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Your Messy Inbox

It’s been said that a messy desk is a sign of genius. OK, so what does a cluttered inbox mean?

As personal notes, promotional messages, invitations and subscriptions flow in every hour on the hour, our inboxes quickly fill up. According to technology market research firm Radicati, the average office worker receives about 90 emails a day. How can we keep track of everything?

Journalist and economist Tim Harford thinks a little digital disorganization isn’t a bad thing. The author of Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives suggests there’s a benefit to embracing chaos.

When faced with the choice to clean or not to clean, we create our own systems, he says.

“It turns out that usually leaving it on your desk is a better strategy,” Harford said in an interview. “It looks disorganized. It looks messy. But your desk is actually organizing itself. The good stuff you’re touching rises to the top of the piles of paper and the stuff you’re not touching goes to the bottom.”

Perhaps in being messy, Harford thinks, we also embrace creativity and autonomy. We are not constricted by rules and wasting time categorizing our thoughts and conversations, but keeping what is important front and center.

Indeed, his claims are also backed up by the way we traditionally work in email. A University of California Santa Cruz study found that while people may in fact use their own complex folder systems to store and retrieve important emails, a lot of the time it’s faster and more natural to simply use an email search feature.

So where do we go from here? Perhaps it’s best to have a limited system, but not go overboard when it comes to tags and folders. Create too many rules, and you may find it difficult to follow them all.

Remember, Harford writes: “Life cannot be controlled. Life itself is messy.”

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Yes, You Can Use Video on LinkedIn

Laptop with speech bubble saying "Let's connect"

Everybody’s on LinkedIn—even celebrities are on this social platform known for networking. And while this may not be the platform you go to for fun, it is the platform you should be on for professional connections.

According to numbers from LinkedIn’s Sophisticated Marketers Guide, there are more than 400 million professionals are on the platform. If you want to talk to leaders, savvy thinkers, ideators, marketers, communicators, head to LinkedIn. If you want to grow your business, and show off your skills to current and potential employees and clients, head to LinkedIn.

But don’t just be there—be part of the community.

This is how you can set yourself apart from the millions of users. This is how you can position yourself and your company as a thought leader and drive your business.

Increasingly, one way to do this is through native video on LinkedIn, which launched in 2017. You can start a video ad campaign, embed videos or upload and create on LinkedIn’s platform, which, it should be noted, are often more effective. You can share product launches, promote company news, drop insider offers and exclusive looks, and tell stories and introduce key figures.

Sure, you could similarly share these updates through static images or text. Video is one more avenue to connect. Additionally, data from LinkedIn suggests viewers spend more time with video and may be more likely to start conversations around video content.

LinkedIn is interested in pushing its community toward using more video too: In February, the company launched a live video feature in beta. The company continues to pilot live video streaming with a few broadcasters. The feature isn’t currently available to all members, but LinkedIn does offer an option to apply to become a live video broadcaster.

For everyone else, LinkedIn also offers support and encouragement to pursue the creation and uploading of original videos.

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions has a quick guide to using video on LinkedIn, and even goes as far as helping participants consider why video might be important to their strategy. (There’s also LinkedIn’s special Tech Marketer’s Guide to B2B Video.)

If your objectives include building brand awareness, encouraging clicks and new viewers or driving leads to your website, LinkedIn argues posting video on the social media platform is good for you.

As with any video strategy, it’s important to do what’s right for you and your audience. Come up with an idea and see it through, then look at the feedback and adjust. Adding in video doesn’t mean eliminating all other content and touch points. But it does offer a way to set yourself apart from others and create another opportunity for viewers to connect with you.

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4 Quotes to Inspire Your Entrepreneurial Habits

Resilience, curiosity, focus and follow through—the skills required to be an entrepreneur are good ones to have no matter what industry you’re in, and no matter whether you own your own business.

Working with an entrepreneurial outlook can be beneficial even if you’ve never considered writing “entrepreneur” as your job description. It means you aren’t afraid to tackle a challenge, won’t easily give up and always ready with an idea.

