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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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Seeing is Not Always Believing

We lead increasingly visual lives these days. How can you tell if someone’s #bestlife is really theirs?

If you see an image that looks too good to be true, keep in mind that it might be. It might have taken hours to achieve the perfect post with special lighting to achieve that natural glow and lots of planning behind that seemingly unplanned pic.

Of course, it’s one thing to stage a photo or select a filter, and another to digitally alter an image in an effort to purposely confuse a viewer or gain attention. If you suspect an image is being used improperly or being recycled, one way to stay alert visually is to double check images using Reverse Image Search on Google.

While working in the Chrome browser, right-click on an image and select “Search Google for image.” This is a good way to check if you believe a photo might not be current or was actually originally intended for something else

If regularly searching images (to find where an image came from or to handily track down a high-resolution version), TinEye is the official extension for Chrome. You can also reverse search images from your phone.

To do a little digging on the image itself, check the metadata, which includes everything from the camera make and modle, to camera settings used, and the date and time an image was captured. You can check the metadata using various programs.

When in doubt, trust your gut. You know that not everything is what it seems on the internet. Sometimes it can be as simple as seeing something and knowing it just isn’t right. In his many years studying digital image forensics, Hany Farid, author of Photo Forensics, has amassed a slew of tips. Among them: “Beware of spectacular shark photos.”

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Turn Your Call to Action into the Perfect Invitation

Think back to a time a friend invited you to do something. You might have agreed immediately, or you might have felt a little hesitant. Why?

In online marketing and communications, we’re always inviting our friends and followers and clients – to join us. Sometimes, we’re inviting them to subscribe to a newsletter. Other times, we’re inviting them to a member rewards program. Either way, we have to put thought into the invitation if we hope to get a positive RSVP.

This is where your call to action, that word or phrase that prompts your audience to do something, comes into play. Some marketers may leave out the call to action, thinking clients already know what to do next. That’s not recommended. Others might fear a call to action will come off as gauche or inappropriate. It won’t.

What would you do if a friend mentioned an upcoming party, but then offered no further details? How would you know they wanted you to join them? How would you know where to go or when?

If they don’t invite you clearly, you won’t know what to do next. It’s no surprise a proper invitation comes first on the list of the “Six Ways to Be a Good Host” outlined by the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute:

1) Invite clearly. Include necessary information for your guests in the invitation: the date, the time, the place, the occasion, the host(s) and when and how to respond “yes” or “no.” Add any special information such as what to wear or what to bring, say, for a pot-luck.

Like any good invitation, calls to action work best when they are direct, personal, and generate excitement for something more to come. Establishing a clear next step is a key part of continuing the conversation, and that step can be tweaked depending on the person and subject. Your call to action shouldn’t interrupt your message or alter your tone, but carry it home.

Even though it may be only a few words, a call to action can:

  • Anchor your message
  • Further existing relationships
  • Build key connections
  • Help you identify goals

Ask yourself these questions the next time you are trying to come up with a call to action: What do I want people to do? Why do I want them to do it? How do I want them to do it?

It’s so easy to fall back on what are becoming well-loved calls to action. How can you make your message stand out in a sea of “subscribe” and “donate” and “click here” buttons? This is your chance to have fun with language and truly hone your message. (HubSpot has assembled a great list of 31 examples of various calls to action if you are looking for inspiration.)

Play with using supporting copy, like a question, and offer readers different paths to take. Use A/B testing to see how your viewers respond to buttons versus links in the text. Try one phrase and then come up with another way of saying the same thing. Think about what words will matter to your specific audience.

How would you like to be invited?

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It’s not me; it’s you

Understanding why people unsubscribe and how to keep them engaged.

If marketing is all about building relationships, marketers better be prepared to face rejection—and know what to do to get that second date.

Every email sent, every update tweeted, and every photo posted is an opportunity for engagement. It’s also an opportunity for viewers to unsubscribe and unfollow. How can communicators hit the sweet spot that represents optimal contact?

First, it’s important to understand a few key phrases. Inboxes are increasingly becoming sacred space. Measuring and analyzing your digital marketing campaigns is critical if you hope to continually improve them.

Open Rate: Out of all the people who received your email, this number represents everyone who opened the message.

Click-Through Rate: Out of all the people who received your email, this represents the people who clicked on a link in your email.

