15 of the Best WordPress Contact Form Plugins for 2018

15 of the Best WordPress Contact Form Plugins for 2018

Web forms are not necessarily a new technology, but they’re the gold standard for collecting leads and information from website visitors. And there are no shortage of options for WordPress contact form plugins.

That said, online form builders have come a long way since their early internet roots.

Now, depending on what software you use, you can integrate with email and marketing automation software, automatically enrich lead data with more contact properties, automatically sync touch points to your CRM, and even personalize form fields and placement based on website behavior.

Easily build and embed forms on your site. Try HubSpot Forms for free.

There are tons of options out there, though. To demystify the selection process and help you select a tool, here are 15 WordPress form plugins.

The Best Free WordPress Form Plugins

1. HubSpot – Free Marketing Plugin for WordPress

When it comes to WordPress form plugins, HubSpot’s very own plugin offers some special advantages.

First, it’s more than just your traditional form builder. It includes tools to help you convert visitors on your site, tool that help you in building an email list, generating and tracking leads, and tracking user behavior on your website.

These include a lead generation dashboard, lead capture tools like pop-ups, slide-ins, and exit intent forms, a static form builder tool, a contact database, and lead insights for the first seven days of website activity after lead capture. All these features work immediately, right out of the box, with no dev help required.

You’ve also got the benefit of a native integration with the free HubSpot CRM, so you can track and manage all of your leads’ touch points across the customer journey.

 

2. Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is quite a powerful option for a WordPress contact form builder.

With Gravity Forms, you can build out multi-page/multi-step forms, create rules to limit which domains are acceptable on your forms (excluding gmail and competition for instance), and schedule forms to be implemented during a set time period.

In addition, they offer a deep integration library with email software, automation software like Zapier, and payment processors like Stripe and PayPal so you can accept payment with your forms.

In my experience, Gravity Forms is a bit complicated from the end-user perspective. Setting up custom integrations and even some basic design options can be somewhat difficult to set up, but if you want something highly customizable and advanced, this may be worth the effort.

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3. FormCraft

FormCraft is WordPress form plugin that focuses on ease of use and design. Basically, they make sure all the forms made with FormCraft are as stylish and beautiful, and you can make them that way with ease.

It’s responsive, somewhat customizable, and includes email notifications so you don’t need to log in to monitor your lead generation process. The premium version has a lot more features, such as conditional logic, auto-save form progress, form analytics, and more. The free version is somewhat limited, but again, it’s easy to use and makes nice looking forms.

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4. Qu Form

Qu Form is another WordPress form builder that bills itself as “advanced.� It’s primarily a drag and drop editor that can build out a variety of form types, from contact us forms to billing forms.

This one comes with most features you’d want, including multi-page forms and smart branching logic, and it’s also pretty customizable on the style and design side of things (also pretty easy to do so).

Plans start at $29.

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5. Ninja Forms

Ninja Forms is one of the more powerful WordPress form builders. It’s free. It’s easy to use. It’s got no limitations on form fields, forms, or submissions.

It also has several native integrations with popular email service providers as well as payment processors, so you can easily sync of your systems and automate much of the administrative process usually inherent with forms tools.

It also contains a pretty easy to use drag-and-drop editor.

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6. Jetpack’s Contact Form

Jetpack is a popular WordPress plugin that comes with many templates. It’s actually made by Automattic, and it includes more than just a form builder. Some of its features include:

  • Site stats and analytics
  • Automated social media posting and scheduling in advance
  • Elasticsearch-powered related content and site search
  • SEO tools for Google, Bing, Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress.com
  • Advertising program that includes the best of AdSense, Facebook Ads, AOL, Amazon, Google AdX, and Yahoo
  • Simple PayPal payment buttons

Its WordPress contact form feature is relatively limited in scope, but if you’re already using Jetpack and just want something simple, this is a good place to start.

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7. Form Maker

Form Maker by WebDorado is an easy to use and intuitive form builder. It has a drag and drop editor, and they have several functionalities for their forms, including questionnaires, contact forms, surveys, and quizzes.

The free version, however, is limited to seven fields. Their integrations are somewhat limited as well.

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3. Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 is one of the most popular WordPress form plugins. Its main focus (no surprise here) is on contact forms.

The big benefit is that it is super simple to create contact forms and deploy different forms across your site. The downside is that its use cases are limited compared to other WordPress form plugins.

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9. WP Forms

WP Forms is another widely used form builder that offers advanced branching logic, customizability, and a drag and drop editor.

They emphasize their ability to work across many use cases, and offer templates and ready to use workflows for payments, contact forms, registration, subscription, and more.

As far as I know, they don’t offer any free plans, but they’re basic plan is $49 per year.

10. eForm

eForm, but WPQuark, is probably one of the more feature rich solutions for WordPress forms.

They have advanced implementations for most common uses cases, notably their eCommerce setup which includes full checkout and payment flows and native integrations with Stripe, PayPal, and WooCommerce.

There’s no free plan, but it starts at $38. This is a form builder if you have highly specific feature requirements and a desire to tweak things so they’re precisely the way you want them. It’s not necessarily the easiest tool to use.

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11. Nex Forms

Nex Forms is a feature-rich form builder that has many interesting functions, like interactive forms, personalization, and pretty robust form analytics.

 

 

12. Visual Form Builder

Visual Form Builder is a WordPress plugin that allows you to build and manage many different kinds of forms for your website in a single application. It’s easy to use for non-developers, and you can build a pretty nice looking form without writing any PHP, CSS, or HTML (though it doesn’t hurt if you can hack together some CSS).

 

13. Caldera Form Builder

Caldera Form Builder is designed to be responsive and to have an intuitive, visual creator.

It’s got tons of native integrations as well as conditional logic and smart spam detection. There’s no free plan, though. Prices start at $14.99 per month.

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14. Formidable Forms

Formidable Forms prides itself on simplicity; it’s got a nice drag and drop visual editor, easy and automatic email notifications for form submissions, and all your basic pre-built form templates.

This is one of the easier tools to use and set up, but it’s a bit limited in its feature set (though to their credit, they have tons of add-ons you can download depending on what you want to do with your online form).

 

15. Pirate Forms

Pirate Forms is easy to set up, includes Recaptcha and SMTP, and has all the basic field properties you’d expect in a WordPress contact form.

The free version is super limited, though. To get multiple forms, or even basic integrations, you have to upgrade to pro.

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The options are endless for WordPress form plugins.

The choice is ultimately up to you which one fits your personal workflow and your specific website needs. Most form builders include the basics – popular contact properties like email and name, multiple forms across your site, and some native integrations.

It just depends how simple versus customizable you want things, or if you care about things like automatically enriching your leads or analyzing their website behavior.

If you’re looking for a solution that is simple, inherently beautiful and designed with the user experience in mind, and that includes built-in lead intelligence mechanisms that sync to a free CRM, check out HubSpot’s free form builder software.

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11 of the Best Free Google Sheets Templates for 2018

11 of the Best Free Google Sheets Templates for 2018

Whether your marketing position requires you to send invoices to clients, track website analytics, or create budget and expense reports, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself working with spreadsheets in some form.

