6 Phrases to Demonstrate Active Listening — at Work, or Elsewhere

A few weeks ago, I had an alarming revelation: I’m a crappy listener.

That came to light when someone important to me pointed out that I don’t seem to have any interest in what he does for work. “Your eyes just glaze over whenever I talk about my job,” he told me.

I couldn’t deny that. And it wasn’t limited to him — whenever someone spoke to me about something that I found less than fascinating, I had a tendency to tune it out. In reality, I could learn to appreciate my friend’s line of work, for example, if I learned to listen actively.

It’s an imperative skill — at work, and in your personal life. After all, if you’re never paying attention to what your boss, your significant other, or your kids are saying to you, how are they supposed to take you seriously? How can you expect them to come to you for advice, or with important information? When you don’t listen, you set the precedent that you can’t be trusted to absorb what matters to other people. Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your  productivity at work.

That’s why it’s imperative to learn how to listen actively. It’s one thing to sit and make eye contact with the person speaking to you. But are you really absorbing what they’re saying? And moreover, are you responding in a way that communicates that you’re actually listening — and that you have something worthwhile to say in return? 

There are a few key phrases out there to demonstrate that you’re listening actively. And it’s true — you’re not going to care about every conversation that someone initiates with you. But even if the topic isn’t important to you, the person sharing it might be. Read on to learn how to pay better attention, and how to show that you’re doing so.

How We Listen

The Process

To listen, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to hear what someone has said and understand that it is serious, important, or true.”

It’s that second part of the definition that stands out to me — especially when it comes to active listening. It’s the genuine absorption of what someone is saying to us that reinforces and communicates how seriously we’re taking it, or appreciate its importance.

Of course, there are many reasons to listen. It helps us to satisfy different physiological goals. We listen to alter our moods, stay alert, and figure stuff out — in humans, that’s been the case for pretty much as long as we’ve existed. The process starts when we receive auditory stimuli. Then, our brains have to interpret that stimulus. That’s enhanced by other senses — like sight — which help us better interpret what we’re hearing. That’s important. When someone is sharing information with us, our non-verbal reaction also communicates to that person how actively we’re listening.

Once we receive and interpret auditory signals, we follow a series of steps that consist of recalling, evaluating, and responding to the information we consume:

Hurier_Listening_Process.png

Source: Matthew Edward Dyson

All three of those steps are imperative to active listening. Numerous studies have discovered how listening triggers a widespread network of activity throughout the entire brain — and it’s why auditory stimuli is often strongly linked to memory.

When We Don’t Listen

Of course, we have to be paying attention in order to be able to recall, evaluate, and respond to what someone tells us. And even if we are, how we respond can send a variety of signals back to our conversational counterpart. Statements like, “I see,” or, “Cool,” for example, aren’t exactly active phrases. Rather, they exhibit a state of passive listening that communicates we hear the person, but probably don’t care.

And that’s not how anyone — let alone important people in your life, like your family or your boss — wants to be treated. Even if your significant other is telling you about his day, responding with something like, “Mm-hmm” doesn’t exactly send the message that you have great concern for what’s being said.

And even then, our intentions might be good. According to a coaching presentation created by Viorica Milea, there are many non-malicious explanations behind why we don’t listen. These are things like distractions, which abound in today’s device-centric world, and our tendency to start thinking ahead while the person is still talking — what Milea calls “judging,” which happens when we’ve preemptively “made assumptions” about what the person is going to say.

The Mutual Benefit of Active Listening

That’s why active listening is good for both parties in a conversation. It benefits the person speaking by helping to insure that she’s actually being heard. But it also benefits the listener — learning to put distractions and preemptive judgments (well-intended or not) aside will not only prevent you from missing important details, but also, can help teach you how to tune out unnecessary interruptions while focusing on other important tasks.

Practicing the incorporation of these phrases into conversations is a great way to get started. When someone is speaking to you, keep these in mind — if you feel your attention start to drift, or a notification appears on your phone, or you begin thinking ahead, come back to your mental inventory of these phrases to demonstrate and execute active listening.

6 Phrases to Demonstrate Active Listening

1) “Do you mean … ?”

Why

Sometimes, it seems like life is one long game of Telephone. Even if we interpreted something one way, the person who said it may have meant it completely differently.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re getting the full story from the person you’re listening to, and understanding it correctly. By asking for clarification, you’re not only encouraging more details from someone who might be timid about bringing something up, but also, you’re making sure you actually heard a statement as it was intended.

Alternatives

  • “I’m not sure I understand.”
  • “Could you tell me a bit more about that?”

2) “It sounds like … ”

Why

This phrase is another one that helps to provide clarification by demonstrating your empathy. But be careful with this one, and make sure you’re not telling your counterpart how she feels, but rather, phrasing it as an expression of how you interpret her emotions.

I have a tough time admitting when I’m upset about something, especially in a professional setting. But my manager happens to excel at active listening, and is very good at reading what I’m not saying in a conversation — and responding in kind. When I was disappointed about the outcome of a project, for example, I didn’t exactly say so, but she said, “It sounds like you’re feeling a little defeated.” I was, and having her say that to me out loud helped me take a proactive approach to the project moving forward.

Alternatives

  • “What I’m hearing is … “
  • “You seem a bit … ”

3) “Really?”

Why

This phrase is one that Milea helps to demonstrate encouragement during a conversation. It reminds the person speaking that you’re paying attention by encouraging them to elaborate on something they’ve said to you.

Alternatives

  • “When?”
  • “How?”
  • “You’re kidding.”

4) “I’ve noticed that … ”

Why

Here’s another term that shows how much attention you’re paying. By pointing out your observations about someone’s behavior or tendencies while she’s speaking, you’re not only fully absorbing her words — you’re also taking the non-verbal communication into consideration.

Instructors at the University of Central Florida use the example of, “I’ve just been noticing that when you talk about your conclusions, you smile. That makes me think you’re comfortable with the direction.” Making sure you know what someone means isn’t limited to the spoken word — you want to clarify what nonverbal behavior could indicate, too.

5) “Let me make sure I’ve got this right.”

Why

Another method of active listening is checking in with your counterpart to summarize what you’ve heard them say thus far. By repeating back something to the person you’re listening to, you’re not only demonstrating that you’ve been paying attention, but also, you’re further ensuring that you understand what the person actually means, and that you heard her correctly.

Alternatives

  • “These are the main points I’ve heard you make so far.”
  • “Let’s make sure I’m hearing you correctly.”
  • “Let’s pause to make sure we’re on the same page.”

6) “I’m sorry. That really sucks.”

Why

I joke about this one with my colleagues a lot. It goes back to the big idea of empathy and those occasions when, for just a moment, you want to have a pity party, rather than receiving proactive advice. Of course, you’re ready for that advice eventually, but not right away.

That’s why, when someone is sharing his frustrations with you, one of the most impactful things you can do is verbally acknowledge how crummy the situation is. Rather than invalidating the person’s emotions by immediately launching into suggestions for what she should do, you’re pausing to provide empathy, and to allow the person to work through what’s bothering him.

Alternatives

  • “I’m sorry you’re going through that.”
  • “What a crappy situation to be in. I’m sorry.”
  • “That’s rough. How can I help?”

Listen Carefully

We get it. You’ve got enough on your plate. There’s always a deadline, and there’s always somewhere you need to be. It can be hard to genuinely pay attention, especially when you’ve got a long to-do list that’s occupying your mental energy.

But as we’ve mentioned, active listening doesn’t just benefit your conversational counterpart — you also stand to gain from it. From making sure you don’t miss important details, to exercising focus for any important task, putting these phrases into practice can help you become a proactive, empathetic listener.

What are your go-to phrases to demonstrate active listening? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

How to Work with Influencers: The Ultimate Guide

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How much digital content do you consume on a daily basis?

It’s tough to put a number on that, isn’t it? Here’s an even tougher question: How much of that content do you genuinely trust — especially when it comes to an investment in a product or a service?

According to Twitter, if you really only trust your friends and family for this information, you’re part of the majority. But if you also have the highest trust in influencers for these recommendations, you’re far from alone — 49% of survey respondents are right there with you.

But what is an “influencer”? According to NeoReach, it’s “an individual with an online presence who has the potential to influence the opinions and behaviors of your target audience.” Because these folks — like bloggers and social media personalities — build a following over a long period of time by producing interesting, quality content, people begin to trust them. They’re relatable, and their opinions become respected. New Call-to-action

That’s why brands see the value of turning to influencers to reach or engage new audiences — it’s a way to broadcast their messages as told by an authoritative source that people actually pay attention to. And no matter your industry, there’s likely an opportunity for your brand to connect and collaborate with influencers. Below, we’ve outlined seven tactics to try.

7 Ways to Work with Influencers

1) Gifting Goods and Services

One of the easiest way to expose your brand to potential customers is to get it into the hands of the influencers it listens to. Identify bloggers who share the same aesthetic as your brand — if they love your gifted goods and services, that’s likely to give them a reason to share positive feedback about it with their readers and viewers. That makes research a crucial first step to finding an influencer, since you’ll want an influential partner with whose audience you’ll resonate. For example, if you work for a company that manufactures auto parts, it might not make sense to partner with a fashion blogger.

But whether you’re gifting a tour of your facility or free product, you’ll want to work with bloggers that produce high-quality content — the goal is to make the influential messaging about your brand highly shareable.

It’s important to note, however, that gifting goods and services doesn’t guarantee exposure. While many influencers will accept gifts, that doesn’t equate with a promise of editorial coverage. In fact, some prefer to be paid for coverage in addition to any gifts they receive — some influencers with followers in the millions, for example, receive an average of $100,000 for a earned post (that’s what it’s called when a brand receives, or earns a mention from an influencer). So if you’re new to influencer partnerships, or your budget is limited, don’t be afraid to start on a smaller scale.