Click-to-Open Rate: Out of all the people who opened your email, this represents the people who clicked on a link in your email. (Since this narrows the field to only those who opened, it better measures the strength of your email content.)

Unsubscribe Rate: Out of all the people who received your email, this represents the people who unsubscribed from receiving future communications.

Spam Rate: Out of all the people who received your email, this represents the number of people who marked your message as spam. A spam rate that climbs too high could send a negative message to mailbox providers.

How are you doing? Check your numbers against industry averages through data collected by email service providers like MailChimp and Constant Contact. Then think about what needs to change and how. (For more on email best practices, read our past blog post.)

Remember, marketing is a process. If you are experiencing a high unsubscribe rate, that’s not necessarily all bad. As marketers at Voila Norbert point out, it can help you weed out disinterested folks and find your people. The content and delivery of your message are key factors recipients consider when choosing to opt in or out. It may need to improve or you may need to improve your email list. Do not feel bad when people unsubscribe; it happens to everyone.

Taking a hard look at your numbers is also an opportunity to be creative. Is your message the right length? Is it personalized? Is it any different from the last dozen messages you sent? As we’ve discussed in previous posts, a strong subject line can help your message shoot to the top of someone’s inbox, and personalization can make your message feel tailored and special.

Inboxes are crowded, and many people and businesses are vying for the same eyeballs. Take time to think about the individual at the receiving end of your message and what you’d like them to know.

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Where is everyone?

How to respond to those pesky platform outages.

Down for required maintenance.
Uh-oh, looks like something’s wrong.
We will be back soon.

Experiencing an interruption on the web or through a social platform can be unexpected, frustrating, maybe even embarrassing. (Is it me? Do I have a bad connection?) When technology is built so seamlessly into our daily lives and routines, an outage can seem incomprehensible and interrupt regular business operations. (But I can always get onto Instagram! What do you mean I can’t send the files?)

Inevitably, they happen anyway.

The site Down for Everyone or Just Me is one way to find out if, well, there’s an outage for others or just you. For a bigger picture of the ups and downs of the Internet, Down detector (which cleverly describes itself as “the weatherman for the digital world”) monitors social media and user reports to track outages and services.

Once you’ve confirmed it really isn’t you, what do you do when you find yourself unexpectedly without social media? What do you think your followers do?

The good news for publishers is that without Facebook to scroll through, hunting for information or a distraction, readers often head to mobile news apps and sites, according to data from Chartbeat. This offers positive insight into understanding user habits and interests: “Despite volatility driven by algorithm shifts and intense news cycles, user demand for content (represented by traffic across the web) is quite stable.”

However, in analyzing a YouTube outage, the results were a little different and led to an even bigger boost to traffic elsewhere. Chartbeat considered this might have come down to everything from the platform to users to the time of day.

“So far, we’ve seen there’s no single reaction when a platform goes down. Sometimes people are more apt to search for answers, sometimes they go directly to a news source they trust,” research posted on the Chartbeat blog concluded. “The one thing we do see is that when Facebook or YouTube goes dark, the rest of the internet comes alive.”

Knowing how an outage on one site can lead to an influx on another is a good reminder to stay active across your relevant platforms. However, there’s more to do if you hope to keep your content relevant and seen-after all, an outage means it doesn’t really matter if you scheduled that post or not. So plan ahead and plan for all scenarios.

Use working social media to engage in social listening. You can interact with followers to let them know you are in this outage with them, that your other sites are still up and working, and the status of your services. Keep other channels of communication open and easily accessible, and be ready to jump in to say everything is back up.

Additionally, it’s also an opportunity to consider if you are on the right platform. Sometimes, there’s no better solution than a strong email list.

“Should you join another social channel?” Monina Wagner, Content Marketing Institute’s community manager, encouraged marketers to ask themselves in an interview with Marketing Land. “Could you beef up your email list? Social media is rented land. What would happen if that disruption turned into a complete shutdown? Would you have another platform for your community?”

On the technical side, remember to keep track of your campaigns and files—save, save, save. If you anticipate something isn’t working right, screenshot whatever information you’re worried about losing in the event of an outage. There’s big business in Facebook and Instagram ads, but you can reschedule and have the advantage that Facebook charges advertisers based on results, like impressions and conversions, which can only be gained if the site has users on it.

An outage is annoying, but it can be a chance for discovery and, perhaps, some needed time to unplug and refocus.

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