And if you’re anything like me, those spreadsheets can feel frustratingly tedious when you’re under a time crunch.

Fortunately, Google Sheets offers 26 pre-built templates, allowing you to create reports and analyze data in spreadsheets faster and more effectively.

Best of all, Google Sheets templates cater to specific categories — if you click the Paid Traffic Report template, for instance, your spreadsheet is already organized into Overview, 12-month Trends, and Medium Breakdown categories. It knows what you need, and offers it without any manual input.

Here, we’ll delve into 11 of the best free Google Sheets Templates for any marketing role in 2018, so you can create better spreadsheets while saving valuable time to focus on more important things — like the data itself.

Google Sheets Templates for Finances

1. Invoices

If you’re a freelancer or work for a small business, you probably use invoices to bill clients for services. This invoice template makes the process simple — it provides space for all the necessary information, and looks more professional than a plain spreadsheet. Plus, the template is customizable, so you can create a theme that aligns well with your brand image.

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2. Annual Business Budget

This template is more in-depth than it initially appears. There are tabs at the bottom — setup, income, expenses, summary — and each one includes a number of subcategories. “Expensesâ€�, for instance, covers everything from taxes and insurance, to travel and customer acquisition. The final tab, “summary”, takes your income, subtracts your expenses, and automatically updates to display your ending balance each month. This template is a good option if your budget requires a lot of customization and has a lot of moving parts.

3. Financial Statements

The financial statements template truly is an all-in-one resource to keep track of business transactions, profits, and losses. The “profit & loss� tab automatically summarizes revenue, costs, and expenses for the year, and can display your growth rate percentage. If you work for a small business and need to manage much of your own finances, this template offers resources and guidance to make the process easier, and less prone to human error.

Google Sheet Templates for Reporting and Analytics

4. Website Traffic Dashboard

If your role requires you to analyze website traffic using Google Analytics, this template is a fantastic supplemental tool to pull that data into an organized report, saving you tons of time. Better still, you can use the template with Supermetrics Google Sheets add-on to monitor and analyze data from PPC, SEO, social media, and website analytics.

5. Website Paid Traffic Report

This template makes the process of analyzing and reporting on paid traffic relatively seamless. It automatically collects data on your paid sources from Google Analytics, and provides a clean chart with important information, including PPC’s percentage of goal conversions, total traffic, and bounce rate. You can also adjust it to compare different time periods, or different channels or segments. If you’re looking for a way to demonstrate paid’s influence on your business, this is the tool to do it.

Google Sheet Templates for Customers

6. CRM

To organize your contacts and automate an effective sales and marketing process, it’s important you have a CRM — but if you’re a small company just starting out, you might not feel ready to implement a fully-established CRM with all the features. This CRM template is a great place to get your feet wet. It saves automatically so you never lose data, and the share feature allows you to work with coworkers within the CRM, which is helpful for encouraging collaboration between your sales and marketing departments.

Google Sheet Templates for Project Management

7. Project Timeline

Whether this is your first major project or you’ve been managing projects for years, the project timeline template is a useful tool for organizing and implementing each project step. The template helps you visually break-up a daunting project into smaller pieces, ideally making it easier and less stressful to organize and delegate tasks.

8. Project Tracking

If you’re juggling a bunch of projects simultaneously, this project tracking template could become your new best friend. It enables you to organize your projects into categories by date, deliverables, status, cost, and hours — best of all, it lets you prioritize your projects. Hopefully, simply visualizing what needs to get done first will alleviate time-management stress.

9. Event Marketing Timeline

The event marketing template offers organization and structure if you’re implementing an upcoming business event or campaign. It offers categories you might’ve forgotten to consider, including local and national marketing, PR, and web, with subcategories ranging from email newsletter to impact studies. The template is already organized with all necessary categories for planning an event, reducing the time you spend on tedious manual input.

10. Gantt Chart Template

The Gantt chart template helps you alleviate any concern you might have over timing — and, when you’ve got a complex project with overlapping components, I’m willing to bet timing is one of your major concerns. Using the Gantt chart template helps you visualize all steps and delegate important tasks more efficiently — labelling the task with an owner on one chart is certainly easier than individually following up via email, and by sharing the template with coworkers, everyone is on the same page.

Google Sheet Templates for Leading a Team

11. Employee Shift Schedule

Keeping track of who works what hours, and how much each employee gets paid, can feel confusing, especially if you lead a team of part-time contractors or seasonal interns. This template includes slots for employee’s names, hours worked, and monthly wages, making your paycheck process straightforward and organized.


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Decision Trees: The Simple Tool That'll Make You a Radically Better Decision Maker

Decision Trees: The Simple Tool That'll Make You a Radically Better Decision Maker

When faced with an important decision, there are a variety of informal methods you can use to visualize various outcomes and choose an action — perhaps you talk it out with a colleague, make a pros and cons list, or investigate what other leaders have done in similar situations.

Particularly when it comes to marketing, this can feel risky — what if my colleague is so attached to a new product, she doesn’t want to mention any of its shortcomings? What if my marketing team doesn’t mind office growth, but they haven’t considered how it will affect our strategy long-term?New Call-to-action

Sometimes, you can’t make a decision properly without introducing a formal decision-making method. In cases like those, you might need a decision tree.

The visual element of a decision tree helps you include more potential actions and outcomes than you might’ve if you just talked about it, mitigating risks of unforeseen consequences. Plus, the diagram allows you to include smaller details and create a step-by-step plan, so once you choose your path, it’s already laid out for you to follow.

Here, we’ll show you how to create a decision tree and analyze risk versus reward. We’ll also look at a few examples so you can see how other marketers have used decision trees to become better decision makers.

Decision Tree Analysis

Let’s say you’re deciding whether to advertise your new campaign on Facebook, using paid ads, or on Instagram, using influencer sponsorships.

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume both options appeal to your ideal demographic and make sense for your brand.

Here’s a preliminary decision tree you’d draw for your advertising campaign:

As you can see, you want to put your ultimate objective at the top — in this case, Advertising Campaign is the decision you need to make.

Next, you’ll need to draw arrows (your branches) to each potential action you could take (your leaves).

For our example, you only have two initial actions to take: Facebook Paid Ads, or Instagram Sponsorships. However, your tree might include multiple alternative options depending on the objective.

Now, you’ll want to draw branches and leaves to compare costs. If this were the final step, the decision would be obvious: Instagram costs $10 less, so you’d likely choose that.

However, that isn’t the final step. You need to figure out the odds for success versus failure. Depending on the complexity of your objective, you might examine existing data in the industry or from prior projects at your company, your team’s capabilities, budget, time-requirements, and predicted outcomes. You might also consider external circumstances that could affect success.

In the Advertising Campaign example, there’s a 50% chance of success or failure for both Facebook and Instagram. If you succeed with Facebook, your ROI is around $1,000. If you fail, you risk losing $200.

Instagram, on the other hand, has an ROI of $900. If you fail, you risk losing $50.

To evaluate risk versus reward, you need to find out Expected Value for both avenues. Here’s how you’d figure out your Expected Value: take your predicted success (50%) and multiply it by the potential amount of money earned ($1000 for Facebook). That’s 500.

