be broken down into a few categories).

Think of the following five categories as an outline for your email strategy. We’ll dive deeper into some of these in a moment.

1. Define Your Audience

An effective email is a relevant email. Like everything else in marketing, start with your buyer persona, understand what they want, and tailor your email campaign to your audience’s needs.

2. Establish Your Goals

Before you come up with your campaign goals, gather some context. Research the average email stats for your industry and use them as benchmarks for your goals.

email marketing mean open rate by industry

email marketing mean click-through rate by industry

 Source: HubSpot

3. Create a Way for People to Sign Up

You need people to email, right? An email list is a group of users who have given you permission to send them relevant content. To build that list, you need several ways for prospects to opt in to receive your emails.

Don’t be discouraged if you only have a few people on your list to start. It can take some time to build. In the meantime, treat every single subscriber and lead like gold, and you’ll start to see your email list grow organically.

4. Choose an Email Campaign Type 

Email campaigns vary and trying to decide between them can be overwhelming. Do you send a weekly newsletter? Should you send out new product announcements? Which blog posts are worth sharing?

These questions plague every marketer. The answer is subjective. You can start by learning about the different types of email campaigns that exist, then decide which is best for your audience. You should also set up different lists for different types of emails, so customers and prospects can sign up for only the emails that are relevant to them.

5. Make a Schedule

Decide how often you plan to contact your list, inform your audience upfront so they know what to expect, and stick to a consistent schedule to build trust, and so they don’t forget about you.

6. Measure Your Results

This should come as no surprise. As marketers, we measure everything. Being meticulous about every key metric will help you make small changes to your emails that will yield large results. We’re going to touch on the exact KPIs to monitor in a bit (or you can simply jump ahead).

Build Your Email List

Now to the fun part: filling your email list with eager prospects that are excited to hear from you.

There are many creative ways to build your email list (and, no, purchasing emails ain’t one). Tactically speaking, list building comes down to two key elements that work cohesively to grow your subscriber numbers: lead magnets and opt-in forms.

Lead Magnets

Your lead magnet is exactly as it sounds: something that attracts prospects to your email list, usually in the form of a free offer. The offer can take a number of formats, should be valuable to your prospects, and is given away for free in exchange for an email address.

There’s just one problem: People have become hyper protective of their personal information. You can’t expect to receive an email address without exchanging it for something valuable.

Think about a lead magnet that is relevant, useful, and makes your prospects’ lives easier.

Here are a few types of lead magnets you could create:

  • Ebook
  • Whitepaper
  • Infographic
  • Report or Study
  • Checklist
  • Template
  • Webinar or Course
  • Tool

If you’re short on resources, you can even repurpose your existing content to create lead magnets.

How to Create a Great Lead Magnet

Remember that your lead magnet should be relevant to your prospects. Here are a few guidelines to ensure you’re creating a valuable asset for your potential list.

1. Make your offer solution-oriented and actionable.

Provide practical information that solves a problem and create a realistic way to achieve the solution.

2. Ensure that the asset is easy to consume.

Lead magnets should be delivered in a digital format. Whether it’s a PDF, a webpage, a video, or some other format, make it easy for your new lead to obtain and consume it.

3. Create your offer with future content in mind.

There’s nothing worse than signing up for a great offer only to be disappointed by the content that follows. Make sure your offer is aligned with the value that you will provide throughout your relationship, otherwise you risk damaging trust.

4. Treat your lead magnet as a stepping stone to your paid solution.

The point of your email list is to eventually guide subscribers to a paid offer. You offer free content to demonstrate the value that you provide as a company, and those free offers should eventually lead to your product or service.

5. Create offers that are relevant to each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Every new lead will be at a different stage of the buyer’s journey, and it’s your responsibility to know which. Segment your list from the beginning by providing separate opt-in offers that pertain to each stage of the buyer’s journey. You can tell a lot about a prospect’s mindset by the content they consume.

How to Create an Enticing Opt-in Form

Your opt-in form is how you get a prospect’s information to add them to your list. It’s the gate between your future leads and the incredible asset that you created with them in mind.

Create an attractive design and attention-grabbing header.

Your form should be branded, stand out from the page, and entice people to sign up. You want to excite readers with the offer.

Make the copy relevant to the offer.

While your goal is to get people to enter their information, it isn’t to deceive them. Any information on your form should be a truthful representation of the offer.

Keep the form simple.

This could be one of your first interactions with your prospect. Don’t scare them away with a long form with several fields. Ask for only the most essential information: first name and email is a good place to start.

Set your opt-in form for double confirmation.

It may seem counterproductive to ask your subscribers to opt in to your emails twice, but a study on open rates proves that customers prefer a confirmed opt-in (COI) email 2.7X more than a welcome email.

Ensure that the flow works.

Take yourself through the user experience before you go live. Double check that the form works as intended, the thank you page is live, and your offer is delivered as promised. This is one of your first impressions on your new lead — make it a professional and positive one.

Email Marketing Best Practices

If all goes well, you’ll have built a robust list of subscribers and leads that are waiting to hear from you. But you can’t start emailing just yet unless you want to end up in a spam folder, or worse, a blocked list.

Here are a few extremely important things to keep in mind before you start emailing your precious list that you worked so hard to build.

Email Marketing Tips

While you probably don’t think twice about the formatting or subject line of an email you send to a friend, email marketing requires a lot more consideration. Everything from the time you send your email to the devices on which your email could be opened matters.

Your goal with every email is to generate more leads, which makes crafting a marketing email a more involved process than other emails you’ve written.

Let’s touch on the components of a successful marketing email:

Subject Line: Use clear, actionable, enticing language that is personalized and aligned with the body of the email.

Copy: The copy in the body of your email should be consistent with your voice and stick to only one topic.

Images: Choose images that are optimized for all devices, eye-catching, and relevant.

CTA: Your call-to-action should lead to a relevant offer and stand out from the rest of the email.

Timing: Based on a study that observed response rates of 20 million emails, Tuesday at 11 AM ET is the best day and time to send your email.

Responsiveness: 55% of emails are opened on mobile. Your email should, therefore, be optimized for this as well as all other devices.

Personalization: Write every email like you’re sending it to a friend. Be personable and address your reader in a familiar tone.

Email Segmentation

Segmentation is breaking up your large email list into sub categories that pertain to your subscribers’ unique characteristics, interests, and preferences.

Our subscribers are humans, after all, and we should do our best to treat them as such. That means, not sending generic email blasts.

We talked about segmentation briefly above. The reason why this topic is important enough to mention twice is that, without it, you run the risk of sending the wrong content to the wrong people and losing subscribers.

Why Should You Segment Your List?

Each person who signs up to receive your emails is at a different level of readiness to convert into a customer (which is the ultimate goal of all this).

If you send a discount coupon for your product to subscribers that don’t even know how to diagnose their problem, you’ll probably lose them. That’s because you’re skipping the part where you build trust and develop the relationship.

Every email you send should treat your subscribers like humans that you want to connect with, as opposed to a herd of leads that you’re trying to corral into one-size-fits-all box.

The more you segment your list, the more trust you build with your leads and the easier it’ll be to convert them later.

Not to mention, segmented emails generate 58% of all revenue.

How to Segment Your List

The first step in segmentation is creating separate lead magnets and opt-in forms for each part of the buyer’s journey. That way, your contacts are automatically divided into separate lists.

Beyond that, email marketing platforms allow you to segment your email list by contact data and behavior to help you send the right emails to the right people.

Here are some ways you could break up your list:

  • Geographical location
  • Lifecycle stage
  • Awareness, consideration, decision stage
  • Industry
  • Previous engagement with your brand
  • Language
  • Job Title

In reality, you can segment your list any way that you want. Just make sure to be as exclusive as possible when sending emails to each subgroup.

Personalization

Now that you know who you’re emailing and what’s important to them, it will be much easier to send emails with personalized touches.

Sure, you’re speaking to 100+ people at one time, but your leads don’t need to know it.

To really drive this point home, consider this: Personalized emails have 26% higher open rates, and an improved click-through rate of 14% when compared to others.

You’ve gathered all this unique data. Your email marketing software allows for personalization tokens. You have no excuse for sending generic emails that don’t make your leads feel special.

Here are a few ways to personalize your emails:

  • Add a first name field in your subject line and/or greeting
  • Include region-specific information when appropriate
  • Send content that is relevant to your lead’s lifecycle stage
  • Only send emails that pertain to the last engagement a lead has had with your brand
  • Write about relevant and/or personal events, like region-specific holidays or birthdays
  • End your emails with a personal signature from a human (not your company)
  • Use a relevant call-to-action to an offer that the reader will find useful

Automation

Automation is putting your list segmentation to use. Once you’ve created specific subgroups, you can send automated emails that are highly targeted. There are a couple ways to do this.

1. Autoresponders

An autoresponder, also known as a drip campaign, is a series of emails that is sent out automatically once triggered by a certain action, for instance, when someone downloads your ebook.

You’ll use the same guidelines for writing your emails that we discussed previously to ensure that your readers find your emails useful and interesting. You should decide how far apart you’d like your emails to be sent, say every few days or weeks or even months.

The great thing about autoresponders is that you can set it and forget it. Every user that is part of your autoresponder will receive each email that you’ve added to the series.

2. Workflows

Workflows take autoresponders a step further. Think of Workflows like a flow tree with yes/no branches that will execute actions based on the criteria that you set.

Workflows have two key components: 1. Enrollment criteria, or the action that would qualify a user for the workflow. 2. Goal, or the action that would take a user out of the workflow.

Workflow tools are smart enough to know if a user opened an email or downloaded an offer, and it will set off a series of actions based on that behavior. That means, it can send an email series, or even change a prospect’s lifecycle stage based on what a user does.

Here’s an example of how a workflow could be set up:

email marketing workflowSource: HubSpot

The key difference from an autoresponder is that workflows are smart: They can change the course of your automated series based on what your prospect will find useful. For instance, if a new subscriber receives a welcome email and the subsequent email is set up to send them an offer that they already found and downloaded on your site, the workflow tool will know and adapt. In an autoresponder, a user receives a specific set of emails at specific time intervals no matter what action they take.

Why is this important? Sending the right email at the right time is detrimental to your bottom line. Companies see a 20% increase in revenue when they send emails based on lifecycle stages.

Email Regulations You Should Follow

Email regulations are consistent with consumers’ desires to know how and why their information is being used. If there’s anything we care about, it’s complying with what our customers—or potential customers—want.

CAN-SPAM Compliance

Technically, CAN-SPAM is an acronym for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (because sometimes the two go together).

In practice, it’s a way to protect your subscribers’ right to only receive emails that they’ve requested.

The law was passed in 2003 and applies to any commercial emails used for business purposes.

Here are the ways to ensure that your emails are CAN-SPAM compliant:

  1. Include your company name and address in every email.
  2. Place visible unsubscribe links within your emails.
  3. Use real email addresses in the “From� and “Reply to� fields.
  4. Write subject lines that indicate the contents of the email.

Please note: This is not to be confused for legal advice. See the FTC’s site for more specific legal information regarding CAN-SPAM laws.

GDPR Compliance

“GDPR is wholly consistent with the inbound approach to businessâ€� – Brian Halligan, HubSpot CEO

While some may view these newly implemented email regulations as burdensome and unnecessary, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) actually moves us closer to building long-lasting and trusting relationships with our customers.