Communication is imperative throughout the process of discovering and working with an influencer. If you don’t have a ton of merchandise to give away, get in touch with the blogger before sending out gifts to agree on specifics first. That way, if the person really wants to charge you, you can do some math on your end to determine the ROI of the partnership.

Here’s an example of this technique. When TomTom gifted influential “lifestyle and fitness enthusiasts” with its new fitness tracker, 47% of whom shared it, that helped the brand gain exposure from numerous posts:

Source: IMA

2) Sponsored Posts

Sponsored posts serve as a less labor-intensive way for brands to work with influencers — bloggers in particular. Essentially, a sponsored blog post is one that a blogger is paid to publish about a brand, on her own blog, in her own voice. And while you can supplement the influencer with important points you’d like her to cover in the post, writing the content in her own voice can help maintain a consistent appeal to her readers.

If the blogger is following FTC guidelines, however, she’ll have to include a small note somewhere in the post to indicate that the story was sponsored by the brand, but that the opinions expressed in the post are her own.

Partnering with bloggers on these types of posts can be great for gaining awareness and securing a few valuable links from authoritative domains.

Children’s book author Chiêu Anh Urban enlisted parenting bloggers to promote one of her activity books. Here’s an example of one such sponsored post from the blog Toddler Approved:

Chiêu Anh Urban.jpg

3) Product Reviews

While this technique is often a result of gifting, product reviews from influencers that align with your brand can serve as a powerful way to convince potential customers to buy your product or service. Remember, influencers have grown to become one of the most trusted online resources. And with 81% of shoppers conducting online research before making big purchases, the discovery of these reviews can — pardon the pun — influence their decisions. Here’s an example of how TechnologyAdvice reviewed accounting software platform Xero:

Again, merely sending your product to an influencer doesn’t guarantee coverage — you have to build communication and nurture the relationship. Also, make sure your brand will be portrayed in a positive light. While you can’t necessarily stop someone from producing a negative review of your product or service, you can get an idea of how a given influencer might talk about your brand by looking at her other reviews. If she’s generally not receptive to your type of product, then it might be best to look elsewhere.

4) Giveaways

At risk of sounding like a broken record: Sending products to an influencer, even for a giveaway, does not guarantee coverage. However, if an influencer agrees to work with you on a giveaway, it’s a great way to build excitement around your brand. After all, who doesn’t love free stuff?

It’s especially important here to partner with an influencer who aligns with your brand identity — if her audience isn’t a good fit for your product, there might not be a ton of enthusiasm around a chance to win something from you, even if it’s free. And when it come to deciding what to give away, we suggest a few guidelines:

  • Offer something of real value. You want to make it worth the audience’s time to enter.
  • Make sure it’s something you can afford to give away.
  • Remember that the influencer ultimately knows her audience better than you do, so be receptive to feedback regarding what she thinks you should be giving away.

As for the process of entering the giveaway, don’t make it too complicated for people to participate — but do require them to do something low-effort that somehow benefits your marketing goals. For example, if you want to increase your social media following on a specific channel, you can ask participants to post a photo on Instagram with a caption about the giveaway and a branded hashtag. Here’s an example of how the South Florida Lifestyle blog partnered with a number of brands on social media for a giveaway:

 

Summer Giveaway! HOW TO ENTER: 1.FOLLOW ALL OF US @south.florida.lifestyle @mumidesign @petite.chic.mom @active.sfl @me_and_kay @cocomingos @devonmariephotography @makeupbyrorylee @ourgirlsenrich 2.LIKE this photo on all accounts 3.TAG a friend and leave a COMMENT when you have completed the loop. Must be following ALL accounts in the loop to qualify. *Tagging of celebrity accounts, yourself and same person repeatedly, or other giveaway contestants will lead to disqualification. Must be 18+ to enter and have a US mailing address. This is not affiliated with Instagram in anyway and contestants must agree to Instagram’s terms of use. Giveaway ends Friday, June 2 at 6:30am. Winner will be messaged Friday night. . . . Lululemon Running hat, socks, glass water bottle from @active.sfl , large and small S’well Palm Beach Water Bottles and pool float from @south.florida.lifestyle ,set of 5 packing Cubes @mumidesign , $50 Nordstrom Gift Card from @petite.chic.mom , toddle dress and unisex baby onsies, teething toy from @cocomingos , girls bathing suit and necklace from @me_and_kay @devonmariephotography , makeup palette from @makeupbyrorylee , Dream book, pens, play makeup brushes and lip balm from @ourgirlsenrich . . #Giveaway #LoopGiveaway #FreePrizes #Shopgiveaway #SummerGiveaway #IGloops

A post shared by Active South Florida Lifestyle (@active.sfl) on May 31, 2017 at 3:30am PDT

If an influencer wants to be paid in exchange for including your brand in a giveaway, think about the work required on her end — she has to tease it, promote it, track responses, and pick a winner. Of course, compensation could be negotiable, but if this person has the right kind of reach, don’t immediately turn away a potential partnership because of the cost.

5) Influencer Competitions

Then, there’s another kind of contest — the kind that invites the influencers themselves to participate in a competition. The prize? That can be anything ranging from exclusive brand features on your channels, a chance to travel (on your dime, of course ) somewhere on behalf of the brand as an ambassador, or the opportunity to sit on a “best of” list, just to name a few options.

But remember, the best influencers get approached a lot, so be prepared to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Go equipped with information about your own reach, audience, and the ways that participation in a contest ultimately benefits the influencer.

Skype executed a promotion like this one with its “Your City, Your Passion” competition. Influencers around the world were encouraged to share why they’re so passionate about their respective cities, with the hope of winning a Skype session with a famed expert within their given field — for example, Epic Mealtime creator Darren Morenstein.

6) Guest Posts

When it comes to influential bloggers, one of the strongest ways to reach their respective audiences is by contributing a guest post on their publications. Not only can it help to establish you as an industry expert — one that’s legitimate enough to earn a byline on a highly-trusted platform — but also, it’s a way to gain backlinks from a high-authority site.

Again, this approach requires some research to find out whether or not a given blogger even accepts guest posts. Once you find one who does, the site might have editorial guidelines. Read those closely — editors are extremely busy and likely receive a high volume of pitches.

Back when his company was in its early stages, Videofruit founder Bryan Harris earned quite a name for himself after penning a guest post on the influential OkDork blog. According to Entrepreneur, Harris saw “astronomical” results within the same day his post was published:

  • A 500% increase in pageviews
  • A 600% increase in unique pageviews
  • A 6% decrease in bounce rate

7) Affiliate Marketing Programs

As a marketer, you may have come across the term “global affiliate network.” According to Rakuten Marketing, it’s essentially a system to “connect advertisers with publishers to reach new audiences and influence repeat purchases.” In other words, it helps brands that join the network connect with the influencers that best align with their products and services.

Many of these programs work on a cost-per-sale or cost-per-acquisition model, which means that you could incur a cost when you earn coverage from an influencer. Each network is different, so it might be worthwhile to explore those that have been named as top-ranked, like this list from mThink.

Invest in Influencer Marketing

There is a shift in how marketers are reaching consumers. With so much digital “noise,” especially from brands, customers like the marketing they come across to personally resonate with them — maybe that’s why, for example, the open rate for personalized emails is 6.2% higher than those that aren’t.

And that’s why consumers also turn to people that they know — or, at least, are familiar with, like influencers — for product and service recommendations. There’s reason to invest in partnering with content creators who fall within these trusted resources, to build awareness of your brand and what you produce. The options are plenty, but the key is finding the right partner, with the right audience.

How have you worked with influencers? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: How to Work with Influencers: The Ultimate Guide
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YouTube SEO: How to Optimize Videos for YouTube Search

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When I was just a wee lass and HubSpot was first starting to make a name for itself, inbound marketing was a brand new idea. Marketers were learning that they couldn’t just publish a high volume of content — it also had to be high-quality and optimized in ways that made it as discoverable as possible through search engines.

And once upon a time, that content was largely limited to the written word. Eleven years later, that’s no longer the case — a comprehensive content strategy includes written work like blogs and ebooks, as well as media like podcasts, visual assets, and videos.

That last part — video — continues to be on the rise. According to the 2017 State of Inbound, marketers named video as a huge disruptor. “I mostly write content right now,” one respondent said, “but I’m afraid it may begin to diminish more and more with video.” Check out our interactive guide to creating high-quality videos for social  media here.

And with the rise of other content formats comes the need to optimize them for search. One increasingly important place to do that is on YouTube, which is a video distribution website used by the masses (HubSpot included).

But how does that work? What are the steps you need to take to optimize your YouTube channel for search? We’ve outlined some major tips below. And if you’re short on time, no problem — check out the video summary here.

7 YouTube Search Optimization Tips

1) Title

When we search for videos, one of the first things that our eyes are drawn to is the title. That’s often what determines whether or not the viewer will click to watch your video, so the title should not only be compelling, but also, clear and concise.

It also helps if the title closely matches what the viewer is searching for. Research conducted by Backlinko found that videos with an exact keyword match in the title have a slight advantage over those that don’t. Here’s a linear representation of those findings:

exact-match-title.png
Source: Backlinko

So while “using your target keyword in your title may help you rank for that term,” report author Brian Dean explains, “the relationship between keyword-rich video titles and rankings is” weak, at best.

Finally, make sure to keep your title fairly short — HubSpot Content Strategist Alicia Collins recommends limiting it to 60 characters to help keep it from getting cut off in results pages.

2) Description

First things first: According to Google, the official character limit for YouTube video descriptions is 1,000 characters. And while it’s okay to use all of that space, remember that your viewer most likely came here to watch a video, not to read a story.