Then, take your predicted chance of failure (50%) and multiply it by the amount of money lost (-$200 for Facebook). That’s -100.

Add those two numbers together. Using this formula, you’ll see Facebook’s Expected Value is 400, while Instagram’s Expected Value is 425.

With this predictive information, you should be able to make a better, more confident decision — in this case, it looks like Instagram is a better option. Even though Facebook has a higher ROI, Instagram has a higher Expected Value, and you risk losing less money.

While the Advertising Campaign example had qualitative numbers to use as indicators of risk versus reward, your decision tree might be more subjective. For instance, perhaps you’re deciding whether your small startup should merge with a bigger company. In this case, there could be math involved, but your decision tree might also include more quantitative questions, like: Does this company represent our brand values? Yes/No. Do our customers benefit from the merge? Yes/No.

To clarify this point, let’s take a look at some diverse decision tree examples.

Decision Tree Examples

The following example is from SmartDraw, a free flowchart maker:

Example One: Project Development

Here’s another example from Become a Certified Project Manager blog:

Example 2: Office Growth

Here’s an example from Statistics How To:

Example 3: Develop a New Product

To see more examples or use software to build your own decision tree, check out some of these resources:

Remember, one of the best perks of a decision tree is its flexibility. By visualizing different paths you might take, you might find a course of action you hadn’t considered before, or decide to merge paths to optimize your results.

 

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How to Write a Great Value Proposition [Infographic]

How to Write a Great Value Proposition [Infographic]

Your value proposition is the core of your competitive advantage. It clearly articulates why someone would want to buy from your company instead of a competitor.

It’s also one of the most important conversion factors (learn all about conversion best practices with this free guide). A great value proposition could be the difference between losing a sale — and closing it.Are you a HubSpot fan? Spread your love and start earning revenue through our  referral program. 

So how do you actually write a value proposition that’s strong enough to lift conversion rates and sales? Below is a simple definition of a value proposition, what a value prop isn’t, and how customer value propositions differ from employee value propositions.

Then, at the bottom of this article, check out an infographic from QuickSprout, which illustrates what a great value proposition looks like and the top tactics you should keep in mind when creating it.

What Is a Value Proposition?

A value proposition isn’t just the product or service you agree to deliver to the customer — it’s the ingredient of your business that solves a problem competitors can’t.

Your value proposition is your unique identifier. Without it, people don’t have a reason to work with you over somebody else.

While your value prop should help differentiate you from the rest of the industry, keep in mind it’s not a slogan, tagline, or even a way to position yourself in the market. Those types of copy are important accessories to your brand, but your potential customers and employees don’t choose one business over the other based on a high-level mission statement.

Your value proposition goes deep into the problems you want to solve for people, and what makes you the right one for the job.

Customer Value Proposition vs. Employee Value Proposition

Although customers are your bottom line, you also need to attract staff that can help you deliver on your value proposition. This is where employee value propositions come into play.

Employee value propositions are written for the candidates you want to work for you. They touch on the internal company values that specifically benefit the people who work there. Here are some key differences between the customer value prop (CVP) and the employee value prop (EVP).

  • CVPs describe a solution to a customer’s problem. EVPs describe a reward for an employee’s talents.
  • CVPs explain why someone should buy from you. EVPs explain why someone should work with you.
  • CVPs are about you serving the customer. EVPs are about you and the employee serving each other.

Now, compliments of QuickSprout, take a look at how great value propositions help a company grow.

QuickSprout infographic with value proposition definition and how to write a value proposition

Want more tips on company branding? Read 10 Cliché Marketing Taglines We Should All Stop Using.

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The Top 58 Most Popular Hashtags to Get Likes and Retweets on Twitter

The Top 58 Most Popular Hashtags to Get Likes and Retweets on Twitter

Recently, we analyzed millions of tweets and found that some Twitter hashtags correlate with a 1,065% increase in engagement — clearly, hashtags still matter in 2018.

More specifically, we found tweets with no hashtags averaged 1.7 interactions per tweet. Tweets that included #ico, the most popular hashtag, had an average of 19.8 interactions per tweet. That’s almost 12x higher engagement with the right hashtag.Click here to learn how to grow your network and become an influencer in your  industry.

We saw similar increases with other popular hashtags, like #medicaid, #ethereum, and #crowdfunding.

There are two possible explanations for this:

  1. Hashtags for popular searches like #tuesdaymotivation increase impressions per tweet. More impressions lead to more likes, replies, and retweets.
  2. Hashtags provide insight into content that naturally performs well. This might be true for #photography, #funny, or #pets.

To help increase engagement with potential customers on Twitter, we’ve compiled a list of the best hashtags to increase likes, retweets, and replies. Our list is by no means all-encompassing — we only covered a specific time period, and as trends change, so will popular hashtags. But the list should still provide longterm insights into general popular topics on Twitter, helping you create a more relevant content strategy.

Our Methodology

We used a dataset of tweets ranging from January 2017 to May 2018. Hashtags were only included if they occurred in a minimum of 300 tweets, by at least 100 unique accounts.

Best Hashtags to Get Likes on Twitter

First, let’s take a look at the 25 best hashtags to get likes on a tweet:

  1. ico
  2. ethereum
  3. crypto
  4. crowdfunding
  5. medicaid
  6. blackhistorymonth
  7. womenshistorymonth
  8. photography
  9. iwd2018
  10. cryptocurrency
  11. happyeaster
  12. womensday
  13. pressforprogress
  14. happybirthday
  15. internationalwomensday
  16. olympics
  17. pets
  18. friends
  19. piday
  20. worldwaterday
  21. funny
  22. contest
  23. starwarsday
  24. giveaway
  25. tuesdaymotivation

Some of these hashtags might surprise you — #worldwaterday, for example, doesn’t have much in common with #tuesdaymotivation, and yet both made the list.

The most popular hashtags fit into a few categories:

  • Cryptocurrency: The recent rise of cryptocurrency wasn’t lost on social media — #ico, #ethereum, and #crypto occupied the top three spots. In addition, #cryptocurrency and #bitcoin were near the top of the list. It’s uncertain whether this trend will continue beyond 2018.
  • History Months: #blackhistorymonth and #womenshistorymonth ranked 5th and 6th, respectively.
  • Holidays/Other Days: The rest of the top 25 included #happyeaster, #happybirthday, #internationalwomensday, #piday, #worldwaterday, and #starwarsday. Also, #fathersday, #maythe4thbewithyou, and #memorialday just missed the cut.
  • Contests: Social media contests, a popular way to increase engagement, are represented with #contest and #giveaway.
  • Evergreen Content: Less topical but strong-performing content like #photography, #funny, and #pets also ranked.

Hopefully, the list is broad enough to help you easily incorporate one or two topics into your social media strategy — when it’s a holiday, for example, your business might do well posting Tweets relevant to that day, or if your engagement is low, you might consider creating a social media contest.