GDPR is about giving your customers the right to choose. They choose your emails. They choose to hear from you. They choose your products. And that is exactly what inbound marketing is about.

Something important to note about GDPR is that it only applies to businesses that operate in the European Union and businesses that market to EU citizens. Noncompliance will result in significant fees that aren’t worth the risk, so make sure read the GDPR guidelines entirely.

Here’s an overview of how you can comply with GDPR laws:

  • Use explicit and clear language when requesting consent to store personal information.
  • Only collect contact data that is necessary for and relevant to your business.
  • Store contact data in a secure manner and only use it for the agreed-upon purpose.
  • Retain data for justifiable business purposes only.
  • Delete contact data on request.
  • Make it easy for contacts to unsubscribe from your list or update their preferences.
  • Comply promptly to a contact’s request for access to their data.
  • Keep company records to prove GDPR compliance.

These regulations will be taken seriously (as they should), so it’s a good idea to create a GDPR strategy for your business before you start sending out emails.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm6Dnaqiyso]

How to Avoid Spam Filters

You spend time creating the perfect email and adhering to regulations, so the last thing you want is to end up in a spam folder.

You’ll want to avoid the spam folder because:

  • It hurts your deliverability rates across the board.
  • Your contacts will likely miss all of your emails.
  • You won’t be able to accurately measure your email marketing effectiveness.
  • Your analytics will be skewed.

You can avoid being deduced to spam by:

Getting whitelisted.

A whitelist is the opposite of a blacklist, meaning it’s a list of approved senders that are allowed to reach the subscriber’s inbox. The easiest way to accomplish this is to have your new subscriber add your email address to their address book. Include directions on how to do this in your welcome email.

Minding your copy.

Avoid using all caps and multiple exclamation points, as well as spam trigger words, like “opt in�, “click below�, and “order�, that are easily detected and marked down by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Using a reliable email service provider.

Your email service provider’s reputation affects your deliverability, so stick to established, well-known companies.

Implementing a double opt-in.

After someone opts in to your email list, send an email asking them to confirm. This ensures that your new subscriber is genuinely interested in your emails and will likely be more engaged.

Check out more ways you can avoid the spam filter.

Analyzing Your Email Marketing Results

As marketers, we love to analyze everything. It helps inform our marketing decisions and justify our work to the rest of the company.

Here are the best ways to analyze the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.

A/B Testing

Not all email lists are created equal. Some audiences prefer personalization and others will think it’s spammy. Some audiences will like bright, eye-catching CTA buttons, and others will prefer a more subtle call-to-action.

You’ll never know what type of people make up your email list until you test the variables. That’s where A/B testing comes in handy.

A/B testing, or split testing, is a way to see what type of email performs best with your audience by analyzing the results of email A against email B.

Here’s the step-by-step process for A/B testing your emails:

  1. Select one variable to test at a time, e.g., subject line, CTA, images.
  2. Create two versions of the email: one with and one without the variable.
  3. Allow your emails to be sent out simultaneously for a period of time.
  4. Analyze your results and keep only the version that performed better.
  5. Test a new variable and repeat the process.

Most email service providers will have A/B testing built into their software, which will make it easy for you to compare email results without much manual work.

Email Marketing KPIs

There are four keys metrics to pay attention to when evaluating the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign.

  1. Deliverability measures the rate at which emails reach your intended subscribers’ inboxes.
  2. Open rate is the percentage of people that open your email once it reaches their inbox.
  3. Clickthrough rate (CTR) is the percentage of people that click on your CTAs.
  4. Unsubscribes measures the number of people who opt out of your email list once they receive an email from you.

How to Improve Your Email Results

Many factors impact your KPIs, and it’s going to take some experimentation and guesswork to figure out which tweaks to your emails will yield that biggest changes.

If you aren’t getting the numbers you want, try playing with these variables to improve your email results.

Deliverability

  • Ensure that you’re following best practices when it comes to avoiding spam filters.
  • Remove inactive people from your email list to keep only engaged subscribers.
  • Check which emails hard-bounced and remove those email addresses from your list.

Open Rate

  • Play with the language in your subject line to entice people to click on your email.
  • Adjust the time and day that you send your email to see what works best.

Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

  • Evaluate your offer to ensure that it provides value to your segmented list.
  • Rewrite your copy to make sure that it’s clear what you want the reader to do.
  • Try different CTAs, e.g., graphic versus Inline copy, bold versus subtle.

Unsubscribes

  • First, consider if this a blessing in disguise, as uninterested parties are removing themselves from your list.
  • Evaluate whether the email you sent is aligned with your brand.
  • Ensure you haven’t performed a bait-and-switch by promising one thing and delivering another.
  • Make sure your emails are providing value to your audience before trying to upsell.

Email Marketing Report Template

Your data does no good if you can’t report it in an organized fashion.

An email marketing report is a spreadsheet where you can record your results in one place to help you make inferences from your KPIs and take action to improve them.

Here’s how you should organize your report:

Metrics

  • Total number of emails sent
  • Number of emails delivered
  • Deliverability Rate
  • Bounce Rate
  • Open Rate
  • Clickthrough Rate
  • Unsubscribe Rate

Data

  • Subject line
  • Length of email body
  • Offer
  • CTA (inline or graphic)
  • List segment

Questions to Ask

  • Was your deliverability rate high in comparison to previous periods?
  • How did your CTR compare to your open rate?
  • Were your unsubscribe numbers consistent with other emails?
  • Did a certain subject line perform better than others?
  • Does the length of email make a difference in CTR?
  • Could another style of CTA perform better?
  • Was the offer appropriate for the list segment?

Email Marketing for SMBs

Email marketing rules change based on your industry and who you’re marketing to. Below are some email marketing trends for B2B, B2C, ecommerce, and real estate companies that can inform your email marketing strategy.

Email Marketing Stats for B2B

  • Emails that are triggered by an action perform 3X better than nurture emails or drip campaigns
  • For 86% of professionals, email is their preferred communication channel
  • 60% of marketers believe that email marketing produces a positive ROI
  • Clickthrough rates are 47% higher for B2B emails than B2C
  • Subject-line emojis accounted for increased open rates for 56% of brands

Email Marketing Stats for B2C

  • 78% of consumers have unsubscribed from lists because a brand was sending too many emails
  • Over 90% of consumers check their emails daily
  • Video increases CTR by 64.8%
  • Email subscribers are 3X more likely to share social content than others

Email Marketing Stats for eCommerce

  • 66% of consumers have made a purchase as a result of an email marketing message
  • 320% more revenue can be attributed to a welcome email than a promotional email
  • 86% of consumers would like to receive a promotional email from brands they subscribe to at least once per month
  • Segmented emails generate 58% of company revenue

Email Marketing Stats for Real Estate

  • 63% of real estate businesses use email marketing
  • The majority (53%) of real estate companies obtain subscribers from their website
  • Businesses that blog get twice as much traffic from email as those that don’t
  • 40% of real estate companies use list segmentation

Best Email Marketing Services

Email Marketing Companies

Now that you understand email marketing in its entirety, you need to select a company that offers everything you need to create your best email marketing campaign. When choosing an Email Service Provider (ESP), make sure it has the following features:

  • CRM platform with segmentation capabilities
  • Good standing with Internet Service Providers
  • A positive reputation as an email service provider (ESP)
  • Easy-to-build forms, landing pages, and CTAs
  • Automation
  • Simple ways to comply with email regulations
  • Ability to split test your emails
  • Built-in analytics
  • Downloadable reports

Email Marketing Templates

Templates take the design, coding, and UX-definition work out of crafting your emails. Unless you’re a designer and developer on top of being a skilled marketer, templates will save you a ton of time.

Just one caveat: when making your selection, choose email templates that are proven to be effective. Quality templates come from reputable ESPs that have tested them against thousands of alternatives. So, stick with the professionals.

Email Marketing Examples

Some of the best email marketing campaigns have employed all of the great tips that we went over above. Check out some great email marketing examples to get some inspiration for your next campaign.

Conclusion

While there are many rules to sending a marketing email, the most important is this: Treat your subscribers like humans.

You can achieve all of your email marketing goals if you keep this golden rule top-of-mind in every autoresponder, lead magnet, and subject line.

Your subscribers want to hear from you, and they want to relate to you. Be a genuine resource, and they will look forward to opening an email from you just like they would any friend of theirs.

Free Download Write the Perfect Email

 
Free Download Write the Perfect Email


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How to Get Your Boss to Actually Listen to You

How to Get Your Boss to Actually Listen to You

Bosses don’t know everything. Even the most empathetic leaders need feedback to understand the specific challenges their employees face. Unfortunately, plenty of workers — especially those new to the workforce — don’t feel safe being vocal. When they have ideas to contribute, they hesitate to share them; after all, they don’t want to risk potential repercussions.

Ultimately, this environment leads to erosion of communication between team members and even entire companies. People assume their suggestions won’t be met by someone who appreciates their feedback, so concerns remain unspoken. At the same time, each unnoted issue can cost businesses $7,500 per incident, on average. Over time, a human disconnect and financial draining system develops, creating a gap that grows larger each year. The only way to bridge the chasm if you’re not a top dog? Speak up.Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

Not surprisingly, workers seldom take that route. A VitalSmarts study found that only 1 percent of respondents were willing to break the mold; roughly three out of 10 cited a negative organization as the reason for their silence. Anyone who’s seen a colleague punished for being honest knows how quickly open dialogue can shut down; thus, it can be tough to become the turtle willing to stick its neck out.

Ironically, this is exactly the reason you need to take control of the situation and be the one to buck the “silent treatment.� Despite surveys, open-door policies, one-on-one meetings, brainstorming sessions, and other planned events, leaders depend on the voices of proactive, loyal employees — even if they don’t realize it. No company succeeds if its people stop managing up and regularly sharing ideas; talented performers have jumped ship for far less important reasons.

For instance, take a lesson from our company’s business development manager: Like an assertive jet pilot, he consistently keeps himself on my radar. Together, we’ve discussed ways to make our conversations more effective so they focus on productivity. Without his willingness to tell me what I don’t know, our organization would suffer.

Learning to ‘Manage Up’

Whether you’re an extrovert, an introvert, or just someone who’s tired of (and stressed by) holding everything in, you owe it to yourself and your company to find your voice. By following a few guidelines, you can confidently bring up issues with your supervisor — and feel better about your job altogether — without losing sleep:

1. Ready to complain? Take a different tactic.

You might have a list of criticisms or grievances; that’s understandable. However, before you blow up in your meeting, plan to stay in control. Clarify each pain point ahead of time by writing it down. Often, employees lump natural job stressors with programmatic or organizational issues. Divvy them up, and only speak of the latter.

2. Articulate your concerns in a solution-oriented way.

Forget the idea of merely bringing issues to the table. Go a step further and offer solutions, too. Don’t assume your role is to dump concerns onto your corporate leaders and walk away. Instead, have the poise to lean on your expertise and provide solutions. Not only will this show your self-assurance, but it will also help your employer. When researchers studied a restaurant chain in which leadership actively listened to managers and implemented their suggestions, they discovered a 32 percent decrease in turnover and savings of no less than $1.6 million.