If you do choose to write a longer description, keep in mind that YouTube only displays the first two or three lines of text — that amounts to about 100 characters. After that point, viewers have to click “show more” to see the full description. That’s why we suggest front-loading the description with the most important information, like CTAs or crucial links.

As for optimizing the video itself, it doesn’t hurt to add a transcript of the video, especially for those who have to watch it without volume. That said, Backlinko’s research also found no correlation between descriptions that were optimized for a certain keyword and the rankings for that term.

keyword-in-description.png
Source: Backlinko

Dean is careful not to encourage ditching an optimized description altogether, though. “An optimized description helps you show up in the suggested videos sidebar,” he writes, “which is a significant source of views for most channels.”

3) Tags

YouTube’s official Creator Academy suggests using tags to let viewers know what your video is about. But you’re not just informing your viewers — you’re also informing YouTube itself. Dean explains that the platform uses tags “to understand the content and context of your video.”

That way, YouTube figures out how to associate your video with similar videos, which can broaden your content’s reach. But choose your tags widely. Don’t use an irrelevant tag because you think it’ll get you more views — in fact, Google might penalize you for that. And similar to your description, lead with the most important keywords, including a good mix of those that are common and more long-tail (as in, those that answer a question like “how do I?”).

4) Category

Once you upload a video, you can categorize it under “Advanced settings.” Choosing a category is another way to group your video with similar content on YouTube.

It might not be as simple as it looks. In fact, YouTube’s Creator Academy suggests that marketers go through a comprehensive process to determine which category each video belongs in. It’s helpful, the guide writes, “to think about what is working well for each category” you’re considering by answering questions like:

  • Who are the top creators within the category? What are they known for, and what do they do well?
  • Are there any patterns between the audiences of similar channels within a given category?
  • Do the videos within a similar category have share qualities like production value, length, or format?

5) Thumbnail

Your video thumbnail is the main image viewers see when scrolling through a list of video results. Along with the video’s title, that thumbnail sends a signal to the viewer about the video’s content, so it can impact the number of clicks and views your video receives.

While you can always pick one of the thumbnail options auto-generated by YouTube, we highly recommend uploading a custom thumbnail. The Creator Academy reports that “90% of the best performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails,” recommending the use of images that are 1280×720 pixels — representing a 16:9 ratio — that are saved as 2MB or smaller .jpg, .gif, .bmp, or .png files. If you follow those parameters, it can help to ensure that your thumbnail appears with equally high quality across multiple viewing platforms.

It’s important to note that your YouTube account has to be verified in order to upload a custom thumbnail image. To do that, visit youtube.com/verify and follow the instructions listed there.

6) SRT Files (Subtitles & Closed Captions)

Like much of the other text we’ve discussed here, subtitles and closed captions can boost YouTube search optimization by highlighting important keywords.

In order to add subtitles or closed captions to your video, you’ll have to upload a supported text transcript or timed subtitles file. For the former, you can also directly enter transcript text for a video so that it auto-syncs with the video.

Adding subtitles follows a similar process, however, you can limit the amount of text you want displayed. For either, head to your video manager then click on “Videos” under “Video Manager.” Find the video you want to add subtitles or closed captioning to, and click the drop-down arrow next to the edit button. Then, choose “Subtitles/CC.” You can then select how you’d like to add subtitles or closed captioning.

Google has provided great instructions on how to do that here, as well as in the video below.

7) Cards and End Screens

Cards

When you’re watching a video, have you ever seen a small white, circular icon with an “i” in the center appear in the corner, or a translucent bar of text asking you to subscribe? Those are Cards, which Creator Academy describes as “preformatted notifications that appear on desktop and mobile which you can set up to promote your brand and other videos on your channel.”

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Source: Google

You can add up to five cards to a single video, and there are six types:

  1. Channel cards that direct viewers to another channel.
  2. Donation cards to encourage fundraising on behalf of U.S. nonprofit organizations.
  3. Fan funding to ask your viewers to help support the creation of your video content.
  4. Link cards, which direct viewers to an external site, approved crowdfunding platform, or an approved merchandise selling platform.
  5. Poll cards, which pose a question to viewers and allow them to vote for a response.
  6. Video or playlist cards, which link to other YouTube content of this kind.

For detailed steps on adding a card to your video, follow these official steps from Google, or check out the video below.

End Screens

End screens display similar information as cards, but as you may have guessed, they don’t display until a video is over, and are a bit more visually detailed in nature. A good example is the overlay with a book image and a visual link to view more on the video below:

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Source: Jamie Oliver on YouTube

There are a number of detailed instructions for adding end screens depending on what kind of platform you want to design them for, as well as different types of content allowed for them by YouTube. Google outlines the details for how to optimize for all of those considerations here.

It’s important to note that YouTube is always testing end screens to try to optimize the viewer experience, so there are times when “your end screen, as designated by you, may not appear.” Take these factors into account as you decide between using either cards or end screens.

It’s Worth It to Optimize

These factors may seem a bit complicated and time-consuming, but remember: The time people spend watching YouTube on their TV has more than doubled year over year. There’s an audience to be discovered there, and when you optimize for YouTube, your chances of being discovered increase.

Of course, it all begins with good content, so make sure your viewers have something high-quality and relevant to watch when they find you.

How have you optimized for YouTube search? Let us know in the comments.

seo myths 2017

Source: YouTube SEO: How to Optimize Videos for YouTube Search
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

7 Leadership Resources for Any Stage of Your Career

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Learning some things in life is relatively straightforward. Take knitting, for example — that’s typically as simple as procuring some yarn and needles and searching for a how-to video on getting started. Sure, your work might look a little haphazard at first, but the steps are fairly intuitive.

Learning to lead others, on the other hand, isn’t so linear.

There’s always the option to pick up a leadership book or turn to articles on the topic to get started, but a start is all it will be. You’ve got to read, listen, ask questions, put things into practice, make mistakes, and course-correct — only then, you might be at a “good enough” level. Download our leadership guide for actionable advice & guidelines from  HubSpot's Dharmesh Shah. 

But everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re looking to embark on a leadership development path, you might also be looking for some of the best materials to help you along the journey. We’ve got you covered — below are some of our favorite podcasts, tools, tips, and resources to become a better leader.

7 Leadership Resources for Marketers

1) Podcasts

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Source: NPR

Depending on the day, one method of consuming information might be better than another. If you take the train into work and the ride is quieter than usual one morning, for example, it might be a great day to catch up on a leadership book. But if you drive, and traffic is particularly bad, it’s probably better (not to mention, safer) to listen to a podcast episode about leadership than to read a book about it.

That’s one of the reasons why we consistently keep a few leadership podcasts downloaded and ready to listen to. Here are three of our favorites:

TED Radio Hour

Around here, we love a good TED talk. But trying to pick just one out of volumes of valuable presentations is as tricky as trying to pick one thing to watch on Netflix, am I right? That’s what makes the TED Radio Hour podcast so valuable. It takes some of the most intriguing TED talk topics — like big data, making our work more meaningful, or even forgiveness — and builds episodes based on them.

The Growth Show

Hosted by HubSpot’s VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson and CMO Kipp Bodnar, The Growth Show is an exploration of all things relating to business growth. Anderson and Bodnar take turns at the helm, welcoming guests to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of growth. From stories of epic failure to the even better recovery that followed it, Anderson and Bodnar interview guests who share some of the most intriguing organizational, cultural, conceptual, and team insights.

StartUp

As the name suggests, this product is a self-described “podcast about what it’s really like to get a business off the ground.” And no matter where you are in your career, there are still leadership lessons to be learned from entrepreneurs or beginners, especially if you need a back-to-basics reminder of how to get started. Plus, the topics — like balancing business and family life, or stories about inventors — are just plain interesting and provide solid fodder to get your wheels turning in the morning.

2) Public Speaking Help

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Public speaking isn’t exactly a requirement for being a strong leader, but as you progress in your career, it might become part of your job (think: presenting at large team meetings or to a board), and it’s a skill that can help set you apart from the pack.

But if public speaking sounds like a worse experience than undergoing a root canal, then there’s a chance you’ve wished for a formula to make it as simple as possible. That’s why we love speaking.io — it’s a near one-stop-shop for public speaking tips. Upon arriving at the site, it appears to be an unconventional resource collection for the five major steps of presenting:

  1. Plan out your talk.
  2. Design and build your slides.
  3. Prep for the big day.
  4. Deliver and do your thing.
  5. React and reflect on what just happened.

Plus, if you want newer, more detailed tips and information, the site also contains a blog with advice on things like using images, sharing presentations online, and dealing with nervousness.

3) Books (On the Stuff They Don’t Teach You in Business School)

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Source: brenebrown.com

Sometimes, it feels like we have to master everything to be a leader. We have to learn how to manage projects, delegate tasks, and analyze outcomes. But then, there are the leadership lessons that don’t always get the biggest headlines, like learning to be empathetic, accountable, and how to embrace vulnerability.

That last one, while a scary word, is something that we’ve found some of the most exceptional leaders do. That’s why we love Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability,” she writes, “we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

This book, in particular, dives into years of research on why vulnerability can be an asset to leaders. After all, taking risks requires some degree of becoming vulnerable, and strong leaders know when to take calculated risks. But that doesn’t just apply to work — Brown’s work also explores how that vulnerability can be an advantage in other areas of life.

4) The Radical Candor Framework

Think about the hardest piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten. Chances are, it was tough to hear, but you were ultimately better off because of it.

That’s exactly what happened to Kim Scott. After an important presentation, Scott’s boss, Sheryl Sandberg — yes, the one who wrote Lean In — had some feedback. Harsh feedback. The kind of feedback that stings. But because Scott knew that Sandberg was coming from a compassionate place when giving the feedback, Scott accepted it, moved on, and became better.