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Best Hashtags to get Retweets

Some of the following hashtags overlap with our most-liked hashtags on Twitter, but others stand alone as popular for getting retweets but not necessarily for getting likes. Here’s a list of the 25 we found to be most retweeted:

  1. medicaid
  2. ico
  3. ethereum
  4. aca
  5. crypto
  6. crowdfunding
  7. giveaway
  8. contest
  9. blackhistorymonth
  10. womenshistorymonth
  11. cryptocurrency
  12. womensday
  13. happybirthday
  14. authentication
  15. win
  16. medicare
  17. internationalwomensday
  18. influencermarketing
  19. opioid
  20. healthinsurance
  21. qa
  22. funny
  23. womeninstem
  24. iwd2018
  25. photography

The most-retweeted list was similar to the most-liked list, but there are a few differences:

  • Healthcare issues like #medicaid, #aca, #medicare, #healthinsurance, and #opioid all ranked higher.
  • Contest hashtags like #giveaway, #contest, and #win also ranked higher.

There are a few possible explanations for these most retweeted hashtags. For instance, contest hashtags might rank high on the list as a result of contest creators asking for retweets instead of likes. This is probably a good strategy for smaller Twitter accounts looking to reach a new audience. However, a Twitter account with a lot of followers might see better results asking for likes, which could re-engage their existing audience.

Best Hashtags to Get Replies on Twitter

If you’re interested in engaging more meaningfully with your Twitter audience, you might benefit from the hashtags in this list. These 25 hashtags are most likely to result in a direct reply on Twitter, ideally sparking a conversation between your business and potential customers.

  1. merrychristmas
  2. giveaway
  3. contest
  4. win
  5. competition
  6. medicaid
  7. aca
  8. ethereum
  9. blackhistorymonth
  10. photography
  11. ff
  12. ico
  13. happybirthday
  14. metoo
  15. crypto
  16. womensday
  17. alcohol
  18. bitcoin
  19. gold
  20. movies
  21. running
  22. thankful
  23. birthday
  24. cryptocurrencies
  25. opioid

The most-replied-to hashtags are similar to our previous lists, but there are a few differences:

  • #ff or Follow Friday, a popular way to get more followers on Twitter, made its first appearance.
  • Similarly themed but new hashtags that ranked were #merrychristmas, #competition, #metoo, #gold, #thankful, and #birthday.
  • Also making its first appearance was #alcohol. Maybe this is the Twitter equivalent of drunk-dialing?

Perhaps you might consider asking a question using one of these hashtags (“Favorite #movies?â€�) to increase replies from your audience. Twitter is meant to be a social platform — with these hashtags, you can hopefully elevate the conversations you’re having with your followers.

Best Twitter Hashtags for 2018

We also ran additional statistics on which hashtags performed the best from January 2018 to May 2018. Here’s the list of the 25 highest-performing hashtags for that period of time:

  1. crypto
  2. influencermarketing
  3. womenshistorymonth
  4. blackhistorymonth
  5. cryptocurrency
  6. bitcoin
  7. internationalwomensday
  8. cryptocurrencies
  9. java
  10. blockchain
  11. iwd2018
  12. competition
  13. pressforprogress
  14. influencer
  15. olympics
  16. influencers
  17. datascience
  18. fintech
  19. womenintech
  20. metoo
  21. deeplearning
  22. science
  23. sxsw
  24. fridayfeeling
  25. cloudsecurity

Currently, the topic cryptocurrency remains popular with #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #bitcoin, and #cryptocurrencies. However, there were a few new additions:

  • #blockchain, which is the underlying technology behind bitcoin, has seen an increase in engagement. This makes sense, since Facebook, Amazon, and many others have recently made forays into using it. Blockchain also has a wide variety of possible uses, from financial applications to file sharing.
  • #influencermarketing and #influencers also appear to be trending. Influencer marketing is an emerging type of marketing that focuses on using social influencers to amplify your message.
  • Other rising, tech-related hashtags included #fintech, #deeplearning, #science, #cloudsecurity, and #java.

Finally, a few other top hashtags for 2018 that just missed the list include #smartcity, #python, #stem, #bots, #predictiveanalytics, #databreach, #robotics, #machinelearning, and #augmentedreality.

We don’t expect you to create quality content by stuffing your tweets with #java #womenintech and #funny — instead, we hope you can incorporate some of these hashtags into thoughtful messages you believe makes sense for your business, to encourage increased engagement with your audience.

Chris Sabanty codes stuff at HubSpot.

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How to Make Competitive Intelligence Your Competitive Advantage

I stared at the sea of snow around me. White as far as the eye could reach. A blank, empty landscape.

It was exhilarating at first. No one ahead, no one tailing or overtaking me.

Unencumbered, I was completely alone.

Then I realized I was lost. What direction was I going in? Was I going in circles? Was I even on a path?

It was my first snowboarding trip in Japan and I had taken a wrong turn. And now, the beautiful landscape around me was devoid of anyone, or anything, that might give me a sense of direction.

Years later, it’s this experience that comes to mind when my friends in the startup industry complain about their competitors.

They long for a blank expanse of a market, free of competitors hurling their way forward alongside (or ahead, or behind) them. It’s an entrepreneur’s daydream: no one to stop you from speeding ahead, eyes firmly on the prize.

Of course, markets devoid of competitors are rare: if a product is worth making, the market around it won’t stay empty for long. If it does, the product probably wasn’t worth making.

Even so, the appeal remains. And that’s why we’re often told to ignore our competitors completely.

Shut them out, focus single-mindedly on your product and users: everything else will fall into place.

And it’s certainly true that an obsession with ‘the competition’ is a bad idea. When companies get tangled up in rivalries, they often miss out on more important things (while Coke and Pepsi were battling it out, they failed to cash in on the arrival of energy drinks — Red Bull is now the most popular soft drink in the world).

But do we have to choose between a blinkered focus or competitor obsession?

I don’t think so. If we can adjust our lens, the landscape around us will begin to look different. Blinkered focus can turn into a peripheral vision that is both inclusive and alive with information.

A single company — especially a startup — will naturally be limited in terms of the information it relies on. The combined knowledge of a number of companies operating in the same arena (or neighboring landscapes) is inevitably much more extensive.

And so, we can begin to view competitors as invaluable resources rather than pesky rivals.

Here’s how.

The Perks of a Busy Market

Many startups enter an already-crowded market. That’s often seen as daunting, or even deal-breakingly negative.

It’s not.

In fact, entering an unexplored arena with no context is much more daunting.

The support that comes with having competitors may not be obvious at first, but it’s real.

By their mere presence, a competitor is already helping you carve out your category, make noise, and educate your users. They are legitimizing your idea, and proving there’s a market for it.

As Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer puts it:

The real problem startups have is that most people don’t know about them.

Competition can help to shine light on the market, which is often actually more useful than if you were alone.

There are cautionary tales of businesses that became ‘victims of active inertia’ — lazy on their initial strong competitor-free success — and ultimately failed. And there are other businesses that, spurred on by new competitors, kicked their complacency habit to the curb.

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That’s because strong competition is the ultimate accelerator. Each individual step forward counts as a step for everyone.