3. Commiserate sparingly with peers.

Everyone knows the Negative Neds or Nellies in the office. Their pessimism spreads like cancer, killing productivity and morale. And their professional reputation? Forget it. If you’re going to become a voice to upper management, temper your desire to vent all the time. Although griping makes sense from time to time — and can even be productive under the right circumstances — it doesn’t solve anything. Rather than whine incessantly, allow yourself a bit of kvetching and then move on to developing a viable result.

4. Leverage anonymous feedback.

If you’re hesitant to reveal your identity by marching into your supervisor’s domain, you have a less direct way to make yourself heard. Most companies offer a suggestion box, allowing you to provide the same information you would face to face in written form. You can also write a review on Glassdoor to give your feedback anonymously. Although it’s not as productive as having a direct conversation, you’ll still have a say. Be sure to avoid anger with your words; write concisely and stick to facts for optimum results.

Yes, it’s tough to stand out when others hold their tongues; still, saying nothing will only dampen your business’s effectiveness and keep you from achieving your own objectives. Take charge of your career by moving out of your comfort zone. Your co-workers — and boss — might thank you for your candor.

This post originally appeared on Glassdoor, and has been republished with permission.

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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Productivity Apps

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Productivity Apps

To say that I’m a planner is an understatement. I’m always making to-do lists and live by my calendar that has repeat reminders for weekly and monthly things I need to get done. When “The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up� became popular, I felt instantly validated.

The problem was that all this planning and list making and calendar organization — well it wasn’t actually very organized. I’d have a few different notebooks and sticky notes scattered throughout my apartment, car, and various bags for work. My calendar was stuffed with random papers and often got left at home or work — never where I was when I needed it most.New Call-to-action

So you can imagine that it was actually “life changing� when I discovered a few key productivity apps for my phone. Now, I had my to-do lists with me at all times. (Let’s face it: Are we ever more than a few feet away from our phones?) I could sync my calendars and share them with friends and family to keep us all on track. I could get push notifications to remind me to make that doctor’s appointment 6 months from now and send a friend a birthday message.

It’s no surprise that productivity apps have become so popular. Most of us have too many priorities, commitments, work, and other things — and not enough time. But luckily, there are apps — most of them free — you can download to make your life easier, more balanced, more productive, and most importantly, more in control of your time. Check out this list of some of the year’s most popular apps, organized by category. And download a few to become the most efficient version of yourself.

Time Management & Scheduling Apps

If you’re someone who admittedly needs a little help in the organization department, or if you’re a “Type A� personality who loves planning, then time management and scheduling apps could be a great option for you. These apps help with short- and long-term planning, as well as efficiency, so you can enjoy as much free time as possible.

Blink

You want to plan out your days and create to-do lists, but you’re also a minimalist. Blink is the app for you.

For just $0.99, you can create quick memos and reminders in a non-list format. The horizontal layout of information is beneficial to someone who prefers a unique way to list tasks and create reminders or repeating notifications.

blink--app

Things

If you’re somebody who loves to organize your tasks by the time of the day, Things may be of interest to you. The app, which costs $9.99, has a feature that helps you manage your time by separating your daily tasks into three sections: Today, This Evening, and Tomorrow.

Things also links your to-do lists with your other devices, like your laptop, iPad, etc. In addition to tracking tasks, you can set both short- and long-term goals, and check off the steps that you complete along the way.

things-app

Taskful

Taskful’s progress bar takes completing your to-do list to a new level. The bar moves forward as you continue to check off your tasks throughout the day, giving you a sense of accomplishment. The app even tracks your steps so you can stay in line with both your work and health goals.

Users can create an inbox in Taskful that syncs with other devices and sends email reminders. The app even pushes encouraging messages throughout the day to your device to keep users motivated. If you’re a fan of bright colors, you’ll enjoy the app’s aesthetic as well. Added bonus: Taskful is free.

If you have a Gmail account, chances are you’ve heard about Google Calendar. The app gives users smart suggestions to help them be more productive during the day. These suggestions include ways to easily find times for meetings as well as how to quickly book meeting rooms and locations.

You can invite people to join events on your calendar and create repeating notifications for personal (and group) events or reminders. If you create tasks from your email and want everything to seamlessly integrate, Google Calendar may be the best fit for you.

google-calendar

Todoist

With Todoist, a user can remind themselves of tasks they need to complete by quickly jotting them down in the app in the same way that you might text a friend. The app will interpret your message and set a task for you based off of the language you used. You can even use a hashtag to categorize the reminder.

For example, if you write, “Send in final draft of paper tomorrow by 4 p.m. #journalism,� the app will then set a reminder for you at 4 p.m. tomorrow in your “Journalism� project. Todoist, which is free, also allows you to effectively manage group work by assigning tasks to different people.

Additionally, you can integrate Todoist with over 60 other apps, including Amazon, Alexa, Dropbox, and Slack, making this a great option for someone who wants to connect their personal to-do list with their workplace to-do list.

to-do-list-app

Focus Apps

Do you ever find yourself aimlessly browsing the internet? Scrolling through your Instagram feed even though you know there is significantly more important work to be done? Staying focused is hard these days — distractions are everywhere. Focus apps will help you stay in control of your tasks and manage your time more effectively.

Focus

Are you someone who likes to work in short bursts? Then maybe take a walk, listen to some music, check your emails, or send a text? Focus might be a great addition to your routine.

This free app uses the Pomodoro Technique and places individuals in “Focus Sessions� for 25 minutes at a time. During that 25-minute period, users focus on a task and try to get as much done as possible. After the session ends, they can take a short break. Once the individual completes four 25-minute sessions, they get a 15-20-minute break to do whatever they want.

This task manager also allows you to keep track of the work you have completed throughout the day, so you know what still needs to get done. This is a great option for someone seeking structure and motivation.

Forest is a pretty unique productivity app that works on any iOS device. If you consider yourself an environmentalist, you’re going to love this. When you want to focus, you open the app and virtual trees begin to grow. If you close the app while a tree is growing, you’ll watch it deteriorate.

The app works well for group projects too. It has a feature where the trees can only grow if everyone in the group is on task. As you continue to use Forest, you collect virtual gold coins. When you decide to spend a gold coin, Forest will work with its partner organization, Trees for the Future, to plant a real tree.

Over 273,000 trees have been planted thanks to Forest users. This app is great for people who need a little bit of visual stimulation and motivation, and it only costs $1.99.

forest-app

Freedom

Freedom is a good option for people you who find a way around other focus apps and seriously struggle with distractions.

Freedom allows you to block specific sites during the time you want to focus and get work done. There is a pre-generated list of sites you can choose to be blocked from. You can also add to that list if your time-wasting sites aren’t there. You can schedule these focus sessions in advance and even make recurring sessions.

“Lockdown Mode� ensures even the sneakiest of users won’t be able to work around the system and become distracted. Freedom offers users seven free blocking sessions before requiring a subscription fee.

freedom-app

Stay Focusd

Stay Focusd is a Google Chrome extension that promotes productivity through focus and discipline. The app restricts how long users can stay on the sites that they waste time on.

Once the allotted amount of time on a specific site is up, the user cannot go to that site for the rest of the day. The app blocks all types of sites, subdomains, specific pages, as well as in-page content (videos, games, etc.).

Stay Focusd is a good option for those of you who like to keep a bunch of tabs open while working to occasionally scroll through a social media newsfeed or watch a video on YouTube.

The app forces you to practice good focus habits. And if you don’t feel like working on those habits, don’t worry — the app will block you from all of your time-wasting sites anyway!

stay-focusd-app

Personal Apps

Personal productivity apps help you organize your life when things get messy or stressful. They remind individuals of which groceries they need to pick up, what errands they have to run, or who they need to call to say happy birthday.

They tell users how many more steps they need to take to reach that arbitrary, daily goal of 10,000 that we all supposedly need to hit. There are even personal productivity apps that help us meditate and stay in control of our stress levels.

Mindfulness

Are you feeling a little high strung? Anxious? Someone who needs a reminder to breathe and relax every now and then?

Mindfulness can help you do just that. Individuals use the app to meditate, relax, and be more present in their daily lives. There are over 200 timed and guided meditation sessions with statistics that help you keep track of your journey.

Mindfulness also has an integration with Apple’s Health App, so you can continue to keep track of all of your personal health goals in one place. The app is free, and the guided meditations range in time from 3-30 minutes. That’s right – 3 minutes. Now you have every excuse to start meditating.

midfulness-app

Strides

Do you have a bad habit you’re hoping to get rid of completely? Or a good habit you want to retain? Strides combines all of your good habits, the routines you want to continue, and your personal goals into one app.

It has a SMART tracker, meaning the app holds you accountable with reminders and charts to keep you motivated and focused on achieving your goal. The app works well for people who are more visual. Green and red pace line systems track your progress. Strides is a good (and free) option for those of you who want detailed reminders for your daily routines.

Google Keep works a bit like a virtual Post-It Note. Individuals can use this free app on any iOS device. You can write quick lists, create reminders, record a voice memo, and organize all of your notes by color, category, and label.

This app is great for those who need to quickly jot down something while on the move. You can also set reminders for specific notes. Google Keep is a simple way to stay organized and remember tasks that need to be completed.

Google-keep

Kiwake

We are all guilty of oversleeping now and then. Some of us simply aren’t morning people, hitting snooze over and over again and ending up being late for work or other important events. That’s where Kiwake comes into play.

This inexpensive app ($2.99) gets you out of bed with a complete wake-up process that has three main categories: body, brain, and motivation. The app has you take a picture of an object far away from bed prior to going to sleep so you can prove that you got out of bed in the morning.

You can also play a mini-game to wake up your brain while laying in bed. And lastly, you can review your tasks for the day to get motivated and up to speed on what needs to be accomplished. Kiwake does not have a snooze button, so there’s no way around getting up for the day.

It’s safe to say you’ll have time to make breakfast every morning after downloading this app. Extra points for your personal health goals!

kiwake-app

Workplace Apps

One of the most notorious places where people get distracted and fall behind on their work is while they are actually at work. Anyone who sits at a desk behind a computer for an entire week has plenty of opportunities to be inefficient and lose focus.

Workplace productivity apps not only keep you on track with work tasks, but also assist you with managing teams of people, communicating with colleagues, organizing important documents and files, working with PDFs, and more.

Quip

Quip is a free app that works well for teams of all sizes that are looking to collaborate easily and share thoughts. Users can edit documents, create spreadsheets, revise task lists, take notes, and message other team members in real time.

You can gain access to all that Quip has to offer on any device, at any time. Quip has integrations with numerous other apps, such as Dropbox and Slack, to make your team’s experience even more streamlined. This is a really simple option for anyone looking to improve organization and communication among team members at work.

quip-app

PDF Expert

If you have ever tried working with a PDF document, you know how finicky they can be.

The PDF Editor is $9.99 and allows you to do all of that. For starters, you’ll be able to change text and images on any PDF that comes your way. Users can even sign, send, and export documents straight from the app.

PDF Expert allows you to write notes and set reminders about different sections of the PDF as you work through the file. This app is great for anyone who needs to give feedback, annotate, or mark up a PDF.

pdf-expert-app

Trello

Trello is a free app made for solo or group work. Whether it’s making a to-do list for a quick-turnaround project, managing an editorial calendar, or tracking a 6-month redesign, the app has a layout that works.