So, whether you aspire to officially call yourself an entrepreneur or not, there are still a few things to learn from this mindset. Take it from the quotes of the entrepreneurs below and read their stories for inspiration.

What will you be able to do with a little push?

“Being an entrepreneur can be learned, and that is exactly what I have done. You don’t have to be born with it or have had the ‘lemonade stand.’ But, you do need to have the passion, devotion, conviction, and sheer will and drive to make it happen.”

Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite, in Entrepreneur

“A person who sees a problem is a human being; a person who finds a solution is visionary; and the person who goes out and does something about it is an entrepreneur.”

Naveen Jain, founder of several companies, including Moon Express, Viome, Bluedot, TalentWise, Intelius and InfoSpace, in Inc.

“As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned how crucial it is to be able to call a spade a spade and avoid falling in love with a particular strategy or product. Instead, you need to let the customer tell you what she needs—and to change her as she changes.”

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, in Fast Company

“Being an entrepreneur is a mindset. You have to see things as opportunities all the time. I like to do interviews. I like to push people on certain topics. I like to dig into the stories where there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer.”

Soledad O’Brien, journalist and CEO of Starfish Media Group, in Mediabistro
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Make a Splash with Live Video

Water splash from pool with text "jump right in"

When you aren’t sure how exactly to use a new tool or platform, sometimes it’s best to jump right in.

For those who haven’t tried incorporating a video strategy into their social media and marketing routines, or don’t feel like they have the ability to invest time or money in pulling together a more polished video, live video can be a great entry point. It can be fun, easy and done with equipment you already have on your phone, computer or tablet.

It might feel scary to go live, but that raw and personal aspect is also what makes live video so enticing. Live video hasn’t been edited and glossed over. People respond to real people in real situations. Now is also an especially important time to test the live video waters, with audiences increasingly interested and influenced by video.

Grab your phone and go. Recording live can be exciting, in part because you don’t know what will happen. That’s OK! You already have the tech and tools you need, so turn your camera on yourself and others for quick in-the-moment reflections, interviews from the conference floor or a behind-the-scenes view of your launch party. Live video can enhance your existing social media strategy and complement any produced videos you are already doing as part of a campaign,

Once you feel more confident and comfortable with live video, consider traveling with a small tripod for a cleaner look. Be prepared at any moment. At first, it might not feel natural, but you can work on your delivery over time.

Put your people up front. You might feel at a loss of what to put on the screen. A great company has great employees and great clients. Put your people out there. Think about what makes your community unique and share that with others. Live video can spotlight your company and build connections. Consider having employees do an Instagram takeover once a week to document their routine. Press record and try a timelapse video of a busy day in the office.

Step back and make a plan. Once you get your feet wet, it’s your time to enjoy and explore. Don’t give up. Perhaps your audience didn’t respond to your first live video. Don’t worry—this is new for them too. Once you have the rhythm of posting, they’ll have the routine of checking in to see what you’re up to. Set a goal of trying a certain number of live videos over several months, then check in and think about building your strategy. What worked and what didn’t?

Have fun experimenting and encourage others within your organization to do so as well. If your people aren’t on YouTube, try Instagram Stories. Tease your videos in your newsletter and social media posts.

It might be easier than you think!

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3 TEDTalks to Pique Your Social Media Curiosity

As marketers, we love to think about why and how. How can we connect with this group? Why is this connection special? It’s important to stay sharp and remain open so we can absorb all the information and data. At the same time, that overload of content can be a lot to sort through.

When this happens, sometimes it’s important to take a break for yourself. Find an outlet that will excite and motivate you. Checking in with a TEDTalk, especially one that’s only about 10 minutes long, can be a powerful way to recharge without losing focus on your tasks at hand.

The three below caught our attention for the creative ways they delve into social media needs and interests. Sure, you can learn a thing or two while watching, but they’re also simply fun.

What makes something go viral? with Dao Nguyen

From baby goats in the office to exploding watermelons, Buzzfeed publisher Dao Nguyen explores viral videos, which, Nguyen says, is really about understanding what videos do for viewers. Do they want to laugh? Are they looking for affirmation?