Would Nike still be the king of sportswear without Adidas snapping at their trainered-heels? What would Steve Jobs’ legacy be without Bill Gates? Would Salesforce’s boom be as resounding without Oracle pushing it along?

Competition strengthens, rather than weakens, a market. Companies striving for leadership and out-servicing each other to win customers generates tons of value.
Plus, saturated markets are the most profitable. And if your business can thrive in a startup-crowded jungle, it can survive (almost) anything.

Peripheral Vision

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The benefits of a competitive market aren’t reaped automatically. What you need is an all-encompassing awareness of the industry you’re in — its peaks and troughs, new players and old-timers, innovations and disasters.

This will keep you nimble and agile, particularly if, like me, you’re in a market that’s constantly shape-shifting and whizzing forward.

With peripheral vision of the big picture, you can steer fast and respond faster.
And when you adopt this frame of mind, the competitive landscape turns into a goldmine of information to guide you forward.

But how do we tap into this competitive intelligence?

It boils down to three basic steps:

  1. Gather data from a bunch of different websites
  2. Analyze the data
  3. Interpret the results

Of course, we do this kind of stuff all the time. The problem is, it tends to be a tedious, time-consuming process woven with endless opportunities for distraction — particularly as half of the relevant information will be buried under the noise of the internet.

And really, there are a ton of better ways we could be spending our work day.
Humans aren’t great at dealing with large datasets. Machines are.

Enter bots — clever automated systems. By linking to, and communicating with, multiple APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), machines like our new digital assistant, GrowthBot, can help us map the landscape we’re operating in.

But the potential of automation goes further than this. Our capabilities as humans are finite, and often biased. As important as it is to stay on top of our industry’s trends and transformations, we’ll never be able to know it all ourselves.

That’s because we rely on the limited amount of information we’ve come across rather than a complete knowledge of our field (which would be impossible). Plus, we can’t plug in a new server when we reach our information-processing limits.

A smart machine, however, will be able to learn literally everything there is to know about an industry and its players.

It can then summarize and present the core content back to us, bringing us as close to being all-knowing, all-seeing experts as it’s possible to be.

Reducing Trial and Error

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Here’s the thing: all businesses are testing the waters for someone else.
It’s up to those who follow in their footsteps to capitalize on this.

By paying close attention, a trailing company can cleverly reap the benefits of someone else’s successes and failures.

That’s not as evil as it sounds. It’s basically common sense, or the ‘second-mover advantage’.

While the pioneer pays a steep price in creating the product category, the later entrant can learn from the experience of the pioneer, enjoying lower costs and making fewer mistakes as a result.

Imagine if Google hadn’t paid attention to the mistakes in Yahoo’s UI, or if Uber hadn’t exploited the public enthusiasm for Lyft?

Indeed, many of the world’s most successful businesses aren’t built on originality. Instead, they’re launched by entrepreneurs who simply saw a gap in an existing concept. Perhaps that gap was better branding, smarter customer service or elevated UX.

One example is the way Apple redefined and dominated the market for mobiles — a category which Motorola pioneered.

The point is, this success is built on the swift, agile following — and then improving — of an idea; not on being the first to execute it.

Similarly, you can come to a conclusion in seconds (for free) that it might have taken another business hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to get to.

There are shortcuts everywhere when you start looking. Opportunities to reduce trial and error on the basis of someone else’s experience.

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Maybe similar strategies will work for you, maybe they won’t. Either way, the more you know, the better-informed your future decisions will be.

Put simply: insights aren’t necessarily less useful when they’re second-hand.

Collective (Competitive) Intelligence

Collective intelligence within an industry is something we can all contribute to and benefit from, by pooling resources and building on what’s already been achieved.

Turning a potential battleground into a network, like in case of open-source software.

And along the road somewhere, your competitor could even become your collaborator: enter ‘coopetition’ (cooperative competition).

The big players have set the trend: Spot.IM has started using Facebook’s API, despite the fact that their goal is to keep users engaged on websites that aren’t Facebook. Apple and Microsoft joined forces on the licensing of mobile operating system features and patents. Google funded Mozilla’s Firefox. Arch-rivals Amazon and Apple teamed up to distribute Amazon’s e-books through the iPad’s Kindle app.

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All these companies have the same target market, but they found that combining forces — rather than constantly trying to one-up each other — is a powerful tool.
And this mindset can be put into practice on a smaller scale, too.

As long as we’re keen to grow, improve and adapt, there will always be value in questioning the tactics of businesses besides ourselves. Maybe the answers will surprise us, maybe they will inspire change.

Businesses like ours, yes; but also unrelated businesses we simply find interesting.

So no, it’s not about an unhealthy obsession with our competitors. But it’s not about shutting out those around us to create the mirage of an empty landscape, either.

It’s about curiosity, open-mindedness, a willingness to learn from others. And with the help of today’s AI, competitive intelligence can become a competitive advantage.

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Source: New feed

3 Reasons Why Facebook Is Removing the Trending Section: Our Experts Weigh In

3 Reasons Why Facebook Is Removing the Trending Section: Our Experts Weigh In

Facebook announced on Friday that it would remove Trending: the section of its site, typically appearing to the right of the News Feed, that displays a list of the most popular news topics at a given moment.

“We’re removing Trending soon to make way for future news experiences on Facebook,” wrote Facebook Head of News Products Alex Hardiman in an official statement“From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful.”

Trending was first launched in 2014 “as a way to help people discover news topics that were popular across the Facebook community,” Hardiman wrote, but will now be phased out as Facebook introduces additional news-related products.

However, many suspect that there are other reasons for the removal of Trending from Facebook. To take a deep dive into them, I posed the question to my team: “What is this really about?”

Here’s how our experts weighed in on the matter.

Why Is Facebook Really Removing Trending?

1. Negative Stories About Facebook Often Appear in Trending

Trending, according to Facebook’s official description, aggregates the most popular news items among Facebook users “based on the number of publishers that are posting articles on Facebook about that subject and the engagement level of those articles.”

But Facebook has received a high degree of scrutiny and related news coverage over the past year, from a series of PR nightmares ranging from its role in election interference to the misuse of personal data by voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica. Those stories have often taken a top position on the site’s Trending list.

When news broke that Trending would be phased out, for example — it, too, was discovered by many to take a top rank withing Trending.

“It seems to me like it could also be a strategic move on the brand side, given how much of the ‘trending’ news over the past few months has been around the Cambridge Analytica controversy,” says Annabelle Nyst, a HubSpot content strategist. “If they’re committed to transparency, they can’t remove that content from the Trending section  … but they can remove the section” itself.

2. Facebook Has Come Under Fire for Fake News Ranking on Trending

As Facebook has said itself, Trending aggregates news topics based on what’s being shared on Facebook by users the most. However, much of what is often most popularly shared consists of false content; e.g., a “live feed” of the supermoon cast in February of this year that actually turned out to be a continual broadcast of a still [stolen] image with sound effects playing over it, which received at least 16 million views.