Users can list multiple projects at once and make them visible to their whole team on the app’s dashboard. There are project boards with deadlines to clearly lay out the steps necessary to achieve success at the end of the project.

The boards and steps within them can be assigned to a group or one person. Trello has features that give users the ability to attach documents, videos, and pictures. If you’re on a team where people are all working on different pieces of the puzzle at once, Trello is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page and aware of overall progress.

trello

Documents 6

Do you use cloud-based file storage? Dropbox? iCloud? Google Drive? If you need to share text files, music, videos, or photos frequently, this app can help.

Documents 6 lets you sync the files and folders you save to the cloud. The app also has a web browser for file downloads and a feature to read, annotate, and edit files.

This file manager is free and a great addition to your toolbox if you’re frequently using cloud-based storage.

documents-6-app

LastPass

Whether it’s your email, your workspace, or one of the numerous other accounts you have to sign into every day, it’s safe to say there are a few of us with lists of our usernames and passwords hidden somewhere “safe.â€� (Yes, I’m guilty too. No, I’m not telling you where my password list is.)

The app is free and securely stores all of your usernames and passwords in the “Vault.â€� It helps you generate strong passwords and creates online shopping profiles for the sites you frequent most. LastPass automatically enters your login information for you when you visit a site, so there’s no scrambling to find that hidden password list you created.

For those of you who are slightly skeptical about security, LastPass lists their advanced protection system features online, which includes an AES-256 bit encryption (you’re the only one with the password to your encryption key) and the option for additional security, like an optional pin, multi-factor authentication, TouchID, and offline options. With LastPass, you only need to remember one password (your encryption key) to get into all of your online profiles.

lastpass

Slack

Slack is the ultimate team communication app. Whether you have a team of three or 3,000, you can all easily communicate and connect on Slack.

You can communicate in groups of users or channels, which you can name by team or topic. The channels can be company-wide or include just a select group of people. You can also send a direct message to one other person, cutting down on email and speeding up the communication process.

Not only is the chat function easy to use, but you can also share documents, photos, videos, and more. Personally, I’m a fan of the feature that allows you to send GIFs to your co-workers.

There is also app integration with numerous other resources you may be using at the office, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Twitter. Slack is ideal for those looking to easily communicate and collaborate with a team of any size.

slack

Email Apps

Between work-related emails, personal emails, special offers, and spam, most people have at least one new message every time they open their inbox. There are several productivity apps that help you spend as little time as possible organizing and reading those emails so you can get back to your life and complete your most important tasks.

Trove

For those of you who feel bombarded by emails throughout the day, fear not! Trove was created to relieve that stress and help you flag the most important emails you need to read and respond to immediately — or later on.

The app provides insights on the mail you are receiving and sending. You can flag an email as Radar, Nudge, or Connect. You can use these flags to remind yourself about which messages you need to respond to and which people you need to follow up with for a response.

If you’re someone who not only receives a lot of emails but also needs to respond to them quickly, then Trove is a great (and free) opportunity to keep your connections and thoughts organized.

trove-app

Astro

Astro assists with both your email and calendar productivity. The app provides users with an assistant – virtual, of course – that helps you organize your emails by importance. The assistant works with you to create follow-up reminders and adds them to your in-app calendar.

Astro efficiently manages your email and calendar so you know exactly what needs to get done first. Any email that needs immediate attention is highlighted. You can unsubscribe from emails while in the app, as well as move your most important messages into a “Focus Inbox.� Astro is free and has a Slack integration.

astro-app

Newton

Newton is another popular email productivity app that has several more features than the other two options mentioned above. It’ll cost you a monthly subscription fee, but it may be worth it.

Newton has read receipts, sender profiles, instant push notifications, undo send, snooze (so your emails come back to you at a more convenient time), and a “Tidy Inbox,� which separates important emails from junk mail and spam.

Users can access Newton through all devices, and it works with other email platforms, such as Gmail, Outlook, iCloud, Google Apps, and more. Newton is a much more in-depth email productivity app for those who find themselves overwhelmed by a constant flow of incoming messages.

newton-app

Writing Apps & Note-Taking Apps

Are you someone who’s constantly jotting down notes, thoughts, and to-do lists, and then forgetting where those lists are? Sometimes you need to quickly record information, and other times you need extensive notes on a specific topic. Writing and note-taking productivity apps have functions that help users record information in an efficient manner, with plenty of editing, sharing, annotating, organizing, and exporting options.

Bear

Bear is a free app that works well for anyone looking to type out a quick list of things to remember or even those who need to write a long essay. Users can link their notes together, organize their thoughts in a way that makes sense to them, and write in plain text so exporting and converting notes to a PDF or uploading to a CMS is simple.

Bear has a clean, minimalist aesthetic for those who prefer a minimalist look. The app organizes your notes through hashtags, so you always know in which section your work is located.

bear-app

Notability

Professionals, teachers, and students can all benefit from this writing app. The app, which costs $9.99, is a simple tool used for paperless note-taking, PDF annotating, free handwriting, and sketching (if you aren’t a fan of typing). Users can complete and sign all types of documents with Notability, and send them straight from the app.

If you’re someone who enjoys both writing and typing notes, then Notability could be a great option for you. The app has a feature that turns written notes into typed notes, so you can keep all of your information in one place. Additionally, if you’re in an important meeting or class and want to ensure you don’t miss a beat, you can record audio as well.

The app even has a function to build checklists and detailed outlines if you want to write in-depth pieces while in class or at work. And don’t worry about saving all of your information to Notability and losing it. All of your work is backed up to the cloud, making it easy to access it from anywhere.

This app is the modern way to take notes and has useful features for personal, educational, and professional use.

notability-app

Evernote

Evernote is more of a notepad-planner hybrid. If you find yourself writing shorter notes or wanting a place to jot down a to-do list, Evernote might be more tailored to your needs than Notability (though they do share many of the same features).

The app allows users to write or dictate notes, sketch, and share documents with other devices. You can also make an agenda and create a checklist. If you like having your notes and to-do lists in the same place, then Evernote works well.

Evernote is free, but you can always upgrade for a monthly fee to get access to premium features.

evernote

Hemingway Editor

The Hemingway Editor app is exceptionally useful to anyone who writes often. The app makes your writing as clear and concise as possible by bringing wordy prose to your attention. It’s kind of like having your own virtual editor.

Additionally, the app highlights adverbs, passive voice, and complicated statements to help you become a more impactful writer. The Hemingway Editor also allows you to publish directly to Medium and WordPress. All of these features make the $19.99 price tag worth it.

And don’t worry if you’re thinking, “Sounds great, but I like to write from the beach or the mountains.� The app works offline, so you can continue writing from your favorite internet-free, inspirational locations.

hemingway-editor

Voice-to-Text Apps

Are you someone who finds handwriting notes inefficient? Maybe you’re a fast typer but you still find yourself in situations where you can’t keep up with a speaker or lecturer? 

Voice-to-text productivity apps are a great solution to these problems. Just hit record, and the app will transcribe the audio, so you can go back and listen later.

Otter

Otter is a note-taking app that combines audio, speaker identification, and transcription. The app is a useful tool for journalists and students alike. If you ever need a “chill� day where you can sit back and listen rather than furiously take notes, you should try this app.

The app is designed to transcribe long-form conversation, so don’t worry if you find yourself in a long lecture. Otter will identify each of the people based on their voices if you’re listening to multiple speakers or are interviewing multiple people. If you’re a visual person, then the app will also work well for you — it highlights the words it transcribes in real time.

And if 600 free minutes of transcription isn’t enough for your lectures, classes, and interviews, you can upgrade your account to premium and get 6,000 minutes of recording time.

otter-app

Descript

Descript is another transcribing app with audio word processing and web publishing functions. It’s a useful tool for those who conduct regular interviews, want accurate quotes from their subjects, and hope to share their audio with listeners online. This is a great option for those times that require you to take in a lot of information both efficiently and accurately.

Descript is exceptionally helpful in interview scenarios. Once the app transcribes your audio, you can edit, cut, and remix the recording. The editing “Wordbar� is a feature that sets this app apart from competitors. The horizontal bar allows you to easily drag words closer together to get rid of unnatural pauses or separate them to give the listener a moment to breathe and understand what they just heard.

With Descript, you can also publish your audio and collect comments from listeners on the web. You can also export your audio from Descript to multiple other platforms, including Avid Pro Tools and Apple Logic Pro X.

The app costs $0.07 per minute (after you use your first free 30 minutes of transcription).

descript-app

Meeting & Scheduling Apps

The last type of productivity app I’ll mention is helpful for those of you who need scheduling support. This includes social media planning, scheduling in-person workplace meetings, and event planning.

These apps will make it easy to stay on top of your editorial calendar and reduce the frustrating back and forth that happens when trying to schedule meetings.

Crowdfire

Do you run multiple social media accounts? Post to one or more platform multiple times per day? Search the web for images and fun articles to inspire your work and engage your followers? Crowdfire can help you with all of these tasks.

The app, which is free, is a way for users to schedule their social media posts — which may include multiple pictures and videos — in advance. Crowdfire then gives users the analytics behind their posts so they are able to track engagement and see what’s working and what needs to be modified.

Crowdfire is a simple app with features that go a long way since successful social media planning takes time and effort. With a planning app like Crowdfire, you can sit down and work on your company’s social media accounts for a specific amount of time, then have your work automatically post whenever you choose. No more headaches when it comes to social!

crowdfire-app

Doodle

When you’re trying to book a meeting, get together with friends, schedule a book club, or plan any other event that includes multiple people, it can be hard to find a day and time that works for everyone. Sending texts and emails back and forth to find a date that works is inefficient and time-consuming. That’s where Doodle comes in.

This free app allows users to find the best date and time for any event by suggesting a number of options for invitees to select their preferences. Doodle is so user-friendly that your invitees don’t even need the app to choose their preferences. It works via iMessage, Facebook, WhatsApp email, and more. There is even a calendar integration to avoid any confusion between you and your invitees. Doodle is the ultimate way to get as many people as possible to attend your important meeting, party, or event.

Conclusion

Distractions, mismanaged time, and procrastination are all cutting into our ability to be productive. No matter your personality or work ethic, there is a productivity app that can help you. Think of them as friendly bits of technology that can measurably improve your ability to work efficiently.

Productivity apps are tools that not only impact the quality of your work but the time you spend away from work. Who doesn’t want to spend less time worrying about being productive and more time actually getting things done?

Productivity Guide

 
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Selling on Instagram: How to Use Instagram's Shoppable Posts

Selling on Instagram: How to Use Instagram's Shoppable Posts

Selling on Instagram just got a lot easier with the launch of Instagram’s shoppable posts feature.

In the past, the only way to connect your followers with your products was through the link in your bio, or links in Instagram Stories, this new feature provides a seamless experience for people to shop products directly from your postsClick here to learn how to use Instagram Stories, Carousels, Influencers, and  more. 

Of course, with more than half a billion monthly active users and over half a million advertisers, it was only a matter of time before users could start buying products right from the app!

Ready to get started with selling on Instagram? Here’s everything you need to know about how to create shoppable posts:

Why Your Business Should Be Using Instagram Shoppable Posts

Shoppable posts are Instagram’s next big step in becoming a more business-friendly platform.

Thanks to the new feature, Instagram users can complete their buying journey, from discovery to checkout, without ever leaving the Instagram app.