Scott took this pivotal interaction and used it to develop a framework for giving better feedback at work — the kind that embraces brutal honesty delivered with profound empathy. It’s worthy advice for leaders at any point in their respective careers.

Fun fact: We once had the pleasure of hosting Kim Scott on The Growth Show. If you’re interested in hearing more about her perspective on leadership, check out her episode below.

5) Real-time Feedback

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Speaking of feedback, did that last resource make you crave receiving some yourself? After all, authentic, constructive criticism is an excellent supplement to the advice doled out by books, blogs, podcasts, and frameworks. Enter CareerLark: a Slack bot that helps you seek out on-the-fly “micro-feedback” on the skills you want to improve.

Here’s how it works. In the example provided by CareerLark’s product explanation, an employee wants to get feedback on his weekly analytics updates. Using the Slack bot, he can ping his boss to get real-time feedback on how he’s doing. She’ll then receive a message like this one:

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From there, Monica can either answer using one of the emojis provided, or send a more detailed response, as per below:

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Micro-feedback in real-time? Great for your skill development — and, it can provide your boss with good practice in providing concise commentary.

6) Advice From Real People

Sometimes, using a Slack bot to get advice just doesn’t cut it. We all need feedback from a real human being, and on occasion, it can be the most enlightening to get it from someone outside your company or industry.

So when you’re looking to step outside your “bubble” for input, here are a few apps that can help.

Real Talk

By The Learning Partnership, a Canadian advocacy organization for public education, the Real Talk App (available on iOS and Android) provides “unfiltered” advice from a broad range of professionals at various career stages — everyone from sound designers to freelance creatives. These individuals answer questions that many of us have as we begin to explore different work options, like whether or not advanced education is worth the money, or how you can make a career change.

Officehours

Sometimes, it can be tough to figure out who to turn to for advice. That’s what makes apps like Officehours so valuable — this one, in particular, helps you find an expert (or “advisor”) for 10 minutes of free one-on-one advice.

The advisors appear to hold a broad range of expertise, from design to entrepreneurship, data science and more. Check out the video below to learn more:

Mara Mentor

If you’re a budding entrepreneur struggling to find a mentor in your industry, check out this tool — it was designed to provide an “exchange of ideas, guidance, learning and connecting with like-minded people.”

Not only does Mara Mentor (available for iOS and Android) offer a platform for connecting professionals and entrepreneurs with mentors, but also, it provides industry news and a digital networking platform that connects you with other entrepreneurs to share knowledge and experiences. Plus, it’s global — so no matter where you are, you can connect with others for professional support.

7) Online Courses

We’ll admit that many of the sources on this list largely pertain to management, communication, and finding a mentor. But that’s not that only way to advance or make changes in your career. Sometimes, it’s about becoming really, really good at a certain thing that your job requires — or something that the job you want requires. And for that to happen, you just need to hunker down and learn it.

An online course can be a great way to do that. Finding the right class depends on the skill you want to develop, but here are a few places we recommend for getting started, especially when it comes to marketing-related skills.

HubSpot Academy

If you want a deep dive into some of the most important aspects of marketing today, check out the HubSpot Academy. One of the most popular resources available there is our free Inbound Certification.

Designlab

Want to improve or sharpen your design skills? Check out Designlab. You’ll be given real assignments to build your knowledge — and a mentor to help you through each one.

Codeacademy

More free stuff? You bet. In fact, you can learn to code for free with Codecademy, which is a particularly helpful resource if you learn best by doing — lessons are taught by way of both instruction and hands-on experience.

Lynda

Okay, so this one isn’t free — subscriptions start at $19.99/month — but if there’s a professional skill you want to advance, chances are, Lynda has a course for it. Created by LinkedIn, it offers classes in everything from Excel, to audio production, to software development.

What’s Next?

So, let’s say you’ve taken full advantage of the resources above. You’ve learned a lot and even gained some introspection. But if you’re still stuck, fear not — we’ve all been there.

If you’re at a loss for what kinds of skills you want to develop, or if you’ve realized that you’re not sure you even want to be a leader in your particular field, then there’s a chance you just might not be sure what to do next. That’s why we created The Next Five: a free assessment that can help you identify the next step in your career.

And because many of us dread the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” — or simply can’t answer it — this resource comes with even more processes to come up with a response on your own time. Because the only thing better than general, yet valuable leadership resources, are those tailored to your specific situation.

What are some of the most helpful leadership resources you’ve found? Let us know in the comments.

free ebook: leadership lessons

Source: 7 Leadership Resources for Any Stage of Your Career
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

How to Host an Instagram Takeover in 7 Easy Steps

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Influencer marketing is a trendy topic these days, but it doesn’t require a lot of work or a ton of money to harness the power of influencers on your brand’s social media channels.

One of the lowest-effort and most organic ways to work with another person or brand to advance your marketing goals is by hosting an Instagram takeover.

Download our essential guide to Instagram for business for more helpful tips  and tricks.

Not sure what we’re talking about? Instagram takeovers involve a person or brand posting on your Instagram channel to give followers a peek at new and unique content from another perspective. Here’s an example of our friends at WeWork taking over our Instagram account:

In this post, we’ll dive into how to host your own Instagram takeover to drive engagement, brand awareness, and more positive outcomes for your brand.

What’s an Instagram Takeover?

Instagram takeovers consist of one user taking over another Instagram account temporarily and sharing original content with their audience. Takeovers usually take place between influencer and brand Instagram accounts within the same industries or geographic locations. For example, here’s a post from a one-day Instagram takeover when we hosted Wistia on HubSpot’s Instagram and Instagram Stories:

Other types of Instagram takeovers can include:

  • Employee takeovers
  • Customer or community member takeovers
  • Event takeovers
  • Product or offer promotions

Instagram takeovers are mutually beneficial for the guest Instagrammer and the host account. The host can bring valuable new content to their followers without having to create it themselves, and the guest is able to reach an entirely new audience by posting on another account. Plus, Instagram takeovers help cultivate good-faith relationships between influencers that can create inroads for future collaboration and cross-promotion.

Now, let’s dive into how to get started with your Instagram takeover.

How to Host an Instagram Takeover

1) Choose what you want to accomplish.

It’s important to determine what you want to get out of an Instagram takeover before choosing a guest and executing. Ideally, your Instagram takeover will achieve multiple positive results, but choosing a primary goal of the campaign will help determine which type of guest to invite.

Instagram takeover goals could include:

  • Increasing brand awareness. This can be measured by the number of new followers of the Instagram account as a result of the takeover.
  • Promoting a product, event, or offer. This can be measured by the number of event registrations, offer redemptions, or lead form submissions as a result of the takeover.
  • Driving engagement within the Instagram community. This can be measured by the number of likes, comments, video and Story views, and link clicks as a result of the takeover.

2) Pick your guest Instagrammer.

Determining the goals of your Instagram takeover will help you decide who to choose to host it. For example, we wanted to increase brand awareness and promote working at HubSpot, so we hosted a takeover by our recruiting team on our Instagram Story:

But we don’t always do employee takeovers. There are a few types of guest Instagrammers you can invite to create content for your takeover:

  • Influencers within your industry
  • Employees at your company
  • Community members or customers

Now, this isn’t to say that these Instagram takeover guests can only accomplish one of the goals we outlined in the previous section. But generally speaking, we recommend choosing your guest with the most effective strategy in mind.

  • Influencers will draw their audience of followers to your Instagram with their endorsement of your brand, so they’re the best fit if your primary goal is to increase brand awareness by growing followers.
  • Employees will attract interest from their friends and colleagues who want a behind-the-scenes look at what they do at work every day. They’re the best fit if your primary goal is to drive engagement on Instagram.
  • Community members and customers will post enthusiastically about your brand and show the value of your product. They’re the best fit if your primary goal is to promote a product, event, offer, sign-up, or download.

Again, these goals aren’t mutually exclusive. Ideally, the content your guest creates will be highly engaging, shareable, and compelling to the viewer. 

3) Decide on the content format and takeover logistics.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to accomplish and who will host your takeover, it’s time to nail down the specifics of how the takeover will run. Below are our suggestions of questions to answer when you meet with your takeover host:

  1. When are you hosting the Instagram takeover? Will it last one day, or one week?
  2. Who will manage the account? Will the guest get access to your Instagram credentials, or will they send you content and captions to post on their behalf?
  3. How many times per day will you post takeover content? If you have an optimal publishing schedule in mind, what times per day will the host need to post?
  4. What hashtags will be used? Will you create a custom hashtag to promote the takeover? Is there a maximum amount of hashtags you want the guest to use in any given caption?
  5. Which types of content will be shared during the takeover? Will the guest post photos, videos, Instagram Stories, or live videos? Will they post a combination of these formats?
  6. How will both the guest and the host promote the takeover on Instagram? Will you agree to promotion on Instagram or other channels leading up to the event?
  7. Are there any guardrails? Is there anything the guest shouldn’t record or mention over the course of the takeover?

Once the details of the takeover are nailed down, decide how you’ll measure success over the course of the event.

4) Determine metrics to track during the takeover.

Depending on the goals of your Instagram takeover, some of these metrics will be more important than others. Below are the metrics we recommend tracking over the course of your takeover:

  • # of new followers
  • # of likes
  • # of comments
  • # of mentions
  • # of direct messages
  • # of Instagram Story views
  • # of live video viewers
  • # of Instagram Story clicks
  • # of offer redemptions/app downloads (if you promote a landing page)
  • # of attendees or sign-ups (if you promote an event)
  • Total social referral traffic to your website

Qualitative metrics to keep track of could also include positive comments on Instagram.

5) Promote the takeover across multiple platforms.

Once you’ve figured out the details of your Instagram takeover, it’s time to start getting people excited about it. 

Start promoting your upcoming Instagram takeover within a day or two before the event. If there are any contests, giveaways, or other incentives for people to follow along, make those clear in your promotions.