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Source: CNN

Facebook has announced a number of features and efforts to curb the spread of such false content since it was first revealed that the site was weaponized by foreign actors to spread misinformation and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, largely through ad content

However, despite Facebook’s claims that “our team is responsible for reviewing Trending topics to ensure that they reflect real world events,” news content that was often less-than-real sometimes slipped through the cracks and still made its way onto the Trending section. The company made several efforts to fix that prior to announcing the removal of the section, including ranking only topics that were covered by several news publishers.

“The idea was that coverage by just one outlet,” wrote The Guardian‘s Press Association, “could be a sign that the news is fake.”

The removal of Trending is just the latest in a series of moves by Facebook to slow to spread of false content, the efforts for which could be expected to ramp up in the months leading to the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

In January, the company announced that it would sharply shift its News Feed algorithm to prioritize content from a user’s friends and family, and in April said it would apply more context about publishers and articles appearing there.

“I actually think it’s consistent with Facebook’s prior announcements that it’s going to focus more on local news versus global news outlets, or news outlets that get benefits for being big in Facebook’s current newsfeed algorithm,” says HubSpot Head of SEO Victor Pan, referring to Facebook’s announcement that news items within a certain geographic radius would be prioritized in a user’s News Feed. “Local publishers will benefit … global outlets, like Reuters, AP, AFP will get hit hardest.”

3. Authentic News Publishers Didn’t Benefit From Trending

Trending, wrote Hardiman in his statement, “was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers on average.” For that reason, it seems, the lack of benefit to authentic news outlets is part of Facebook’s reasons for removing the section.

Given Facebook’s other recent efforts to prioritize more authentic content — sometimes by way of personalization and localization — from various news sources, HubSpot Social Media Editor Henry Franco says that this reasoning seems legitimate. 

“It’s a low traffic avenue, and with the platform catering towards video and mobile, there isn’t much of a reason to keep it,” he says, pointing to Trending’s mainly desktop-experience nature. “It seems like Facebook is still prioritizing breaking and local news, so I’m not sure they’re really up to anything.”

Whether or not authentic news publishers will actually benefit from this change is another story — one that Franco doesn’t think is entirely likely.

“But since Facebook has all of the leverage here,” he says, “I don’t think that matters to them.”

Looking ahead, Facebook is addressing the mobile-first preference among users to consume news content that Hardiman says it’s observed.

“We’ve seen that the way people consume news on Facebook is changing to be primarily on mobile and increasingly through news video,” he wrote. “We’re exploring new ways to help people stay informed about timely, breaking news that matters to them, while making sure the news they see on Facebook is from trustworthy and quality sources.”

One of those methods, Hardiman says, is by applying a “Breaking News” label to news matching that descriptor. Facebook is currently testing that feature with 80 publishers across several countries — “North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia” — which allows the publishers to apply this label themselves.

The new features will also include a “Today In” section of the site, where Facebook users can view breaking news from local publishers as a community. If that sounds familiar, it might be due to Google’s recent announcement of a similar feature in its new Google News app.

Given the sum impact of all these factors, Nyst says, the time spent on Facebook could be an underlying motivator for this latest move. 

“Who knows if that’s damaging user retention at all?” she asks. “But I can’t imagine it’s helping.”

Featured image source: Facebook


Source: New feed

10 Web Form Examples You'll Want to Copy Immediately

10 Web Form Examples You'll Want to Copy Immediately

In recent years, I feel a bit spoiled when it comes to filling out online forms — typically, they’re able to auto-fill my information, and take less than a minute to get me what I need.

Forms used to require so much information, you’d have to really, really want something to dedicate the time to filling one out.

Now, we notice immediately if a form is cumbersome or time-consuming — because so many forms aren’t. If a form doesn’t almost instantaneously get us what we want, we ditch the page.Download the beginner's guide to converting website visitors into leads for  your business here.

Here, we’ve collected some of the most impressive online forms so you can learn by example, and hopefully apply some of these methods to your own web forms moving forward.

1. Kickstarter

Kickstarter’s sign-up form is clean, with a basic white background, so you can focus on the form fields that matter. It also doesn’t ask for too much information, which is key for holding the attention of a busy audience.

2. House of Fraser

House of Fraser’s form is enticingly easy, with a pull-down menu to select delivery methods and columns like “collection or delivery� and “payment and billing�, so you can see where you are in the process. Best of all, the form incorporates the option for live chat. If a buyer is having concerns or doubts, it’s useful to have the ability to get clarification within the form itself without leaving the page.

House of Fraser

3. Staples

A guest checkout option is often imperative to ensure anyone can buy your product, with or without an account. If someone is in a rush, they might become frustrated by a lengthy “Create Accountâ€� form, and abandon their efforts. Staples understands the necessity of guest checkout, and finds a way to include it without losing too many new account owners to that option — underneath their “New Customer” field, they outline benefits to creating an account versus guest checkout. Creating an easier new customer sign-up is an effective way to convert more users into account owners.

4. Leadformly

I’m willing to bet when you see only one question, you’re more willing to fill it out than if you were shown a long list. By keeping it to one field box at a time and creating a progress icon at the bottom, Leadformly likely mitigates the amount of users who leave the page before completion.

5. Class Pass

Allegedly, blue produces a calming effect, which is exactly how I felt checking out Class Pass’s landing page and immediately seeing a blue free trial button. Clearly, they know what I want. Their form is one of the easier ones in the list: it only requires your name, email, and password, or you can sign in via Facebook. Plus, when you fill out the form, you’re immediately gifted with a certain amount of credit, and a message that tells you the average amount of classes you can take in your city with those credits.

6. Toptal

A form should still abide by quality customer service rules. How can your form be helpful to a potential consumer, without frustrating them with unnecessary questions? Toptal, which helps you find and hire elite independent freelancers, does an incredible job, first by displaying how far along a user is in their form submission (which encourages them to keep going), and second, by incorporating a phone conversation seamlessly into the process.

After answering a few questions, their form concludes with a question: When should we call you? You’re given the option of now or later, and once you’ve answered, the form offers to automatically integrate your scheduled phone call into your Google calendar or iCalendar. Toptal knows its value is better explained via phone, and their form proves they respect your time and don’t want to waste it.

7. UX Passion

Sometimes you need to ask for more information than just name and email, which can frustrate a user. If you incorporate a message like UX Passion’s — “The more we know, the more we are able to helpâ€� — it could go a long way towards alleviating that frustration. Their message adds a human element, reminding you that the form fields were chosen as necessary elements to help you, not just to waste your time.

8. Basecamp Classic

As soon as you arrive at Basecamp Classic’s page, you’re greeted with a form. At the top, the form mentions how long it will take to fill out (60 seconds), and at the bottom, it highlights the benefits of the free plan and promises the trial won’t end. With those statements sandwiching the top and bottom of the form, it’s likely most visitors will fill it out because — well, why not?

9. Harvest

There are two reasons I love this form by Harvest: first, it answers my primary concerns upfront — Will I have to supply a credit card and risk getting charged if I don’t cancel my account? And what am I missing out on with the free version?

The second reason I love the form is the “5 Reasons You’ll Love Harvest� box on the right. The rest of the form is neat and clean, so there’s no confusion about where or what to fill out, but if you begin to waiver, the box on the right is an extra step to ensure you remember why you’re signing up.