And with 80% of Instagram’s 800 million users already following an “active shopping business� account (and 200 million users visiting one or more business profiles daily), giving people the ability to shop natively within the Instagram app makes a lot of sense.

With the new feature, Instagram has made it easier than ever for businesses to reach their consumers, noting “once a business has a product catalog connected to their account, tagging a product is as simple as tagging a person in a post.�

Instagram shoppable posts are marked with a “Tap to View Products� pop-up or small white circle with the shopping bag icon:

On a business’s Instagram account, Instagram shoppable posts will be marked by a shopping bag icon in the top-right corner. Users will also be able to browse your “Shop� feed directly from your Instagram profile:

At the end of the day, Instagram’s new shoppable posts feature offers an incredible opportunity for businesses to turn their followers into customers.

If you’re a small business or publisher looking for an alternative solution to drive traffic from Instagram, using a feature like Linkin.bio might work best for you. With Linkin.bio, you can send your followers anywhere by linking your Instagram posts to specific product pages, blog posts, or websites.

How To Get Started With Selling on Instagram

There are a few eligibility requirements you’ll need to check off before you can get started with Instagram shoppable posts:

  • 1. You must be located in one of these countries: United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, or Australia
  • 2. You need an Instagram business account
  • 3. You must be on the latest version of the Instagram app on either iOS or Android.
  • 4. Your business must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies.
  • 5. Your business profile must be connected to a Facebook catalog. This can be created and managed on Business Manager, directly on your business’s Page on Facebook, or through Shopify or BigCommerce.

If you meet the above requirements, you can simply add the Instagram sales channel to your Shopify or BigCommerce store at no additional cost, and then, once your store is approved, enable the feature by selecting Shopping under Business Settings in the Instagram app.

Here’s how to connect your business profile to a Facebook catalog:

Tip: Once you start adding shoppable posts to your feed, let your audience know with an Instagram story! It’s a great way to spread the word and drive more traffic to your posts.

Option #1: Create a Facebook Catalog with Facebook Business Manager

A Facebook catalog in Facebook Business Manager is essentially a file that contains a list of all the products you want to sell.

To get started, head to the Business Manager account that owns the Facebook Page that’s linked to your Instagram business account.

From your Business Manager account, you can create a new catalog or identify an existing catalog you’d like to use.

Start by opening your Business Manager Settings and clicking on People and Assets. Here you’ll find a Catalogs option. Click on “+ Add� and choose Create a New Product Catalog.

You have to give your product catalog a name and select the types of products you’re adding to your catalog before you can add it to your product feed.

Here’s a Facebook guide on how to do it.

Note: It’s very important to keep your product catalog synced with your Facebook Page, and that your product descriptions and prices are accurate. If you’re running a sale or promotion, make sure your product catalog reflects it.

Option #2: Create a Shop on Facebook with Shopify or BigCommerce

A second way to connect you Instagram business profile to a Facebook catalog is to do it directly with Shopify or BigCommerce.

Shopify

Before you get started, you need to have the Facebook sales channel (included in all paid Shopify plans) installed on your Shopify store, which creates a Shop tab on your Facebook page that displays your Shopify products.

For specific details on how to connect your Facebook page to your Shopify account, you can view the Shopify guide here.

Once you’ve done the above, you can easily add the Instagram sales channel to your Shopify store, which connects the product that you have in Shopify to your Instagram business profile.

To do this, head to your Shopify admin and click to “+� button beside the “Sales channels� heading.

Next, on the “Add sales channel� dialog, click Instagram and then Add channel.

You’ll need to log into your Facebook account page to authenticate your Instagram account in the sales channel.

Once the Instagram sales channel is installed, you can enable the feature by visiting Shopping under Business Settings in the Instagram app.

BigCommerce

You can also use BigCommerce to connect your store’s catalogue to your Facebook Page.

Start by opening Channel Manager on your BigCommerce account and clicking Get Started next to Facebook.

On the next screen, confirm that you’re using a compatible currency, sign up for a Facebook account (if you don’t have one), review the product requirements, then click Get Started.

Next, fill out your details on the Configuration page, including your Business’ contact email, phone number, and the Facebook Page you’d like your Shop to appear on.

Here’s the complete BigCommerce guide on how to it.

Once Facebook approves your catalog, head back to Channel Manager, click Get Started next to Instagram, and confirm that your store meet the necessary requirements.

Connecting your Shop to your Business’ Instagram Account

Once you’ve completed the steps above, your account will be reviewed by Instagram before you can access their shoppable posts feature. The approval process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days according to Instagram. Once you’ve been approved, you will receive a notification letting you know you’re ready to start selling on Instagram.

The next step is to connect your product catalog to your Instagram account. Head back to the Shopping section in your Instagram settings and tap on Products.

Here you’ll be able to select a product catalog to connect to your business profile. Once you’re finished, tap Done.

Tip: Create at least nine shoppable posts to activate the “Shop� tab on your Instagram profile! This will group all your shoppable posts under one tab for easy shopping and product discovery.

How to Tag Products with Instagram Shoppable Posts

Once you get access to shoppable posts on Instagram and you’ve completed all the steps listed in this post, adding tags to your posts is super quick and easy!

You’ll begin uploading a photo to Instagram as you would for any other post. After you’ve added your effects and filters, hit “Next.�

When you have the product feature enabled on your account, you’ll find the option to tag products on the screen where you normally add your caption and other information. Next, enter the names of the products you want to tag, then select them as they appear in the search box.

Once you’re finished, tap “Done� and share your post!

Tip: You can tag products in both new and existing posts from your Instagram business profile. You can also tag up to 5 products per single image post or 20 products per multi-photo (or “carousel�) post:

Turning Your Instagram Posts Into Purchases

While selling on Instagram is easier than ever, it’s important to remember your audience shouldn’t feel like they are being sold to. Businesses should maintain their current content strategy, incorporating shoppable tags on photos that are a natural fit for their profile.

A great way to organically add shopping tags to your post is by leveraging high-quality UGC. Millennials trust UGC 50% more than other types of media, so it makes sense that these images would work well for shoppable posts.

For example, Madewell recently shared this phoppable post from a fan photo, showing off their summer jeans:

Madewell does a great job at seamlessly incorporating Instagram’s shopping feature into their current strategy, without being too “salesy.�

You can also optimize your Instagram sales strategy by using influencer posts. Instagram influencer collaborations and sponsorships have nearly replaced traditional ads and are a huge part of a social media strategies today.

Below, popular fashion model Michelle Dee is shown sporting a Herschel Supply suitcase on the company’s profile:

An Instagram influencer’s stamp of approval goes a long way and is a great strategy to drive sales from your Instagram shoppable posts!

Lastly, including multiple shopping tags in your photos will help your audience explore and browse through your products quickly. You can also try adding shopping tags to carousel posts to test their performance again single-photo posts.

Measuring the Results of your Shoppable Posts

Instagram business accounts also have access to analytics for their shoppable posts, including how many people viewed product information or clicked-through to its product page. This information is super helpful in determine what type of products (and product tags) resonate with your Instagram followers, or where there might be a disconnect in the buyer’s journey.

As with all of your social media marketing efforts, performance data should be measured to see what drove the best results (and why), and then used to inform future posts.

Once your business begins selling on Instagram, it’s important to keep experimenting with images, copy, shopping tags per post, or any other factors that may contribute to your Instagram sales success.

No matter what type of products you sell, delving into your Instagram analytics allows you to understand your audience’s wants, improves your content, and ultimately helps you drive more traffic and sales.

Instagram for Business

 
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How to Make a Chart or Graph in Excel [With Video Tutorial]

How to Make a Chart or Graph in Excel [With Video Tutorial]

Building charts and graphs is part of most people’s jobs — it’s one of the best ways to visualize data in a clear, easily digestible manner. (Check out this guide for making better charts to learn more.)

However, it’s no surprise that some people get a little bit intimidated by the prospect of poking around in Microsoft Excel. I actually adore Excel, but I work in Marketing Operations, so it’s pretty much a requirement.

Click here to download our collection of free Excel templates that will make  your life easier.

 

That’s why I thought I’d share a helpful video tutorial as well as some step-by-step instructions for anyone out there who cringes at the thought of organizing a spreadsheet full of data into a chart that actually, you know, means something. Here are the simple steps you need to build a chart or graph in Excel. And if you’re short on time, check out the video tutorial below.

Keep in mind there are many different versions of Excel, so what you see in the video above might not always match up exactly with what you’ll see in your version. In the instructions below, I used Excel 2017 version 16.9 for Max OS X.

We encourage you to follow along with the written instructions and demo data below (or download them as PDFs using the links below) so you can follow along. Most of the buttons and functions you’ll see and read are very similar across all versions of Excel.

Download Demo Data | Download Instructions (Mac) | Download Instructions (PC)

9-Excel-Marketing-Templates-

 

9-Excel-Marketing-Templates-.png

1. Enter your data into Excel.

First, you need to input your data into Excel. You might have exported the data from elsewhere, like a piece of marketing software or a survey tool. Or maybe you’re inputting it manually.

In the example below, in Column A, I have a list of responses to the question, “Did inbound marketing demonstrate ROI?�, and in Columns B,C, and D, I have the responses to the question, “Does your company have a formal sales-marketing agreement?� For example, Column C, Row 2 illustrates that 49% of people who have an SLA (service level agreement) also say that inbound marketing demonstrated ROI.

Chart data about inbound marketing ROI entered into an Excel spreadsheet

2. Choose one of nine graph and chart options to create.

In Excel, you have plenty of choices for charts and graphs to create. This includes column (or bar) graphs, line graphs, pie graphs, scatter plot, and more. See how Excel identifies each one in the top navigation bar, as depicted below:

Icons for each type of graph and chart in Excel

(For help figuring out which type of chart/graph is best for visualizing your data, check out our free ebook, How to Use Data Visualization to Win Over Your Audience.)

3. Highlight your data and ‘Insert’ your desired graph.

The data I’m working with will look best in a bar graph, so let’s make that one. To make a bar graph, highlight the data and include the titles of the X and Y axis. Then, go to the ‘Insert‘ tab, and in the charts section, click the column icon. Choose the graph you wish from the dropdown window that appears.

Insert and Column icons for making a chart in Excel

In this example, I picked the first 2-dimensional column option — just because I prefer the flat bar graphic over the 3-D look. See the resulting bar graph below.

2-dimensional column chart created from Excel data on inbound marketing ROI

4. Switch the data on each axis, if necessary.

If you want to switch what appears on the X and Y axis, right-click on the bar graph, click ‘Select Data,’ and click ‘Switch Row/Column.’ This will rearrange which axes carry which pieces of data in the list shown below. When you’re finished, click ‘OK’ at the bottom.

Select Data window for switching rows/columns in Excel graph

The resulting graph would look like this:

Switching axes in Excel graph

5. Adjust your data’s layout and colors.

To change the layout of the labeling and legend, click on the bar graph, then click the ‘Chart Design‘ tab. Here, you can choose which layout you prefer for the chart title, axis titles, and legend. In my example (shown below), I clicked on the option that displayed softer bar colors and legends below the chart.

Chart design options in Excel

To further format the legend, click on it to reveal the ‘Format Legend’ sidebar, as shown below. Here, you can change the fill color of the legend, which will in turn change the color of the columns themselves. To format other parts of your chart, click on them individually to reveal a corresponding Format window.