Promote the takeover on Instagram — especially if the takeover is happening within Instagram Stories or Instagram Live, and you want to drive visitors to view those spots within the app.

Promote the takeover on other social media channels to get as many eyes on your campaign as possible — especially if your brand’s Instagram account isn’t as developed or engaged as other channels.

Here’s how we promoted an employee Instagram takeover last year:

And here’s how the employee promoted it on her Twitter handle:

The host and the guest should promote the takeover on a few of their channels leading up to the event to get both audiences as engaged and excited as possible. 

6) Launch the takeover.

On the day of the takeover, it’s all systems go.

Make sure you have one team member monitoring comments and one team member uploading content to Instagram (if applicable). You can now upload content from desktop computers in addition to the mobile app to make the process easier from the office.

Throughout the day, cross-promote content that the guest is posting on their channels to help draw new people to your own Instagram takeover event.

Make sure to communicate when the takeover is starting and ending. Note in captions when the first and last posts are happening so viewers aren’t confused or abruptly left in the lurch, wondering if there’s more content forthcoming. 

7) Analyze the results.

Once the takeover is over, analyze how it performed, and use those learnings to determine how (or if) you’ll do your next takeover differently. Here are some questions to ask in your post-mortem analysis:

  1. Did we achieve our goal? Did you earn more Instagram followers, achieve high levels of engagement, or get visitors to sign up for your offer?
  2. Did we achieve secondary goals? Did the takeover result in other net benefits for your brand and your business?
  3. Was the takeover worthwhile? Did it save you time and energy creating your own content, or did it create extra work? Did it drive a push of traffic and engagement, or did numbers remain mostly the same?

Even if the takeover doesn’t drive hard numbers for your business’s bottom line, takeovers are authentic and real, and they provide an inside look at an aspect of your brand or community followers don’t normally see. Social media is about being social, so pay attention to qualitative feedback, too. If commenters respond positively to the takeover, take their feedback and use it for ideating future Instagram campaigns.

Now that you’re armed with a simple checklist for launching your takeover, follow up with us if our suggestions bring you success. For more ideas on how to drive results for your brand, follow us on Instagram, and download our guide to Instagram for business here.

Has your brand ever hosted an Instagram takeover? Share with us in the comments below.

Register for HubSpot's Free Inbound Marketing Course

Source: How to Host an Instagram Takeover in 7 Easy Steps
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

9 Inbound Marketing Stats You Need to Know in 2017 [New Data]

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The inbound movement has always been about one thing: being relevant and truly helpful to your audience.

This approach shouldn’t change, but as technology and internal company relationships change, marketers and salespeople must learn how to adapt to better serve their customers.

To better understand how our relationships with consumers and coworkers are changing, we collected data from more than 6,300 marketers and salespeople from around the globe, which we’ve compiled in the 2017 State of Inbound report. It examines the relationship between company leadership and employees, details on collaboration between marketing and sales teams, and a look at what the industry’s foremost marketers are adding to their strategy in the coming year.

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Check out the full report here, or view some of the most interesting highlights below.

9 Stats You Need to Know From the 2017 State of Inbound Report

1) 68% of inbound marketers believe their organization’s marketing strategy is effective. [Tweet this]

Last year, we started to examine marketers’ thoughts on their organizations’ marketing strategy and found that inbound marketers are much more likely to be satisfied with their organization’s approach.

We’re happy to report that this trend continued. 68% of inbound marketers believe their organization’s marketing strategy is effective. However, the majority of outbound marketers (52%) do not think their strategy is effective.

2) 1/3 of marketers think outbound marketing tactics are overrated. [Tweet this]

It’s not simply the effectiveness of the inbound philosophy that encourages us, but the success of inbound when compared to alternative methods. Each year, marketers tell us that outbound practices are overrated.

While we admit we might be a bit biased, when we cut the data, marketers agreed. According to this year’s data, 32% of marketers rank outbound marketing practices such as paid advertising as the top waste of time and resources.

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3) C-level executives and individual contributors disagree about the effectiveness of their organizations’ marketing strategy. [Tweet this]

Over the years, we’ve continued to examine the relationship between marketers and salespeople. This year, we discovered an interesting trend in the data: Company leadership and individual contributor employees are struggling under a growing corporate chasm.

This means that leadership and employees often view their company, its performance, and its future very differently. For example, while 69% of C-level executives believe their organizations’ marketing strategies are effective, only 55% of individual contributors agree. Leaders who want their business to grow must learn how to effectively communicate the organization’s vision and goals with their employees.

4) Marketers struggle most with metrics-driven challenges. [Tweet this]

Marketers find tracking and making sense of their metrics a challenge. This year, 63% of marketers admit that their top challenge is generating enough traffic and leads. This is followed by 40% who struggle proving the ROI of marketing activities and 28% who are trying to secure enough budget.

All three of these top challenges are metrics-driven. Without the proper tools to track concrete campaign results, these areas will continue to be a struggle.

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5) Organizations with an SLA are more than 3X as likely to be effective. [Tweet this]

When we began publishing this report nine years ago, much of our data revolved around the adoption of inbound marketing. As the message spread, we began to see why it’s crucial for both marketing and sales teams to adopt the inbound methodology together. One of the main ways this is done is through a service-level agreement (SLA).

Despite the fact that only 22% of organizations say they have a tightly-aligned SLA, the benefits of having one are clear: 81% of marketers with as SLA think their marketing strategy is effective. In fact, there is no combination of factors more strongly correlated with marketing success than being both inbound and having an SLA.

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6) 38% of salespeople say getting a response from prospects is getting harder. [Tweet this]

While marketers struggle with tracking the metrics of their campaigns, salespeople admit that getting a response from prospects is a growing challenge. However, as you dive deeper into the data, you see the problem starts long before salespeople begin contacting prospects.

38% of salespeople say that they struggle most with prospecting. While there is an abundance of new technology and platforms to help salespeople connect and develop relationships with prospects, many are finding it difficult to incorporate this technology into their daily routine. In fact, 19% of salespeople say they’re struggling to incorporate social media in their sales process, and 13% say using sales technologies is now harder than it used to be.

7) Marketers think video and messaging apps have the potential to disrupt. [Tweet this]

As marketers prepare for the future, many plan to use a variety of content publishing platforms. In the past, content marketers poured their efforts into their email, website, and blog strategies. But with the rising trend of content decentralization, marketers are now seeing the benefit of publishing on a variety of channels.

In our study, marketers are paying more attention to video’s global appeal, with 48% planning on investing in YouTube and 39% looking to add Facebook video to their strategy. In addition, many marketers are experimenting with messaging apps, while others continue to focus on more visual platforms such as Instagram.

But don’t think the age of the blog is over. 53% of respondents say blog content creation is one of their top inbound marketing priorities.

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8) 45% of salespeople say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry. [Tweet this]

Getting a response from prospects is not the only challenge salespeople are facing. According to our 2017 data, 45% of salespeople say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry. Another 23% of salespeople say their biggest challenge using their CRM is manual data entry.

The more time salespeople spend on data entry, the less time they have to do what they are skilled at: closing deals. Not only is manual data entry time consuming, it can also be detrimental to the business. Storing contacts in an unorganized way or not properly using a CRM can lead to a disjointed sales strategy. Businesses should look to sales tools that include automation, integrate with their other platforms, and provide insight into the full customer journey.

9) Marketers and salespeople don’t see eye to eye on the quality of marketing-sourced leads. [Tweet this]

We know there’s a disconnect between marketing and sales teams around the definition of a quality lead, but this year’s report shows a drastic gap.

59% of marketers say they provide salespeople with very high-quality leads, but only 25% of salespeople agree. In fact, the majority of salespeople — from the C-suite to individual contributors — rank marketing leads last, behind referrals and sales-sourced leads. This data continues to highlight the importance of SLAs.

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Want more data-backed insights? This is just a preview of the State of Inbound report. Download the report for free to discover how inbound marketing and sales is evolving.

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

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Source: 9 Inbound Marketing Stats You Need to Know in 2017 [New Data]
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

Creative Work Relies on Failure

Everyone wants to be creative, yet many of us are too fearful to pursue our most creative ideas. Why? Our fearful reaction is not a matter of choice — it’s often a knee-jerk reaction that can be attributed to our biology.

According to Adobe’s State of Create report, “At work, there is tension between creativity and productivity.” That could have something to do with previous research indicating that there’s a natural association of uncertainty with ideas labeled as “creative,” and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

So when you’re pursuing a creative path, this hurdle can feel insurmountable. How do you tackle and, ultimately, dismantle it?

Creativity vs. Fear of Failure

In my experience — and that of many creative professionals — the most familiar form of fear come is really that of failure. It’s a hesitancy to branch outside the norm and risk exposing yourself to the judgment of others. But that fear alone is not what inhibits your path to creativity. Not acknowledging is what’s truly damaging. Nelson Mandela summarized that notion quite well: 

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

The traditional narrative about the creative process tends to leave out fear. We hear about and romanticize the lone genius’ bursts of inspiration but that isn’t always accurate. As David and Tom Kelley note in Creative Confidence, “A widely held myth suggests that creative geniuses rarely fail.” They go on to cite UC Davis Professor of Psychology Keith Simonton, who found that many of the world’s most famous creative people — like composer Wolfgang Mozart and scientist Charles Darwin don’t give up at the first sign of failure. Rather, they keep experimenting until they find what works.

That’s one of the things that makes fear a necessary and important part of creative work — learning how to work with it. Unfortunately, in many organizations, fear tends to dominate, often stifling what could have been some of our most creative work. Only 4 in 10 employees would even describe themselves as creative, and out of those who do, less than half think they’re “living up to their creative potential.” Those are forms of fear, and even if you’re not aware of it, you’ve likely let it take control before. 