“The question I get most frequently is: How do you make something go viral? The question itself is misplaced; it’s not about the something. It’s about what the people doing the something, reading or watching—what are they thinking?” Nguyen shares.

A funny look at the unintended consequences of technology with Chuck Nice

“So are we more connected, or are we just more connected to our devices?” asks comedian Chuck Nice in this TEDTalk. If you’ve ever scratched your head at the thought of designer babies, driverless cars and trolls, Nice has a lighthearted look at how we can navigate the future and remember to laugh at the technology that scares us.

3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand with Tim Leberecht

As more and more companies push to empower their employees through social media and turn their clients and staff into their biggest brand advocates, author and marketer Tim Leberecht’s TEDTalk can only become more applicable.

“I’m a marketer, and as a marketer, I know that I’ve never really been in control,” Leberecht shares. “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room, the saying goes. Hyperconnectivity and transparency allow companies to be in that room now, 24/7. They can listen and join the conversation. In fact, they have more control over the loss of control than ever before. They can design for it. But how?”

Surprise campaigns, humble companies and free publicity all come up in this talk.

Remember, TEDTalks are also searchable by topic and length, so you can explore 3,000-plus videos and transcripts for the motivation you need. And, since the talks already happened but remain part of the community online, you can comment and continue the conversation no matter when you watch.

Stay curious, friends!

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Inspired to Go Viral

Mobile phone about to watch video

When it comes to going viral, there’s a certain X factor that remains unknown.

Sometimes, it seems that going viral isn’t something that one so much achieves as inadvertently accomplishes. It’s as if, suddenly, it’s happened to you! Even more confusing is that, over the years, the definition of “going viral” has included earning a million hits to generating noteworthy buzz.

Today, going viral has become even harder, and there’s no permanent definition as to what it means. Although there’s an unpredictability to viral videos, there’s always a heavy dose of hard work and application required.

Launching your own video efforts can feel like a herculean task, especially if you feel overwhelmed by everything else that is out there. Seeing the amazing responses others receive can make tackling your own videos feel daunting. Additionally, you may find you measure your video success differently for your niche than other video-makers. So instead of looking at viral videos as something to copy or repeat, look behind the creativity and tenacity for motivation.

Let these video pros and their stories inspire you. What stories will you tell? What will you make the markers of your success?

“Viral videos aren’t just about being funny. They’re about identity creation. You send the video to your friends to say something about yourself. You’re saying, ‘I get this. Do you get it?’”

Ricky Van Veen, co-founder of CollegeHumor and current head of global creative strategy with Facebook in New York magazine

“It’s very easy to make a viral video, but longevity and consistency, that’s hard.”

Michelle Phan, YouTuber and makeup entrepreneur in Vox

“The number one question I’m asked as a YouTuber every day is, ‘How can I get my videos out there; how can I make my videos go viral?’”

Todrick Hall, entertainer and YouTube personality, in Screener for The Daily Dot

“When I gave a talk at TEDx, I thought that if I did a good job, the video might go viral. But…it has 140,000 views while Colin Powell’s (who spoke at the same event) has only 2,700.”

Cameron Russell, model and activist, on the TEDBlog

“We live in an age where people are becoming more aware of their own creativity and their own interest in visual expression and sharing of their experiences.”

Nick Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro, to Mashable
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Don’t Forget These Personalization Tips

Data, data, data. People crave a personal connection online and in the real world. Thanks to the wealth of social media and marketing insights we’re now able to collect, we can easily innovate to customize the user experience in ways previously unimaginable.

Among the social media and marketing trends that stand out this year, personalization is a big one. It’s connected to email marketing, online advertising and influencer partnerships, and, when used effectively, it can increase customer loyalty.

But this is no robotic trend. We can’t just press a button and see personalization in play. Well, we can, but that doesn’t mean we should. In fact, blindly personalizing messages without thought of how, when or why can hurt a relationship.

A customized user experience happens when we employ technology with a human touch. Working with both our intuition and our insights, we can focus on bringing the best to our clients and audiences.