Format Legend window for adjusting chart labels in Excel

6. Change the size of your chart’s legend and axis labels.

When you first make a graph in Excel, the size of your axis and legend labels might be a bit small, depending on the type of graph or chart you choose (bar, pie, line, etc.). Once you’ve created your chart, you’ll want to beef up those labels so they’re legible.

To increase the size of your graph’s labels, click on them individually and, instead of revealing a new Format window, click back into the ‘Home‘ tab in the top navigation bar of Excel. Then, use the font type and size dropdown fields to expand or shrink your chart’s legend and axis labels to your liking.

Increased size of legend labels in Excel chart

7. Change the Y axis measurement options, if desired.

To change the type of measurement shown on the Y axis, click on the Y axis percentages in your chart to reveal the ‘Format Axis‘ window. Here, you can decide if you want to display units located on the Axis Options tab, or if you want to change whether the Y axis shows percentages to 2 decimal places or to 0 decimal places.

Format Axis options window to increase percentages on Y axis

Because my graph automatically set the Y axis’s maximum percentage to 60%, I might want to change it manually to 100% to represent my data on a more universal scale. To do so, I can select the ‘Maximum‘ option — two fields down under ‘Bounds‘ in the Format Axis window — and change the value from 0.6 to 1.

The resulting graph would be changed to look like the one below (I increased the font size of the Y axis via the ‘Home’ tab, so you can see the difference):

Increased Maximum percentage on Excel bar graph's Y axis to 100%

8. Reorder your data, if desired.

To sort the data so the respondents’ answers appear in reverse order, right-click on your graph and click ‘Select Data’ to reveal the same options window you called up in Step 3 above. This time, click the up and down arrows, as shown below, to reverse the order of your data on the chart.

Reorder data options window in Excel

If you have more than two lines of data to adjust, you can also rearrange them in ascending or descending order. To do this, highlight all of your data in the cells above your chart, click ‘Data,’ and select ‘Sort,‘ as shown below. You can choose to sort based on smallest to largest or largest to smallest, depending on your preference.

Sort window in Excel

9. Title your graph.

Now comes the fun and easy part: naming your graph. By now, you might have already figured out how to do this. Here’s a simple clarifier.

Right after making your chart, the title that appears will likely be “Chart Title,” or something similar depending on the version of Excel you’re using. To change this label, click on “Chart Title” to reveal a typing cursor. You can then freely customize your chart’s title.

When you have a title you like, click ‘Home‘ on the top navigation bar, and use the font formatting options to give your title the emphasis it deserves. See these options and my final graph below:

Bar graph on inbound marketing ROI with bolded title

Pretty easy, right? Check out some additional resources below for additional help using Excel and visualizing your data in smart ways.

Additional Resources for Using Excel and Visualizing Data:

Want even more Excel tips? Check out this post on how to add a second axis to an Excel chart.

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Careful, YouTube: Facebook and Instagram Might Be Coming for You

Careful, YouTube: Facebook and Instagram Might Be Coming for You

Facebook and Instagram are looking to become destination video sites — or, at least, it’s looking that way.

This month, both social networks announced new video initiatives and features that cater towards content creators and offer new ways for users to interact with the sites.

Earlier in June, Facebook announced it would launch funded news shows within Facebook Watch, which is the site’s video service that features original programming, both pre-recorded and live. 

Then, on Tuesday, it unveiled a slew of new services for video creators and their audiences. Live videos will now be even more interactive, with new native features like real-time polling and game-show-style Q&A filters. The next day, Instagram — which is owned by Facebook — revealed IGTV: “a new app for watching long-form, vertical video from your favorite Instagram creators.”

While IGTV does have its own, separate app, it’s also available in the core Instagram app on iOS and Android operating systems. You’ll have to download the latest version of Instagram — I had to restart the app twice before the in-app version appeared — where you’ll see a small TV icon in the top-right corner, next to the direct message icon.

IMG_2025 copy

Video is, unquestionably, one of the most popular forms of content consumption online today. In January, when Facebook announced a major algorithm change to shift focus to content from friends and family, it stated that live video, specifically, receives 6X the engagement as pre-recorded video — which could explain this new emphasis on real-time interaction with creators. More engagement tends to lead toward more time spent on the site, which is good news for Facebook.

But many questions arise from these latest features — for Facebook and Instagram alike — in regards to their respective endgames, the benefits to creators, and the possibility of new problems as a result.

Facebook and Instagram Are the New TV

The Question of YouTube

The emphasis on video makes sense for both Facebook and Instagram, given the aforementioned statistics about live video, for instance. But it’s also a reflection of evolving user behavior. 

In 2019, Zenith predicts, internet use will outpace time spent watching TV worldwide — by about 0.27%. And while that might seem like a trivial difference, it happened fairly quickly.

Which brings up the idea of filling that time spent online with original video content. While TV, for many, is still a destination — for the first time, there are multiple options for viewing it through means other than cable, and after it originally aired, usually through online platforms (read: Hulu, YouTube Live, and clips on the YouTube pages of networks or TV shows).

That repositions these digital platforms as destinations where TV used to be in their respective places. That’s certainly what happened to YouTube, which remains a — if not the — top platform for video consumption.

Consider this: YouTube boasts 1.8 billion users signed in each month — and while nothing to scoff at, Netflix’s 125 million streaming subscribers pales in comparison.

Among its boasting points, YouTube ranks as a major search engine in its own right. It’s owned by Google, and many users discover content by way of YouTube search — so much so, that search is a key element in the lesson on discovery within the platform’s Creator Academy.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTrLniP5tSQ]

 

Which leads to another one of YouTube’s boasting points: its relationship with creators. The video platform consistently emphasizes its value as a resource to content creators, including the aforementioned Academy, as well as its “invest[ment] in creators” that it uses as a key statistic in press materials.

Now, let’s go back to those user statistics. Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users — which was revealed alongside the IGTV announcement — and Facebook has 2.2 billion. With a new investment in creators, both networks have something to gain, and it could have an edge on YouTube.

Both already have their own search features, which Instagram has used as a discoverability feature, too — something that it’s emphasizing with IGTV, which automatically plays videos the app thinks you’ll like as soon as you open it.

Among those videos, users can choose to follow different “channels,” or accounts from whom they’d like to see more content. But many of these channels and the creators behind them will be creating long-form video, including regular series, which online personality Lele Pons says she’ll be developing for IGTV.

“Youtube viewing has typically been a pretty deliberate form of consumption. You go to YouTube and actively search for the content you want,” says HubSpot VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson. “Sure, there is some related and recommended content discovery, but the active search is still there.”

“That doesn’t really exist on Instagram in the same way yet, where a lot of viewing, to date, has been pretty passive, particularly with the user interface of stories,” Keaney Anderson continues.”I’m curious if their approaches begin to merge, or if Instagram stays as more of a passive feed over time.”

That passive consumption is key in Instagram eventually winning in the area of what HubSpot Product Lead Daria Marmer calls “filling your ‘bored time.'” 

“If you don’t have videos on Instagram, then you might bounce to YouTube for that content,” Marmer explains. “Having videos right there keeps users in the walled garden.”

The Benefits to Creators

Pons — the aforementioned creator who says she’ll be developing a cooking show for IGTV — also says she won’t be receiving any payment for it. It raises the question: What’s in it for creators?

Of course, there is the element of discoverability, for which most content can be optimized in one way or another — and optimizing for IGTV could soon become a new strategy for creators. But what is the source of monetization?

With discoverability comes following — and with a vast following come brand interest, which is what built the influencer phenomenon (which is now becoming increasingly frowned upon by certain companies). But even so, the interest from brands hasn’t and likely won’t disappear entirely, which is why Marmer says these creators — who Instagram and Facebook are trying to win over from the likes of YouTube, it seems — “are going to be influencers, who are paid by brands, rather than the platform.”

But becoming an influencer is not a quick outcome for those who seek it, which circles back to the question of benefits to creators hoping to best leverage these newer video platforms.

“We’ve seen creators leave platforms before in favor of those that provide revenue models, so I imagine payment is on Instagram’s mind,” Keaney Anderson says. “Discovery might be enough for fledgling creators, but sustaining those who carry an audience will require a rev-share of some sort. The historical models we can’t seem to quit are advertising and subscription, but I always hope for something more imaginative as both come with trade-offs for user experience.”

That seems to be one thing that Facebook is trying to accomplish with its new interactive features for Live video, as well as its new Watch program in general. In the new features it revealed earlier this week, Facebook also announced that publishers and video creators would have access to its “Ad Breaks program,” which essentially allows those who produce longer-form video content to incorporate commercial breaks.

It’s not clear if Facebook will earn a portion of whatever ad revenue results from these commercial breaks, but considering how much of the company’s income is rooted in ads, its likely it will keep a percentage.

New Vulnerabilities

One thing that most social networks (and even search giants like Google) have in common is higher-than-ever scrutiny for platform abuse.

Facebook has been investigated and questioned more than others, especially in light of this year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, as well as the weaponization of the platform to spread false, divisive content to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Just today, for instance, the company published new insights into how it’s allegedly working to combat the spread of fake news on the site.

But Facebook is hardly alone in the false content epidemic. YouTube, for all its benefits and leading points, has also come under fire for content shared on its site from a similar origin, and with the same divisive purpose as the kind that was used to weaponize Facebook. 

There’s also the issue of hate speech, bullying, and generally abusive comments appearing on the sites, which most content platforms are struggling to address in a sustainable way. Facebook even went so far as to publish its internal content review policies for public consumption, but it’s a large amount of material to get through and certain content censorship decisions are still widely misunderstood by users.

b6b9bbb4-a1a5-4923-bbb1-6a6d27f7f9e7

Our survey of 300 U.S. internet users indicates that 34% have experienced online abuse.

This issue arose at F8, where keynote speakers pointed to the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) to combat things like hate speech on the platform. This comes with its own issues, such as implicit biases that AI can pick up from the humans and machines that train it.

These new video platforms, depending on how interaction and engagement with their content will be moderated, carry the possibility of opening Facebook and Instagram to new vulnerabilities in these areas — the very ones that they say they are working to resolve.

To compound that, Instagram recently confirmed that it would soon launch a “time well spent” tool to help users determine — as the name suggests — how much time they’re spending on the app. And while the name also suggests that the feature is designed to help users modify the time they spend on Instagram, it would appear that these new video features and platforms have been introduced to, among other reasons, encourage more time spent using them.

The results remain to be seen, as do the respective networks’ progress in its efforts to combat this type of misuse.

Until then — here’s a peek of my experience with IGTV.


Source: New feed

29 Simple Ways to Grow Your Email List

29 Simple Ways to Grow Your Email List

I have some bad news: Your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year.

Your contacts’ email addresses change as they move from one company to another, opt-out of your email communication, or abandon that old AOL address they only use to fill out forms on websites.

As a marketer, it’s your job to make sure you’re constantly adding fresh contacts to your email marketing campaigns so you can keep your numbers moving up and to the right. (But not by purchasing email lists — learn why you should never buy an email list in this post.)

Click here to download our free beginner's guide to email marketing.

If you’re not working on building your email list already, or you’ve run out of ideas to do so, here are 29 simple ways to grow that email list.