But how do you recognize it? Here are some familiar “traps” you might be falling into.

Letting Fear Hinder Your Creativity

Scenario

In the middle of a brainstorm, someone pitches an off-the-wall idea that the whole team thinks is edgy and hilarious. These ideas are often followed by a flurry of enthusiastic statements that start with things like, “what if we….” or, “imagine if…”. Despite the team’s excitement, you decide the client will think it’s too offbeat, so you pitch your safer — a.k.a., less creative — plan B.

When you focus on what seems like the safer path and make decisions purely based on risk-avoidance, you lose sight of supporting your actual objective. That’s common in group dynamics, and even has a name: Groupthink, which occurs “when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation,” according to Psychology Today. It’s often masked as rational thinking, but playing it safe is actually the enemy of good creative work — the more you stay in the same place, the less effective your work becomes. Conversely, doing good creative work requires comfort with risk.

Letting Fear Dictate Your Creativity

Scenario

Your competitor releases a new product or service, or updates its branding/website, thereby staking its claim as the industry leader. Your fear of being outshined prompts a response focused solely on beating your competition, instead of doing what’s going to benefit your customers — and therefore, your business — the most.

While most people are aware that their respective brands must constantly innovate and evolve, letting fear control your efforts is also dangerous. When fear fuels your motivation and objectives, your work can become less meaningful due to a lack of passion or enthusiasm behind it. Plus, spending an unbalanced amount of time trying to keep up on every trend saps your resources and focus. When you succumb to fear, you often end up paying the price in the long run, with results like a bad user experience or looking like a copycat. As Karen Martin wrote in her book The Outstanding Organization, “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”

Why You Need Failure

Yes, there is a right way to fail. When you creatively experiment — just as Mozart and Darwin did — there are times that you will fail. But when you fail in this manner, you learn from it. For this reason, it is important to accept and even honor your creative failures. View them not as a hindrance to creative success, but as a powerful conduit that gets you closer to your goal next time around. Accept that failure is an option, and one that you are quite capable of recovering from, with the right perspective.

In my experience, the only way to overcome your fear — or at least prevent it from sabotaging your day-to-day — is to reframe it. When you think of the framework for failure, replace the word “failure” with “learn.” That approach encourages confidence and a willingness to learn, which are vital for high-quality creative work.

At my company, C5, our vision is to help build a world where everyone can have a healthy and fulfilled life. We take this mission seriously in the work we create, the clients we work with, and the way we interact with each other. But “healthy” and “fulfilled” don’t have to translate to “rainbows and sunshine.” Fulfillment really comes from the fruit of your labor, which only grows through hard work and, sometimes, results that you weren’t hoping for. Knowing that, we believe that sometimes rising to the challenge is its own reward.

In our organization, we are pursuing an effort to remove unnecessary sources of fear and anxiety from how we approach our work. Letting our creativity come to front doesn’t mean we do things flippantly, take uncalculated risks, or play roulette. But we do cultivate environments in which we can take intentional risks.

We’ve outlined some of the pieces that, to us, comprise a calculated risk.

Determining Objectives of the Situation at Hand

Naturally, your actions are influenced by your goals. But creativity can always be cultivated within confines. In fact, structure is often beneficial. Just because you have always done something one way, doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it. When strategizing how best to achieve a goal, consider alternate solutions, try new methods, and conducts A/B tests. For example, when Microsoft Internet Explorer requested an infographic from our agency, we ended up pitching a video concept, instead, because we felt it would deliver the message more effectively. The client agreed, and the “Child of the ‘90s” spot we created for them garnered over 49 million views.

Learning to Operate From a Place of Conviction and Commitment

If you have a unique or unusual creative idea, lead with confidence. Whether you’re pitching it to a client or trying to secure budget from management, if you drown in self-doubt at every stage, it’s likely to show. You should certainly listen to valid objections, but remember that passion and enthusiasm are contagious. Again — Microsoft would have surely rejected our pitch had we not made a well-supported, confident case for it.

Allowing the Freedom to Fail, Learn, and Grow

Nurturing an environment that not only encourages but demands experimentation is vital to push your creative boundaries. You can help cultivate this at every touch point in your organization, whether it means building out longer timelines, schedule regular out-of-the-box brainstorms, or encourage employees to work on their own passion projects. Pushing your team to experiment will only benefit you. Our agency has even closed up shop for a “hack day,” during which everyone — from accountants to designers — collaborated on creative solutions in a consequence-free environment.

Be Brave

As you face creative challenges, I encourage you not to give into fear — in fact, give it a chance. Without fear, there is no bravery. And without bravery, no risks are taken. And you can’t improve if you aren’t taking risks. Learn from what doesn’t work, and use it to build something even better.

What are some of the creatively-charged risks you’ve taken? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: Creative Work Relies on Failure
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Is an MBA Worth the Money?

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Here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, I haven’t exactly made it a secret that I went to business school. It was an experience that provided two years’ worth of fodder, lessons learned, and other actionables that I like to share here.

But there’s one question I have yet to answer, at least in this venue, about the time spent earning my MBA: Was it worth it?

It’s a question I considered even before I began applying to different business schools, and one in which I’m certainly not alone. When I asked my colleagues if any of them had experienced the great “Should I get my MBA?” debate, there was a clamor of responses. Many of us — all marketing professionals — had experienced the same decision-making process, which made us realize how many other marketers out there must be going through the same thing. Download our free SEO ebook here for more tips from experts on increasing  your search rankings. 

While the topic seems to be eternally up for debate, we agree that there are instances when people should, in fact, go for an MBA — but it’s important to have a clear idea of what those circumstances are, and if they really apply to you. And if they don’t, fear not: There are alternatives. We’ve outlined the factors that do make an MBA worth the investment — and the other things you can do until that day arrives.

When an MBA Is Worth the Money

1) When you know exactly what you want out of it.

Before I began studying for the GMAT — the required admission exam for most MBA programs — I spent about five years deciding whether or not to apply to business school. I had a lot of questions, many of which were shared by my colleague, Mimi An, when she was faced with the same decision. For her, she told me:

The biggest things to consider were if I was at a place where I couldn’t progress further in my career, if I wanted to change function or industry, if I wanted to move, and what exactly I wanted out of the degree. I couldn’t answer the last question. In fact, the answer was ‘no’ to most of my questions. I could still progress. I did not want to change function. I did not want to move. I didn’t know what I expected to get out of it.”

According to Investopedia, the average cost of an MBA is $140,000 — and $260,000 if you’re not working or earning any income while you’re in school. Think of it this way: Would you spend that much on a luxury car or new condo if you weren’t sure why you were buying it? That’s a big chunk of change to spend on something that you aren’t certain is going to benefit you in some way.

Of course, for many people, the answer to those questions is overwhelmingly “yes” — in fact, they were for me. At the time, I wasn’t progressing in my career and I wanted to move, which are two fundamental reasons why I ultimately made the decision to go to business school. But not everyone will have the same responses to those important questions, nor do they come easily to anyone — so be sure to put sufficient time into them.

2) When your work isn’t teaching you what you need to grow.

There’s an important point that An made in her quote above — how much room for growth you have in your current career trajectory, whether that means you’re able to progress in your current job, or do it elsewhere.

If you’re not getting the right learning opportunities in your current workplace, but you’re also short on some of the skills to progress in another role or company, it might be time to think about getting an advanced degree. It’s what Jim O’Neill, HubSpot’s chief information officer, realized early in his career here, when he was also considering leaving to pursue an MBA.

“I couldn’t get it out of my head that I’d be giving up more by leaving the company at that stage than I’d ever be able to learn in business school,” he said. “And while I still might want a graduate degree someday, I was lucky to stay, learn, and grow over the following six years.”

But again — everyone’s experience is different. When O’Neill was contemplating this decision, HubSpot happened to be scaling up, which forced him to learn a lot of crucial business lessons as a byproduct of being in the throes of a company’s earliest stages. Not everyone will be in that same position, and some people will have to seek the lessons O’Neill learned elsewhere.

Depending on the program you choose, an MBA could be the best place to gain this knowledge. So when you’re making this decision, carefully evaluate where you are in your career, and how much you can learn on your current trajectory without an advanced degree.

3) When you actually have the time to dedicate to it.

During my first semester of business school, I was working full-time while also completing my coursework. Granted, most of my classes were at night, which on the surface seems like a convenient arrangement. But as any student will tell you, your academic work extends far beyond the hours you spend in the classroom. There are exams to study for, papers to write, and group projects to complete.

In other words, if you add that to your current professional workload — your nights and weekends are pretty much toast. At least, that was my experience.

That may seem like a sacrifice you’re willing to make, but think about it, in the context of the previous points. Even if you’re certain of your reasons for pursuing an MBA, do you really have the time to dedicate to it? Will you also be able to sufficiently take care of yourself, and spend enough time with loved ones to maintain a measurable level of mental health?

It’s easy to think that the answers to those questions are “yes” — in fact, I told myself that I would have plenty of time to work out between classes or before work in the morning, and to cook healthy meals ahead of time on the weekends. And while that was sometimes true, it required extremely strict time management, and left precious little time to actually relax.

My colleague, Karla Cook — who’s working full-time while pursuing her master’s degree — agrees. “I tell people the only reason they should work full-time while pursuing a graduate degree is if they get offered an opportunity that falls in the ‘dream job’ category,” she explains. “If that’s not the case, then it’s probably not worth completely killing yourself over, because you will have no free time.”

But the good news is, it’s temporary. Business school doesn’t last forever — though it might seem like that while you’re going through it. But before you seriously consider going through this kind of program, have a clear idea of what’s going to make it “worth it” to you. Having that goal in mind gives you something tangible to keep you motivated during these stressful periods.

4) … And when you have the money saved.