Although some of the toys for customization may be new, the thought process behind it relies on old standbys. Asking the right questions about your clients can make a world of difference. We know this from our beloved audience personas, who—by the way—can really help sort out which customization options are key. Who is in your audience? Where are they on social media? How do they like to connect?

Research shows that consumers crave relevant customized experiences. Why wouldn’t they, if it makes their daily lives easier and their choices more meaningful? When we talk about customization, we’re talking about putting the focus on the client and creating a connection through thoughtful choices and options.

It may be tempting to act fast and surge forward to maximize the returns customization can bring. But don’t be afraid to slow down. In fact, you may have to. Remember that data, data, data? It takes time to go through it.

You have to consider what your customers want, including:

  • How they want to connect
  • What a meaningful interaction looks like to them
  • How they would like to be addressed (are you on a first-name basis?)
  • Where they like to consume their news (are they likely to follow a link or would they prefer to stay within a platform or email?)

Truly thinking about these answers can improve the experience for both you and your followers. Think about customization from all sides. Sometimes it can be as simple as choosing the right time to send your email.

That’s right. Perhaps the most important factor when it comes to customization is choosing the right time to hit send. Scheduling an email for a Friday afternoon won’t reach office workers who have already checked out, but planning an Instagram post that will catch their eye during their evening scroll might be a better fit.

Don’t get distracted by bells and whistles. Dial it back to your core questions and think about what would make for a meaningful interaction. That’s the best form of personalization.

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The 3 Steps to Making Video Work For You

Image of paused video with text "Be creative"

Sometimes, it’s helpful to see what others are doing. It can drive inspiration, collaboration and connection. Other times, it can be distracting.

With 5 billion videos being watched on YouTube daily, it can be both inspiring and overwhelming to see what others are doing. You know there’s a thirst for video and a push to produce it, and you may be wondering how to translate that into your own video strategy. Instead of getting caught up in what works for everyone else, take a breather to think about what’s needed for you.

What do your viewers want to see? How do they like to hear from you? Where do they like to hear from you?

You can find answers by looking inward, and that can help you drum up ideas for your existing audience as well as attract new eyes. You know your brand. Use what you know to create the best viewer experience.

Choose an approach. What are you trying to tell your audience? Why are you trying to get this message out?

Think about the tone you typically use in communications and the purpose of your video. Is it to entertain, inform or educate? Understanding why your audience digests your content and what you want them to see can help you shape the approach of your video.

Think about the story. If you don’t grab your audience in the first 10 seconds, chances are you’ve lost them.

The average video is under two minutes long (although that’s not to say you can’t go longer—when the situation calls for it and if you do it right). Tight, compelling storytelling is key. We love to tell and hear stories. And now it’s increasingly important to tell interesting stories with so much content for folks to choose from.

Ask yourself: Why should audiences hear my story?

Optimize your video for your audience. You’ve made your video. Don’t post it on YouTube and sit back waiting for views. Think about how your audience will want to watch the video. Are they on YouTube? Facebook? Instagram?

Make adjustments to your video so it plays well on each platform—and make sure it’s on your audience’s preferred platform. Don’t forget about your own communications either. Push your video out to your clients in an email newsletter and tease behind-the-scenes or promo content when appropriate.

Think about the different ways and times folks may view it. Then continue circle back to promote again, at different times and in different ways.

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Find your zen at work

Background image of balloons with zen proverb "Let go or be dragged"

It’s happened again—you were writing that report, but then you took a break to check your email. Also Twitter. And Facebook. What can you do when a world of discovery and distraction is at your fingertips?

Sure, it’s not a bad thing that our lives have become hyper-connected. The doors to exploration have opened wide online, making us more flexible, curious, and inventive. But at the same time, it can make it difficult to complete a task when you’re not totally focused. Instead of concentrating on one thing, you’re jumping from email to email, post to post, and easily put off track.

Sometimes, we aren’t even the ones to blame. Thanks to changing workplace and social expectations, folks often anticipate a prompt response. And those notifications are so enticing! It will only take a minute to check what they mean…

What were we talking about? Oh, that’s right—staying focused!

We’re here to help with a few tips, tricks and apps to help you concentrate and turn the computer into your virtual zen zone.