29 Creative List Building Techniques

Using Email

1. Create remarkable email content

Your content needs to be amazing if you want people to stay subscribed and forward your emails to their own network. If it’s entertaining enough, they’ll always look forward to your emails.

2. Encourage subscribers to share and forward your emails

Include social sharing buttons and an “Email to a Friend” button in your marketing emails. That way, you’ll gain access to their friends, colleagues, and networks and expand your contact list. At the bottom of your emails, include a “Subscribe” CTA as a simple text-based link so that the people receiving the forwarded emails can easily opt-in, too.

3. Segment your email lists by buyer persona

Use varying types of email subscriptions to send more targeted content to specific segments of your marketing personas. Email recipients are more likely to click through emails that cater to their specific interests, so if you create multiple, targeted subscription types, you’ll increase the chance that visitors will subscribe to one of them.

4. Reinvigorate a stale email list with an opt-in campaign

Do you have an older list that you suspect has mostly decayed? Create an engaging opt-in message and send it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in — promising to remove all contacts who don’t respond. Though it might seem counterintuitive to remove folks from your email lists in order to grow them, emailing only engaged contacts could improve your deliverability and increase the odds of your email getting shared with those outside your current contacts database.

5. Add a link to your employees’ signatures

Hyperlinked email signatures can lead people to a landing page where they can sign up for your mailing list. Plus, if you’re already in a natural email conversation with them, subscribing to more emails can be a natural next step.

With New Content

6. Create a new lead-generation offer 

Develop a free ebook or whitepaper and host it on a landing page that asks visitors to provide their email address in order to download it. This is called a “gated offer.” (Need ideas? This blog post lists 23 ways to create lead-generation content quickly and easily.)

7. Create a free online tool or resource

Free online tools make your users’ lives easier, and all they have to do is sign up with their email address. For example, we’ve created quite a few free tools, like Marketing Grader, to gather email addresses.

8. Create ‘Bonus’ Content

Not all gated content is worth it to a website visitor. In order to gain their interest, you need to give them free content first. Start with a blog post that offers beginner advice on a subject, then offer “bonus” content with more advanced tips that they can access by submitting their email address via a landing page.

Using Social Media

9. Promote an online contest

Use your social media accounts to host a free giveaway in exchange for contact information. Encourage entrants to click through to your website and sign up using their email address. 

10. Promote one of your lead-gen offers on Twitter

Create a Twitter campaign to promote an ebook or a free resource to your followers that requires an email address to redeem. 

11. Promote an offer through Facebook that requires an email address

Promote content on your Facebook Timeline that your followers can sign up to access. Be sure to add social sharing buttons to the landing pages and thank-you pages you send them to so you encourage your leads to share those offers with their own networks.

12. Add a call-to-action button to the top of your Facebook Business Page

We added calls-to-action (CTAs) on our Facebook page for HubSpot Academy below. The value in this list building technique is in the destination: Link your Facebook page’s CTA button to a landing page that requires an email address for access to a special resource.

Facebook business page for HubSpot Academy with Sign Up button for email list building

13. Publish links to gated offers via social media

Use your Facebook Business page or LinkedIn Company Page to post links to the same gated offers you might also host on your blog posts. You can also do this in appropriate and relevant LinkedIn group discussions — just be mindful of the topic being discussed to ensure your offer is a welcome addition to the conversation.

14. Use Pinterest to promote gated visual content

Pinterest can play host to visual content that encourages visitors to sign up to see more content. For example, HubSpot created a Pinterest board where we pin the well-designed covers of our marketing ebooks. From this board, we’ve been able to generate new leads and grow our email list.

hubspot-ebooks-pinterest

15. Add engagement features to your YouTube channel

Add hyperlinked “end cards” to your YouTube videos that encourage people to subscribe to your channel via their email address. You can see an example of this below, to the bottom right of the video screen. You can also include links to relevant landing pages in your videos’ text captions below your published video.

End card on HubSpot YouTube video for email list building

On Your Website

16. Ask website visitors for feedback

People enjoy offering feedback on information that pertains to them. On certain pages of your website, include a form that asks visitors what questions they might have about your business. You might also create a live chat tool that invites questions and email addresses from people who have stayed on your website for a certain amount of time.

17. Shorten the length of your lead-capturing forms

It’s tempting to collect as much information on a user as possible right away, but adding too many fields to your landing pages and lead-capturing forms can actually scare people off. Reduce the length of your forms to just two to three fields — you can collect more information from them once you start a conversation.

18. Link to offers across your website that capture email signups

Don’t make people dig around your site to stumble across subscription options. Keep your offers up front, and include calls-to-action on multiple pages of your website. Some key places to consider include your website’s homepage, your ‘About Us’ page, and your ‘Contact Us’ page.

19. A/B test different campaign copy

You might be doing all the right things to generate leads — landing pages, gated content, contests, and more. The problem might be that the design or copy itself isn’t driving the engagement you need. A/B test (also known as “split test”) different aspects of your list-building campaigns with different versions of the same content. This includes the call-to-action text, the color of the gated offer, the time of day you’re posting to social media, and even where on your website these signup forms are placed. Sometimes a small change can drive hundreds more conversions.

20. Create a blog that readers can subscribe to

If you don’t already blog, you should! Blog posts help you increase your ranking on search engines like Google, and allow you collect blog subscribers that you can then upgrade to more actionable email campaigns over time.

21. Guest blog for other websites with a call-to-action

There are tons of websites and publishers out there that cater to your audience — and larger portions of it. Guest blogging for these websites helps you expand your contact list to this audience. When creating content as a guest blogger for another website, include a call-to-action, as well as a link in you author byline, for readers to subscribe to your site’s blog or email newsletter.

22. Include customer reviews on your website and landing pages

Customer reviews are the “social proof” that encourages people to join in on something. It’s one thing for you to tell people to sign up for a campaign, but it’s another thing for your happiest customers to say it too. Publish your best reviews from communities like Yelp right to your website. This adds genuine value to your landing pages when people are on the fence about submitting their contact information. 

With a Partner

23. Run a promotion on a partner website or email newsletter

Similar to guest blogging, partner websites can allow you to target a new but appropriate audience with a campaign on your own website. Use this partner source to direct visitors back to your website — where you’re already collecting email addresses.

24. Host a co-marketing offer with a partner 

Creating an ebook or webinar with a partner can split up the work of content creation and allow you to share the audience of a similar business. After you release your content, split the leads you generate with your partner.

With Traditional Marketing

25. Collect email addresses at a trade show 

Offline events like trade shows are highly anticipated growth opportunities for professionals in your industry. Demo your latest product at an appropriate conference and collect signups in-person. Once you’re back at the office, import these signups into your contact database. Be sure to send these contacts a welcome email that confirms their opt-in to your list. (See #8 in this blog post for tips on sending welcome emails.)

26. Host your own offline, in-person events

Meetups, seminars, hackathons, educational panels, and even your own conferences put you front and center of a networking event, and those who attend are often more qualified to be contacted because they came to your event. Take the opportunity to collect email addresses in exchange for the info and demos you provide at the event.

27. Host an online webinar

Webinars are the perfect opportunity to talk about your industry and access the audience of thought leaders whom you might want to present with. The best part? Webinars are normally registered for via email, making your listeners more willing to be contacted afterward. Collect email addresses at registration.

28. Add QR codes to your display ads

Incorporate a QR code into your print marketing collateral that people can scan for more information on the printed content. Create the QR code such that it requires an email address to access the additional content. (There are many free QR code makers online that make this process easy.)

29. Collect emails in your store

If you have a brick-and-mortar presence where you interact with customers face-to-face, create an email campaign just for those walk-ins. Launch a store membership they can sign up for via email at the register. This is a smart way to keep in touch with repeat customers and reward their loyalty to your product.

These are all examples of things you can start doing today to increase your business’ email database. Many of them are not complicated or difficult to implement. The key is to attack email list-building from as many angles as possible.

As you grow your email list with fresh, opt-in contacts, you’ll be able to nurture them with middle-of-the-funnel offers that allow you to convert early-stage leads into sales-ready leads.

lead flows

 
Free Download Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing


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The Ultimate Guide to UX Design

The Ultimate Guide to UX Design

Think about a website or app you love. What do you love about it? The ease of gathering relevant information? Or how you can buy something in one-click (and have it delivered tomorrow)? Or how quickly it answers your questions?

Now think about the people who created that website. What was their goal?

They were trying to create a site that had the features you love about it. A site that is easy to use, effectively delivers the information you need, and allows you to make smart decisions tailored to your challenges or concerns.New Call-to-action

UX, or user experience, focuses on the end-user’s overall experience, including their perceptions, emotions, and responses to a company’s product, system, or service. UX is defined by criteria including: ease of use, accessibility, and convenience. The concept of UX is most often talked about in terms of tech, such as smartphones, computers, software, and websites. This is why UX is not only a fairly new field, but changes quickly due to technology advancements, new types of interactions, and user preferences.

It’s no secret that customers today want quick and simple ways to meet their needs and solve their pain points. That’s why UX matters so much.

Whether or not you’re in tech, the company you own or work for most likely has a website right? Well, customers could write you off in a matter of seconds if they don’t find your website useful and easy to use. In fact, most website visitors determine whether or not they want to leave within a minute of opening a page.

Follow along to learn more about the importance of the emerging field of UX, what designers are being hired to do at a wide range of companies today, and why every type of business can benefit from thoughtful UX design.

What Is UX Design?

UX design, or user experience design, is the process of increasing a user’s level of satisfaction with a product or service by improving its functionality, ease of use and convenience. UX design is about creating products, “that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users.” Within UX design, there are a few different categories of study to understand.

1. Interaction Design

A subset of UX design is interaction design, or IxD. It is defined as … yup, you guessed it… the interaction between a user and a product, with the goal of that interaction being a pleasant experience for the user.

2. Visual Design

In visual design, creators use illustrations, photography, typography, space, layouts, and color to enhance user experience.To have successful visual design, artistic design principles including balance, space, and contrast are crucial. Color, shape, size, and other elements also impact visual design.

3. User Research 

User research is the last major element of UX design. User research is the way in which companies determine what their customers and users want and need. At its core, your website should solve a problem, and so this is an important step in determining what exactly your users require. Without it, your designs are simply guesses.

4. Information Architecture

Designers use information architecture to structure and label content so that users can find information easily. Information architecture is used on websites, smartphones, apps, and even in the physical places we go. Ease of use and findability are two important factors of information architecture, which is why it is so closely related to UX design.Think about the New York City Subway map. This is a great example of information architecture that helps people understand how to get from one place to the next. According to the Information Architecture Institute, “If you’re making things for others, you’re practicing information architecture.”

information-architecture

Source: NYC Subway Guide

UX Design Processes

There are typically three stages of the UX design process to consider: researching your target audience, understanding the company’s goals and how those goals impact the user, and applying out-of-the-box thinking to create an enjoyable end user experience.

UX design takes a human-centered design approach to create purposeful things for users during all three stages. This is about considering the needs of the people you are designing for, coming up with a wide range of solutions to resolve the issue they are facing, designing prototypes for the users to test, and then finally putting the best solution in place for the user. If you look at the issue from the perspective of the user, and design with them in mind, you will create solutions they will want to adopt.