They say that “time is money” — and just as you must be sure you’re willing to sacrifice the former, you also have to make certain that you have the latter. Remember those aforementioned dollar figures we cited about the true cost of an MBA? File this point under deciding what will make the degree “worth it,” with “it” being the hundreds of thousands of dollars that your degree will likely cost.

When you’re deciding whether or not to go to business school, ask yourself if you can afford to take on student loan debt. If you’ve just bought a house, paid for a wedding, expanded your family, or bought a car — the answer might be “no,” unless you happen to have a lot of liquid funds at your disposal.

That said, loans aren’t the only answer. You should also see what other resources might be available to you, like scholarships or fellowships, some of which might even be available through the school you end up attending.

When you begin selecting which programs you’ll apply to, explore their respective policies on merit-based financial aid — that’s the kind that you don’t usually have to repay. There are several guides to external merit scholarships available to MBA students, as well, like this one from GoGrad.org.

5) When the program’s career resources will actually help you.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, this point also speaks to the idea of what will make an MBA program “worth it.” Again, everyone’s priorities are different, but if you’re going to business school with the hope of advancing your career with a new employer, make sure the school you choose has the right resources to support your job search.

This factor is one that institutions know prospective students take seriously. In the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Alumni Perspectives Survey Report 2017, 91% of respondents indicated that they found their MBAs to be “professionally rewarding,” and many schools feel a lot of pressure to uphold that significant figure for their own students. For that reason, many graduate students have found advertised career services to sometimes be a bit embellished. Cook echoes that sentiment, and says she’s come across many graduate programs that lack “any useful career benefits,” despite what they claim.

In my own MBA experience, those services weren’t exactly embellished, but they were removed from the university’s budget after I had committed to the program. That wasn’t entirely negative — experiences like those can teach some students crucial lessons on networking and other valuable job search skills. Evaluate the resources available to you through a very fine lens, and consider how much of a priority they are in selecting a business school.

6) When your employer will cover your tuition.

This one seems a bit obvious, but it requires some reading between the lines, so to speak. If your employer will reimburse your MBA tuition, it might seem like a proverbial no-brainer to take advantage of that benefit. But understand what will be required if you do.

First, understand that you’ll most likely have to pay taxes on any amount of reimbursement you receive over $5,250. Also, some employers require you to stay with the company for a certain amount of time upon completion of your degree as a condition of receiving this benefit. Once again — ask yourself what your reasons are for pursuing an MBA. If they include progressing your career in a new work environment, taking a route that requires you to stay with the same employer for at least two years after you graduate might not be the most optimal one.

You might notice that many of these considerations work in tandem. For example, the point above about tuition reimbursement from your employer could be countered by having enough money saved to invest in the degree yourself, or being in a position to use student loans. That’s why we encourage you to spend ample time thinking about all of these factors — getting an MBA isn’t a minor decision.

When an MBA Is Not Worth the Money

1) When you should get a different degree.

Maybe — just maybe — you’ve decided against getting an MBA because it’s simply not the right degree for your career trajectory, or for what you’re hoping to do. If you’re looking to specialize in corporate communications, for example, it might be worthwhile to look into graduate programs that specialize in it, and have the catered career resources to support it.

That idea re-emphasizes the importance of knowing exactly what you’re hoping to gain from an MBA. When you outline your goals, compare them to the standard coursework required of an MBA, and see if they align. If not, it might be time to look into a different academic concentration.

2) When you can work for an emerging or early-stage business.

Remember O’Neill’s great story of how much he learned from sticking with a company that was scaling up — in lieu of pursuing an MBA? As we mentioned earlier, working with a company in its earliest stages often forces its employees, whether they like it or not, to learn a ton of business fundamentals.

In a valuable MBA program, you should learn such fundamentals as managing budgets, personnel, projects, and — when the company really begins to take off — scaling it to keep up with that growth. Sounds a lot like the type of thing that managers have to learn with a new, emerging business, doesn’t it? If that’s the type of work and knowledge you crave, it could be time to look for job opportunities with a company in these early stages.

3) When you can use individual courses to gain the skills you’re missing.

When I was in business school, I was fortunate enough to have some truly great professors. But I also learned something else — without naming names, I realized that while many academic instructors are experts in their respective fields, that doesn’t mean they excel when it comes to teaching.

That meant, for certain subjects, I sometimes had to seek outside resources to supplement classroom teachings — most notably, Khan Academy, an online provider of free classes and courses. I found out about it through a classmate in a particularly difficult class, and once I started using it for that particular topic, I saw how much knowledge the site has to offer.

And while I wasn’t about to abandon my MBA to self-teach via this resource alone, it did make me realize that, for individual areas and skills, sites like these can be a tremendous help to those who aren’t ready to pursue a full degree, but want to improve their professional credentials. And Khan Academy — despite offering a plethora of courses on subjects ranging from economics to art history — is hardly the only resource of this kind. Our favorites include Coursera, edX, HubSpot AcademyLynda, and Udemy. Even better, some of these sites, like Coursera, actually offer classes taught by faculty of some top-tier schools, including Stanford.

To B-School, or Not to B-School

Deciding whether or not to pursue your MBA is a pretty big decision — it can be a significant investment of both time and money. But, for many, it’s worth it. And now, you have a checklist to help make that decision just a little bit easier.

And as for me — the verdict is in. My MBA was worth it. In the thick of my coursework, I did sometimes question, “Why am I doing this?” Plus, I agree that there are many times when the investment just isn’t necessary. But in the end, I remain very happy with my decision to go to business school. I got to experience living in a new city, gain new skills, and figure out what I don’t want to do, which, to me, is a milestone in one’s career progression.

All in all, I think of it as a very productive use of my time — and I want it to be for you, too. You’ll make the right decision. But please, don’t make it in a hurry.

What are your thoughts on pursuing an MBA? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

How to Make a Good First Impression: 11 Tips to Try

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Did you know that it only takes a tenth of a second to make a first impression?

In other words, when you meet someone for the first time, you need to be on your game from the very beginning. This includes being aware of everything from the words you choose to the body language you convey.

Whether you’re meeting new connections, team members, potential employers, or customers, I’ve put together a list of tips designed to help you put your best foot forward and make a killer first impression.

11 Tips for Making a Good First Impression

1) Be mindful of your body language and posture.

Effective body language goes beyond simply standing up straight and having a firm handshake — although those things are definitely important, too. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, keep your posture open — don’t tightly cross your arms or legs, don’t ball your hands into fists, and don’t hunch over in your seat. Lean in when you talk to show you’re actively listening and engaged in the conversation. And don’t be afraid to take up some space at the table, either. If you normally use hand gestures or move around to communicate, don’t hold back. These nonverbal cues can make a powerful subconscious impact, so be aware of your body language and posture during meetings in general, but particularly initial pitches or interviews.

What behaviors should you aim to avoid? It’s smart to refrain from tapping, touching your face too often, placing objects in front of yourself, blinking excessively, and sitting or standing too close to others (respect the bubble, people). Some body language habits can suggest dishonesty, so be mindful to avoid those tics — avoiding eye contact, touching your mouth, and others — too.

2) Modulate your pitch and tone of voice.

A high-pitched tone of voice can make you seem childish or nervous — especially if you tend to “uptalk” or use a rising inflection at the end of your sentences. In fact, it has been shown that people perceive those who have a rising intonation as less knowledgeable, no matter what they are actually saying.

Not sure if you’re guilty of this? Try practicing your presentations or recording yourself reading aloud. You’d be surprised at how different you sound to others versus in your own head.

On the other hand, faster speakers are considered to be more confident, according to a study performed at Brigham Young University. However, even if you’re talking fast, be sure to avoid using filler words such as “um,” “ah,” “like,” and other similar phrases whenever possible, as it shows hesitation. Try practicing not relying on those filler words in front of a camera to train yourself.

3) Choose your words wisely.

Words matter even more than you think. Positive and persuasive words and phrases will often open doors and make people feel comfortable in your presence, which can ultimately make them more willing to work with you.

For instance, let’s take a look at many marketers’ favorite show: Mad Men. Some of Don Draper’s best pitches (e.g., Carousel & Lucky Strike) were full of positive language. That said, positive language doesn’t need to be cheesy or new-agey as Draper illustrates. Instead, positive language can be used to uplift your audience by simply being clear and simple.

This point is especially valuable if you’re making a first impression in a job interview. You want potential employers to find you positive, flexible, and capable, so use language that reflects optimism and agency instead of negativity.

4) Dress the part.

Regardless of how little you personally care about fashion or style, what you wear matters. While you want to look clean and neat, it’s also important to match or slightly exceed the relative level of formality of the person or business you are meeting with — whether that is business formal, highly casual, or something in between.

“You are your brand, especially if you are a business owner, so making sure that your look communicates your best self is important,” explains Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand.

If you want to show off your personality, try including one accessory that could be considered a memorable item or even a conversation piece. This could be anything from a unique piece of jewelry to a fancy tie to a pair of fun socks.

5) Make eye contact.

Focus on the person or people you are speaking with. It’s hard to get to know someone when you’re looking down at a screen, so make an effort to make some eye contact with everyone in the room.

However, keep in mind that eye contact can also backfire, according to a study by the University of British Columbia. If people aren’t already persuaded or inclined to be on your side, they may focus more on your mouth or any presentation materials you’re showcasing instead of your eyes, making attempts at eye contact a challenge.

6) Know your audience.

Do your research. If your meeting is planned in advance, you should know plenty about the person or business that you’re meeting with before you arrive. This might mean that you Google the people you’ll be meeting with, the company founders/co-founders, their history, their competition, their main products, and any other relevant info before you walk into the room.

Looking for a helpful tool to help you gather some background information? Check out Charlie App. This app scans hundreds of sources to uncover information about the person you’re meeting with and sends you a one-pager with all the details. Pretty cool, right? LinkedIn is also a good place to check out who you’re meeting with and learn more about them.