10. Compare the Market

This is one of the most user-friendly ones in the list, with icons you can hover over to choose A or B, rather than a text field. Best of all, when you hover over an icon like “Yes, I have my bill,� you’re offered an explanation regarding why it’s necessary, and whether you can proceed without it. Plus, the buttons are big and colorful, creating an engaging and visually appealing user experience.

If you’re still unsure which direction you need to take your online forms to make your buyer happiest, try A/B testing one of these elements at a time. Ultimately, your form is a method to interact with your customers, so it should be thoughtful, relatively easy, and a strong reflection of your brand.

Intro to Lead Gen

New Call-to-action


Source: New feed

4 Things We Want to Know After Reading Mary Meeker's 2018 Internet Trends Report

4 Things We Want to Know After Reading Mary Meeker's 2018 Internet Trends Report

Each year, marketers, tech writers, and overall online enthusiasts await the release of the 2018 Internet Trends Report: an annual presentation by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker, covering the year’s most pivotal statistics and trends in the online realm.

The report, while citing key data points — growth in certain areas of internet use, online shopping trends, and indicators of the future of the workplace — is exhaustively comprehensive. Meeker leaves no stone unturned, identifying numerous pivotal areas where online user behavior is changing, and where investors, marketers, and others should take note.

The full presentation — which took place earlier this week at the 2018 annual Code Conference — can be viewed here.

And even though Meeker’s report covers an impressive amount of ground, the information and insights it contains often end up raising additional questions. If the current is true of X, then what does the future look like for Y?

Here are a few key questions we have about the 2018 Internet Trends Report — and what the future of tech looks like.

4 Questions We Have About Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends Report

1. The time internet users spend online has increased, but when it comes to the number of new internet users, growth has significantly slowed. Does the future of growth reside in ways for people to connect, rather than getting more people online?

According to Meeker’s report, 2017 saw 3.6 billion internet users globally: a total that amounts to more than half of the world’s population.

“When markets reach [the] mainstream,” she writes, “new growth gets harder to find — evinced by 0% new smartphone unit shipment growth in 2017.”

In other words, with the internet becoming more accessible to more people, growth among new users slows. However, among those who are online, the time spent there has increased.

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Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

“It seems like we’ve reached a point where more internet users would require a greater investment in infrastructure, especially in underserved or underdeveloped regions,� says HubSpot Social Media Editor Henry Franco.

It’s what HubSpot Head of SEO Victor Pan says is called the “last mile problem”: a term often used for supply chain or transportation to describe the final leg in the process of delivering a good or service to end consumers. That “last mile,” as the saying goes, is typically the least efficient step and said by some to be the most expensive part of the delivery process.

It applies to global internet access, Pan says, “because getting the internet to the last part of that population is really expensive,” largely because of its location in areas that are what he describes as “far and sparse.”

Where any product is available in a limited capacity, costs increase. “The remaining areas of the world without internet access are likely less able to afford it,” Pan explains. “In that case, you see the overall growth of internet users slowing down.”

What we’ll end up seeing, Franco predicts, “is a greater investment in more ways to connect existing users, rather than getting new users online.”

But even so, focusing innovation on new ways to connect people, rather than getting more of the population connected in the first place, is not without drawbacks, he says. “That could exacerbate skill, knowledge, and privilege gaps that already exist as a result.”

2. If the answer to Question 1 is “yes,” could this trend be a “golden ticketâ€� for emerging technology like virtual reality, which has struggled to get a strong foothold in consumer and business markets alike? 

“Let’s assume the answer is ‘yes,'” Pan says. “The golden ticket isn’t actually virtual reality … but rather, a decreased cost for internet access as competition and alternatives increase.”

So the future of growth, then, could be less about the new ways the large volume of people who are already online will start to connect (or the emerging technologies that will support them) — and more about better options for access.

It brings up the question of technology like 5G, which, while considered emerging, is more concerned with better connectivity options than the more niche tools — see: VR — that are “added benefits” of being online.  

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, for instance, 5G dominated many of the discussions and presentations, with multiple mobile device manufacturers and wireless providers battling to be the top provider of this new type of connectivity. The “G” stands for generation, in that this is the fifth generation of this type of connectivity. Currently, 4G powers cellular connectivity like LTE. 

Its goal, fittingly, is to support the rising number of mobile internet users, by providing better speed, handling more data, greater responsiveness, and connectivity to smart devices.

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Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

And while developing new technology to improve the experience of a growing mobile-first base is crucial, Pan wonders if even that’s moving too far ahead of the “last mile” too quickly.

“Most of the people reading this report, I imagine, are in first-world countries and take 4G granted,” he says. “Most of the world connects to a 3G connection — which may lead to poor mobile video streaming experiences, because it’s cost-prohibitive. Costs need to come down for user behavior to change.”

3. Meeker speaks to the “privacy paradoxâ€�: that as innovation becomes a broader channel for growth, it involves a higher degree of personalization that can inevitably require personal user data. Can there be innovation with regulation?

Data privacy has been a widely-discussed and contested topic as of late, ranging from revelations of personal Facebook data misuse by third parties, to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force last month.

Often, this personal data is used for a purpose that the name suggests: a personalized experience. Facebook, as the company’s executives have long used as a defense, leverages data and information provided by users to personalize the ads and other content they see in the News Feed, for example.

But as the subject of data privacy becomes more front-and-center, especially amid these current events, many consumers are debating the value of privacy over a personalized experience. Meeker calls this the “privacy paradox.”

“Many usability improvements are based on data – collected during the taps/clicks/movements of mobile device users,” writes Meeker. “This creates a privacy paradox … Internet Companies continue to make low-priced services better, in part, from user data. Internet Users continue to increase time spent on Internet services based on perceived value. Regulators want to ensure user data is not used ‘improperly.’”

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Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

The possibility of regulating personal data (and the Big Tech companies that are often in possession of it) within the U.S. has also been a frequent topic of discussion this year, regardless of how likely it actually is. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in two days of hours-long hearings in April, and appeared before European Parliament in May. 

But regardless of what these appearances are worth, they do raise the question: Can there be innovation with regulation?

“Meeker’s slides tell a compelling story about the lack of general adaptability of U.S. laws towards tech,” says Franco. “Our data laws are more than 43 years out of date — especially as compared to Japan, Korea, and the EU, which have all gotten updates in the last year or so.”

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Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Pan, for his part, says that there’s a global struggle to find a balance of the two. 

“There two ends of the spectrum,” he explains. “One, the government has a hand in all that private data — like China, or even the U.S. with the PRISM program,” the latter being the collection of online communication activity by the National Security Agency, which made headlines when whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information on the program and was forced to flee the country.

On the other end of the spectrum, Pan says, there are regions like the European Union, “where data privacy is heavily regulated to protect consumers.”

So, is there a balance — a middle ground along this spectrum — in the future?

“I think there will be innovation there,” says Pan. “I can imagine web hosting companies collecting, handling, and keeping personally identifiable information secure and data privacy compliant to their respective countries — for a price.”