Set the mood

Perhaps one of the reasons why you go searching for distraction is because you legitimately need a break. Feeling uncomfortable at your workstation can be a real drag, and it’s natural to want to shift your focus elsewhere.

Perhaps it’s not your task that’s giving you a headache, but your setup. If you feel blinded by your computer screen, think about downloading f.lux, which adapts your screen brightness according to the time of day. If on a phone, double check your settings or download a filter app.

Block out the noise

Some people need silence to work. Other people need what they would consider a health level of noise.

The gentle hum of instrumental music can trigger creativity while helping you zero in on a single activity. Close your random tabs, forget about email and plug your earbuds in. Subscription music service Focus at Will promises to boost your concentration with background music. You can also search “concentration” or “study music” on your favorite listening platforms like YouTube and Spotify.

Searching for something a little different? If you work alone or from a home office, you might crave the office environment to keep you on track. Enter Coffitivity, a site that invites you to listen to the ambient noises of such locations as a “Texas Teahouse” or “Lunchtime Lounge” Perhaps a little noise can help you shut out those inner voices (and maybe even outer ones too) and stay on your A game.

Place limits

Sometimes, you have to set limits.

If you think you can’t keep yourself from visiting certain sites or checking your phone, you may need to give yourself some hard boundaries. The Google Chrome productivity extension StayFocusd will help you limit the time you spend on certain websites. Similarly, Freedom can help you tune out noises across your computer and smartphone. For phone users, apps like Moment help track which apps you’re using most and coach you into different habits.

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Say Yes to Creative Balance

How to keep saying yes without overwhelming your to-do list.

Creative people love to say, “Yes.” Saying “yes” can lead to unexpected opportunities and amazing collaborations. Saying “yes” can open doors to new connections and projects.

Working from a place of “yes” means we are inspired by the work, and that enthusiasm empowers us to pursue ideas and implement innovative solutions. When we keep ourselves open, we gain experiences and potentially discover talents and passions we didn’t know we had.

However, the more there is to do, the easier it can be to feel overwhelmed. If you find yourself wanting to agree to an opportunity, but know you may not have the bandwidth, it’s okay to ask for help. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

Be open about workload and expectations

“Only do what only you can do. I encourage leaders to make this their personal mantra,” leadership consultant and author, Erika Andersen, shares in Forbes.

It can be exciting to take on a task, or perhaps an old habit, but that doesn’t make it an efficient use of your time. Don’t let the workload suffer by blindly saying, “Yes.” Think about what you can and should do.

Do you want to meet on Wednesday, but it would be easier to meet on Friday? Are you able to take on the additional project, but aren’t sure if it should be prioritized above your existing work? Speak up.

Become stronger through partnership

Writing in the Ask Entrepreneur column, serial entrepreneur, Jen Groover, recommends categorizing and prioritizing tasks, both small and big ones, to figure out the best way to tackle your to-do list.

Once organized, take a step back and think about your natural strengths. When we partner with others, we become stronger together and can work smarter.

“Sharing responsibility and handing over certain tasks can be a scary thing,” Groover writes. “But keep in mind how much farther you’ll be able to grow. I always tell entrepreneurs, 100 percent of $100 is still only $100. But 20 percent of $100,000 is a heck of a lot more. So if you can find someone who has the strengths to your weaknesses and vice versa, you’re going to have more to share.”

Also, remember that so many of us are surrounded by talent. Perhaps you’re intrigued by the project but know of a team member who would be a great fit to lead the effort. Make the connection. Taking a step back so someone else can take a step forward is its own reward.

Help yourself and offer to help otherscome stronger through partnership

“People are more inclined to want to help those who’ve attempted to help themselves first,” writes Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit and The Anxiety Toolkit. “When asking for help, briefly explain what you’ve tried independently. That way the person from whom you’re requesting help knows you’ve tried to figure out your problem for yourself before requesting help.”

This could be as simple as Googling a solution on your own, double-checking a request or going back to your notes. Ask for help smartly, and give your own help freely. “If you’re known as a helpful person around your office,” Boyes adds, “folks will want to help you when the time comes.”

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