UX Design Principles

UX is an ever-changing field, but the fundamental UX design principles remain the same. Designers also have to determine what they want in terms of visual balance. Being clear and concise is crucial … less is more! You want your design to be intuitive, and most importantly, your design should meet the user’s needs.

While UX is definitely subject to trends and new technology, there are a few core principles that stay the same. These help designers look at various different problems through a methodology that’s consistent and focused.

  • Be contextual: You want individuals to know exactly where they are in their user journey. They should never feel lost or overwhelmed. Your design is there to guide them along their journey.
  • Be human: No user enjoys feeling like they are interacting with a machine. You’ll gain the trust of the end user if you show them your brand’s personality and approachability.
  • Be findable: Users don’t want to waste time. With successful UX design, your work will be easy to find and navigate.
  • Be easy: Being consistent and straightforward will go a long way with your users. You build relationships with your users by providing them with enjoyable and easy experiences.
  • Be simple: No fluff, tangents, or unnecessary descriptions. Get to the point. Let’s be honest here … these days, everyone has a short attention span.

UX Deliverables

Once a UX project is completed, the designer and team will present a list of deliverables for review to a client or an internal team. They need to showcase their process and get buy-in for their ideas.

UX deliverables, which are a critical part of the design process, are the tangible records of the work that has occurred. These deliverables help UX designers to effectively communicate their design ideas and research findings and make it clear to stakeholders why recommendations for changes and improvements are made.

1. User Research

User needs, tendencies, and motivations can be determined through different types of user research. This might include quantitative and qualitative data from user testing sessions and focus groups. It could detail feedback on sign up flows, the onboarding process, and customer service inquiries. The goal is to have a detailed analysis of what’s both working on the site and what could be improved — and to have this all backed by information gathered from users. Researchers may create buyer personas based off of real user data to help them accurately determine who will be using their device, website, or app. Through user research, designers understand and empathize with the user.

2. Competitor Assessment

Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors is a way to enhance your own UX strategy. A great way to do this is by creating a competitive analysis report that details the interaction design of your competitors and provides an analysis of where you see pitfalls and missed opportunities — things your business can take advantage of.

3. Interaction Design

An interaction design deliverable could come in the form of a prototype so that people can review how interactions with the site would occur — showing how people would complete key tasks, get information, use a product, the flow of finding information, and how easy the product is to use. You want your prototype to be as similar to the final product as possible, so you can get sign off on the design before you begin building it.

4. Information Architecture

IA is the process of taking information and organizing it in a way that is easy to understand. For large websites, this is especially important, as you need to understand what content exists and how to organize it in a way that makes sense for your visitors. The end result might be a content inventory, a sitemap with suggested navigation, or sample user flows that reveal how visitors move through a site.

site-map

Source: Adobe Blog

What Is User Interface Design?

Remember when Apple unveiled their click wheel for the iPod? When it was introduced, the feature was intuitive and highly functional — not to mention cool looking. This is a great example of successful user interface, or UI. UI refers to the ways in which people interact with computers, machines, websites, apps, wearables, and other programs or devices. User interface design is the process of making these things as easy to use and efficient as possible. 

Common UI Elements

Although UX and UI have similar definitions, it’s important to note the key differences that separate the two topics. Again, UI focuses on a product’s appearances and surfaces, while UX is more concerned with how people interact with a site. Here are some common UI terms you should know to better understand how the two differentiate:

  • Informational Components: UI designers use informational components to enhance the reading experience or give more information. Examples of informational components are progress bars, notifications, and message boxes. Designers use these when they want to make it clear to the user that they have completed a task, or if they want to notify the user that an action on their part is necessary.
  • Breadcrumb Navigation: This is a design tool often used by UI designers to visually increase the usability of a website. It allows users to see their location on a site in a hierarchical structure. It doesn’t need to have special visual features or over-the-top design — it should just clearly state where a person is located on a site. You may have noticed these links along the top of a webpage while online shopping or on another site.
  • Input Controls: Input Controls give individuals multiple options in response to a question you are asking. These are things like checkboxes, drop-down lists, and toggles. Keep the information you are asking in your input controls simple and to-the-point so it’s easy to find what the user needs.

breadcrumb-navigation


Source: UX Planet

User Experience Research

Without research, all of this focus on what the user needs and wants would be impossible. UX research is the investigation of users and what they need, which informs the UX design process. Companies and designers use this research to come to specific conclusions about what is working for users and what needs to be changed. There are several ways companies and designers perform UX research.

Usability Testing

Usability testing evaluates how successful a product is by testing it on actual users. It gives companies real input on how individuals are using a product or system and how that product or system works for that user. There are two primary testing methods. 

Hallway usability testing is a quick and cheap way for companies and researchers to get information from users who may have no knowledge of your company or products. Random individuals use the products and give feedback on their experience.

Remote usability testing allows companies to conduct research with users in their natural environment (such as in their home or office). These tests can be moderated in any way the company chooses.

Usability Testing Tools

Usability testing tools allow researchers and designers to compile accurate feedback from users, and then analyze that feedback to make data-driven changes. If you’re looking for a tool that can help you test how easy-to-use your site or product is, check out these options:

  • Crazy Egg: This tool allows companies to see exactly what users are clicking on while on their website. Crazy Egg also records exactly where site visitors are coming from, including geographic location, and if they were referred from another site.
  • Hotjar: This tool combines analytics and feedback to give an overview on ways to improve user experience. They do this through the use of heatmaps, visitor rates, conversion funnels, and more.

For more usability testing tools to consider, check out this post.

How to Enhance User Experience

Through the research and testing mentioned above, user experiences can always be improved. Some of the most common ways to improve user experience include: Taking a consultative approach to improving the experience, determining calls to action, implementing responsive web design, taking Fitt’s Law into consideration (more on this next), avoiding overwhelming data entry, and more.

Using Fitt’s Law to Enhance UX

Fitt’s law is a predictive model that determines the amount of time it takes for a specific user to move their mouse or cursor to a target area on a website. There are multiple versions of Fitt’s law that exist but they all revolve around the general idea that, “The time required to move to a target depends on the distance to it, yet relates inversely to its size.� Fitt’s law is widely used in UX design to improve ergonomics in addition to usability for users.

Here’s an example of this at work: Have you seen the new Touch Bar on Apple’s MacBook Pro? This is a touchscreen above the keyboard that speeds up a user’s experience when using Google, bookmarking a page, changing screen brightness, volume, and more. Touch Bar options change depending on what page you are browsing while on your laptop, whether that be an app, a site you are visiting, or even just your personal settings.

With the Touch Bar, the user’s experience is simplified because many commonly used settings are in one compact location. Fitt’s law states the further away and smaller an object or button is for a user, the harder it is for that user to click on it. That’s why the Touch Bar is such a great example of taking Fitt’s Law and successfully applying it to your device to enhance user experience.

UX Design Tools

Whether you are researching, prototyping, wireframing, storyboarding, or creating graphics, there are multiple UX tools available to assist you during the design process. In fact, there are so many tools on the market, some free and some that require a subscription fee, that it may be overwhelming for designers who are unsure of exactly what they need. To get you started, here’s a list of some popular and valuable tools to use in your UX design work:

1. Adobe Fireworks

Adobe Fireworks CS6 gives web designers a way to create graphics for their web pages without getting into the code or design details. There are a few reasons why UX designers use Adobe Fireworks: The tool has impressive pixel accuracy, has image compression abilities (JPEG, GIF etc.), allows users to create functional websites, and build vectors. This is a great option especially if you are already familiar with other programs in the Creative Cloud.

2. Adobe XD

With Adobe XD, you can design websites and mobile apps, as well as create prototypes, wireframes, and vector designs. Users can share interactive prototypes on multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, so it’s perfect for team collaboration.

3. Axure

Axure RP Pro is another great UX design tool — that’s also free. Axure has several capabilities including wireframing, prototyping, and documenting. It can even help you create user flows and sitemaps. Axure is perfect for creating web and desktop applications, and it gives users the ability to easily export to PDF or HTML for review.

4. Adobe Illustrator and a Free Alternative

If you’re looking for an affordable alternative to Adobe software, such as Adobe Illustrator (which is primarily used to create vector graphics), we’ve got you. Inkscape is known for doing most of what Illustrator does, but for free. This software is open source and can be used to create impressive vector graphics. The only issue you could run into is lag, as some users have reported that the program is slow. If you’re partial to Illustrator, that’s OK too.

5. Sketch

Sketch is an end-to-end software with specific features including non-destructive editing (meaning Sketch won’t change the pixels in the photo you are working with), code export, pixel precision, prototyping, vector editing, and more. With Sketch, you can reuse and update your designs easily.

6. Storyboard Software

You might be wondering why you would need to storyboard in UX design. It’s a great way to visually predict and review the way a user would interact with and experience a product in a broader context. There are several storyboard tools available, with varying levels of features and complexity.

Storyboarder is a free storyboard software option, which has basic features made for designers of all levels. This software allows users to quickly create drawings and stick figures to lay out a plot or idea.

Another storyboard software option is Toon Boom Storyboard Pro. It combines drawing, animation, camera controls, and numerous other features, all for an annual or monthly fee. It has a wider range of features for more complex storytelling and detailed prep work. Both options are great for designers looking to visually tell a story through interface design.

How to Become a UX Designer

If you love designing, researching, working with other people in a fast-paced environment, and listening to others’ experiences, then you might want to consider a career in UX design. In this career path, you’d focus on the conceptual aspects of design and create better experiences for users.

To become a UX designer, there are a few necessary steps you will have to take. There are plenty of higher education courses available around the world, though they typically require a four-year undergraduate design curriculum as a prerequisite. However, some programs allow for more flexibility, such as the online Quinnipiac University Graduate Program in User Experience Design. There are also UX certification programs for professionals. These vary in commitment length and level of expertise upon receipt of the certificate.

Once you’re ready to start applying for your dream UX job, you’ll need a stand-out resume and a flashy portfolio. You can use a site like Dribbble or Behance to showcase your work, or you can create your own site using a website building tool like SquareSpace.

When building your portfolio site, keep these tips in mind:

Make it visually stunning.

Presentation is everything. Your work should speak for itself … show don’t tell! Your choice in color, typography, and layout all play a factor here.

Include an “about� page.

Hiring managers and recruiters want to get to know you, how you think about design, what inspires you, and what makes you unique. Why should they hire you? What value can you add to your new potential company and team?

Have clear navigation and links throughout your portfolio site.

Can you imagine the hiring manager at your dream company having a hard time navigating the portfolio site of a UX designer? Awkward. In your navigation bar, include options such as: “portfolio,� “about,� “contact,� and “resume� to avoid any confusion.

Explain your personal UX process.

Your future employer wants to know how you think. Include information that lets the hiring manager in on your UX researching, brainstorming, wireframing, designing, and prototyping processes.

Create additional portfolios to expand your network.

Use other tools to make your work available on sites where designers and those looking to hire designers spend their time. Behance and Dribble are great portfolio sites for people looking for inspiration, networking, and new career opportunities.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a graphic designer, blogger, developer, or someone in an entirely different field, UX design can help you and your company grow. A happy end-user is the key to success, and without well-crafted UX design, this would be impossible to achieve.

As technology becomes more ubiquitous in our lives, successful UX design will continue to create seamless transitions between individuals and their devices and apps. UX design has never been more important, making it an exciting time to join the field and consider the benefits for your own business.

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