The idea of “data protection for a price” is not new, nor is it tremendously popular, according to our research. When we surveyed a panel of 893 consumers — almost evenly divided among the U.S., UK, and Canada — to find out how many would pay for an ad-free version of Facebook, 64% said “no.”

But knowing how this will impact innovation and the industry at-large, Franco explains, would require a side-by-side comparison of what these varying levels of regulation look like — especially in the months following GDPR coming into force.

“That would make a really interesting case study,” he says, “on the impact on innovation of self-regulation, versus government regulation of tech companies.”

4. What, if any, is the psychological impact of the growing amount of time we spend online?

Finally, we revisit the trend of those who are already online spending more time there. According to Meeker’s report, the average number of daily hours with digital media (among online adults) increased 4% in 2017.

The debate over disconnecting is also not new. As we spend more time on our devices, there’s a market for getting away from them, with some organizations advertising, essentially, digital detoxes for hire.

This growing amount of time online is particularly true of time spent on social media, according to the report, with the average global daily minutes spent on such networks increasing by 50% between 2012 and 2017 — for users ranging as young as 16, and as old as 64.

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Source: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

It begs the question: What is the psychological impact of this behavior?

“A lot of teens who come to me for therapy often cite social media as a source of stress,” says Laurie Paul, Ph.D., a psychologist in the Washington, D.C. area. “Many of them talk about inter-personal conflicts with peers that are started or intensified by posts on social media.”

This phenomenon, Dr. Paul explains, has real-life consequences.

“I’ve had many teens talk to me about experiencing bullying from peers on social media, and that this causes a lot of anxiety,” she says. “Skipping school, changing friend groups, entire school years ruined — because of being a target of bullying on social media.”

It’s not limited to teens, either. When I asked Dr. Paul if she’s observed similar effects among adults, the answer was, “Yes.”

“I’ve also seen conflicts among young adults that started on social media,” she elaborates. “For example, around Father’s Day, I had several clients who were upset, because one of their siblings posted about how wonderful their father was, but in actuality, the father abandoned the family or was abusive.”

Again, this online (specifically, social media) behavior had real-life implications.

“These posts led to resentment, feeling invalidated, and sparked conflict with the sibling who made the post,” Dr. Paul explains. “Sometimes, it sparked broader conflict and taking sides among several members of the family.”

So with this concentrated amount of time spent on social media being a fairly recent phenomenon — with the most explosive growth, it seems, having taken place over a period of only five years — what are the possible long-term impacts?

“I can only hypothesize. I teach college classes, too, in addition to my clinical practice, and I’ve observed short attention spans,” says Dr. Paul. “I wonder if this is related to students spending a lot of time online and being able to rapidly click until they find something interesting.”

Until next year’s report — we’ll continue to observe the gradual impact of these trends, and how they evolve.

Featured image attribution: By Jasveer10 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original


Source: New feed

Site Search: The Secret to Doubling Your Chances of On-Site Conversion

You’ve spent weeks crafting your website, and it looks great.

At a glance, visitors can see exactly what your company sells, and what you stand for. You have a navigation at the top of the page that brings users to your pricing page, an ‘About Us’ page, and a blog. There are even clear CTAs that encourage visitors to get in touch with your sales team. You feel confident that this website is going to bring in a ton of new leads for your company.

But what happens when someone lands on your site with a very specific question about your product or service?

They click a few links in your navigation, but can’t find an answer. Frustrated, they go back to Google, land on your competitor’s site and find exactly what they are looking for.

That’s a big missed opportunity for your sales team to convert a site visitor into a customer. This visitor had a specific question they were looking to answer when they landed on your site, and the navigation you were previously so confident in didn’t get them an answer quickly enough.

That’s where site search comes in. If Google indexes all the content on the internet and makes it quick and easy to find, site search will do the same for your specific website, making it easy for your visitors to find an exact answer to their question. It tailors their experience on your website in a way that isn’t possible through just your navigation.

Why should you care about site search?

According to WebInc, visitors who use site search are 216% more likely to convert into paying customers than regular visitors. This is because the behavior of someone using site search is largely different from someone just clicking around your navigation.

People using site search have a specific goal in mind. They’ve already gathered all the information they need to make a decision, and they’re simply trying to find a specific product or service on your site.

This is especially true for ecommerce companies. Offering them a simple way to search through your site’s content will go a long way in converting visitors into customers.

Compare this with people who simply click through your navigation. These visitors are simply collecting information, and weighing their options. Maybe they’ll click the link to your blog and peruse a few articles, instead of looking for an exact blog post that answers a specific question.

Search is an integral part of any well-built site, but it has largely flown under the radar for the past couple of years due to Google’s dominance over the space. Google’s own Site Search product made it easy to quickly implement a powerful search engine on your site.

Then in 2017, Google announced that they would be deprecating their Site Search product, and would only offer the free version of the product. Google’s free Site Search offering comes with Google Branding, it takes visitors away from your site, and it’s ad-supported — meaning a competitor’s ad could potentially appear higher than your own organic results. That’s obviously not ideal.

Source: Search Engine Land

For businesses looking to scale, Google’s Free CSE simply won’t cut it. A number of enterprise search solutions, such as Swiftype and Algolia seized the moment and are publishing instructions on how to transition from Google Site Search to their solution. Here at HubSpot, we’ve created our own site search solution that will auto-index all of your content as soon as you press publish.

So why has Google deprecating their site search solution created such a frenzy to find a replacement?

Apart from assisting site visitors that are sales-ready, analyzing site search data can go a long way in improving your overall visitor experience, and also help your service, marketing, and web teams better serve your customers.

Ask anyone who has ever worked in customer support, and they’ll tell you that a large portion of their time is spent simply directing people to already documented solutions in a knowledge article or community forum.

This is not only time consuming for your support reps, but its not a great experience for your customers either. According to the Harvard Business Review, 81% of customers try to find a solution themselves before they reach out to a support line. Implementing site search gives your customers the opportunity to solve for themselves.

This will also free up your support team to focus on more mission critical tasks, and can save your service organization a lot of money over time. Companies like Survey Monkey are seeing great results by implementing site search in their help centers. Out of all the people who visit their help center, 96% are able to solve their problem without having to directly contact support.

Your marketing team can gain a lot of insight on your target audience by analyzing exactly what your customers are searching for on your site. Running a search-log analysis not only gives you insight into what your site visitors are trying to find, but it also lets you know how frequently they are searching for something, and what specific language they use to describe the problem they are having, or product or service they’re looking for.

This could inform your marketing team’s decision to release a series of blog posts to address specific questions your visitors have. Maybe you already have that content created, and you simply need to promote it on social, or create an ad campaign to target specific visitors with that content. Search-logs give your marketing team a unique opportunity to tap into the thought process of your site visitors.

Finally, your web team could use search analytics to inform how they structure the site. Letting people search for those niche questions they have is great, but what if they’re commonly searching for your blog, or your pricing page? If these resources used by most site visitors are frequently showing up as searched for terms, you might want to consider featuring them more prominently on your home page or main navigation.

Do you have site search implemented on your site yet? Give it a try and see how quickly adding search to your main navigation can help your sales, service, marketing, and web teams.

 


Source: New feed