7) Come prepared.

There’s nothing worse than an unproductive meeting. To make a great first impression, be sure that you’re respectful of everyone’s time. If you’re meeting with someone working remotely, plan accordingly. That said, if you’re being productive and everyone has the bandwidth, it might be okay if the meeting runs long — just make sure you check in with the group before making the call.

Meeting time management is a key aspect of building an engaged group of clients or colleagues. Plus, it shows respect for their schedules.

8) Be authentic.

When you’re meeting someone for the first time, don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, don’t fake it. The ability to lean into your weaknesses shows that you are self-aware.

However, be sure not to over emphasize your shortcomings. It might seem shockingly simple, but avoiding the “report card problem” or highlighting weaknesses and how you might fix them could cause you to only showcase the negatives, or at least make them the biggest part of your overall impression. While you don’t want to hide any weaknesses (people will likely figure it out anyways), you do want to be honest and move on to the good stuff — especially at the beginning of a business relationship.

9) Put your phone away.

That goes for tablets, laptops, and other electronics, too.

If you need to use technology to deliver a presentation, that’s one thing. But unless you’re projecting your computer or tablet screen to present to the entire room, turn off sounds and vibrations on your mobile devices, and put your screens away. Give your complete and undivided attention to the people you’re meeting for the first time to convey your commitment, focus, and let’s face it, your good manners.

10) Make a connection.

Pay close attention to who you’re meeting with for the first time and try to forge a connection based on what they share with you. Whether it’s their alma mater or their hometown, forging a connection outside of the professional conversation can be a great way to strike up a rapport.

That being said, don’t be too creepy. Avoid making comments about their appearance that could be perceived as inappropriate and stick to connections you might have in common. Those are more genuine than compliments anyway.

11) Don’t forget to follow up.

After an initial meeting, don’t forget to follow up by sending any necessary information — notes, presentation docs, next steps, and so on — or sending a thank you note.

These small gestures will help prove that you’re on the ball, and that you’re making them a priority, rather than just another task to check off your to-do list.

Sending out updated information after a meeting can also be a way to get a second chance at a first impression. How so? It helps to show another side of you or your business — perhaps a more responsible side. In fact, a Stanford study revealed that adding more external factors can actually mitigate the effect of a negative first impression.

Don’t let a negative first impression get in the way of your ability to get to know someone. Follow these nine tips to ensure that the first time you meet with someone won’t be the last.

What are your best tips for making a great first impression? Share them below.

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

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How to Use Canva: An 8-Step Guide to Creating Visual Content

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Back in 2014, Peg Fitzpatrick and Guy Kawasaki penned a post for the HubSpot Marketing Blog that approached the topic of visual marketing as the “next big thing.” But since then, it’s gone to “here to stay.” After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words tend to get 2X social shares than articles with fewer images.

But in the previous article, Kawasaki — chief evangelist for Canva, a remarkably simple online platform for graphic design — stressed the importance of including shareable images in blog posts, and regularly creating custom, relevant visual content for Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts. Admittedly, following that advice is easier said than done. It’s time-consuming and requires multiple tools. That is, without Canva.

It might seem like you need myriad resources to create just one custom graphic: Photoshop to edit an image, InDesign to lay it out, VSCO for filters, and a multitude of stock photo sites. But Canva combines all these editing and publishing tools — plus a comprehensive image library — in one online design platform. Even better, it comes equipped with a collection of templates that can be applied to a number of different industries. New Call-to-action

But whether you’re creating a Facebook banner for your retail store, or an infographic for your law firm, you might wonder where you should begin with Canva. That’s why we put together this walkthrough of how visual marketers — at any knowledge level — can use Canva. Using an animal shelter’s promotion of its weekend adoption fair as an example, we’ll guide you through the eight steps of creating visual content with these tools and templates.

8 Steps for Creating Visual Content With Canva

1) Begin with a content marketing strategy.

While we don’t think you have to go through the whole process of creating Gantt charts and editorial calendars — though they can keep you organized — it’s important to identify your content goals, and the platforms that will best suit them.

For the animal shelter’s weekend adoption event, the primary purpose is to let people — like social media followers — know about the event, and make them want to share it on social media. In this instance, we want to create a post to share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, and a visual that would work as a poster to print and display locally.

2) Browse the templates library to find and create the right content.

Canva has a collection of specific, professional templates for a wide variety of content. The templates page is arranged into categories — types of content — and subcategories for themes or topics. For example, you can choose between templates for posters and or presentations, based on the content marketing strategy your formulated in the previous step. Plus, each one is already optimized in the right dimensions for things like banners, headers, and cover photos for specific sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Keep in mind that these templates are meant to be your springboard to start designing. For many creative professionals, from writers to designers, starting with a blank canvas can be one of the biggest challenges. With these templates, you don’t have to create your content from scratch, or hire a professional designer just to create your day-to-day graphics.

For our animal shelter example, we’ll start with this social media graphic template:

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In the next steps, we’ll show you how to edit this template using Canva’s drag and drop design tools.

3) Find the right visuals to go with your post using Canva’s built-in photo library.

Visual content is 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. And since we want our pet adoption fair to get a lot of engagement on social media, like comments and shares, we have to include the right kind of visuals in its promotion. Using Canva’s built-in media library, we’ll look for a picture of a cute kitten to catch people’s attention — and hearts.

To start, type a keyword or two into the search bar, and choose from any of the photos or illustrations — that means no more Google image searches. The extensive photo library hosts a wide variety of subjects and themes, like abstract images, textures, landscapes, people, and animals. Once you’ve found the perfect image, just drag it over to your design, and drop it where it needs to go.

Canva Image Library

Canva also allows you to upload your own images and use them on your design, which is perfect for adding your logo and other branded visuals to content. (You’ll notice the text has changed in the image below — we’ll get to that in our next step.)

Add logo

4) Marry image and text through typography.

Now that we’ve got a cute kitten image to draw attention, we need to give our audience some details about the adoption fair. And since we’re already working with a template, we can just edit the placeholder text and add in the right details.

Custom text

The best social media content is a marriage of visuals and text — remember the statistic we cited earlier about the shareability of copy that includes the right amount of imagery. However, making sure your font complements the rest of the visual content can be tricky. While some professionals have years of experience to help them pair fonts, Canva provides a shortcut: The font pairing tool.

First, pick your starter font. Then, this handy tool shows you the best font combinations for your chosen typeface, as well as real-life examples from the web.

CanvaFontPairing

5) Enhance your image with a filter.

Filters are a great tool for easily changing the tone of an image. Plus, applying a custom filter across your various posts can help to create a theme and tie your campaign together, boosting consistency and recognizability.

To add a filter, select your image, click on the filter button, then choose from any of the 14 custom filters available in Canva. Use the slider to control the intensity of the filter. There are also advanced options that allow you to play with different settings like brightness, contrast, and saturation, or to add effects like a vignette.

Canva filters

6) Resize your whole design to fit various platforms.

We’re done creating our visual. That was quick, right? Now, we have to post share it across various social media networks, and print our poster. That also means we might have to resize for those various outlets — but rather than going back and re-designing the entire visual according to the dimensions required by each one, we can use Canva’s Magic Resize tool.

The Magic Resize tool is available for Canva for Work users — a paid plan starting at $12.95 per month. But if you’re using the free tools, fear not, as we’ve included some alternative resizing directions below.

That said, Magic Resize is quite a time-saving feature that lets you copy and resize one design into formats for various channels. Just click on “File,” navigate to “Magic Resize,” then choose the different formats you want to use to adapt your visual. Then, click the “resize” button, and you’re done.

Magic resize

Users of Canva’s free tools can still resize their designs by creating a copy of the original visual. Click “File,” “Change Dimensions,” and select the format to which you’d like to resize the design.

Canva Change Dimensions

7) Collaborate with a team, or post the visual to social media.

Canva allows you to collaborate with your team or design partners on a visual, within the same platform. Simply click on “Share”, navigate to “Link,” and choose the “can edit” option to generate a link that allows others to edit your design. Alternatively, you may choose the “can view” option to allow someone to see your design, without the ability to edit it.

Otherwise, you can post your final design directly to Facebook or Twitter. There’s also an embed option, which generates the code to embed your design into your blog or website.

Share Design

For other channels, or if you want an offline copy of your design, you can download an image file in a JPG, PNG, or print-ready PDF format. For our animal shelter visual, we’ll download the flyer version of the design as a high-quality PDF file, to enhance its printed appearance.

Download canva PDF

8) Learn to create better designs with Canva’s free, interactive courses.

Nice work — you’ve made a great design, with amazingly simple tools. But maybe you want to learn more about design — and Canva’s Design School is just the place to do it.

The Design School is a resource hub for learning the basics of design — everything from essential design tools, to typography, to photo editing, to consistent branding. Some of the most popular offerings are Canva’s 30 “Design Essentials” tutorials, covering fonts, layouts, and images. Plus, you can track and share your progress as you make your way through the different lessons.

Canva Tutorials

Starting with the following tutorials can help you hone your skills in some of the visual content design steps we’ve covered today:

  1. Marrying Text and Images
  2. Brilliant Backgrounds
  3. Choosing the Right Font
  4. Enhancing Images
  5. Fantastic Photo Filters

It might also be worthwhile to check out the daily Design School blog, which takes a more in-depth look into specific subjects, like designing for social media, creating better email headers, design principles, and even design psychology.

Canva design blog

Draw Inspiration

Despite the options we’ve covered here, there are actually many more designs and tools to explore in Canva. In addition to promotional visuals like the animal shelter example we used, you can create presentations, infographics, brochures — and a lot more.

One of Canva’s most differentiating factors, however, is that the above steps are pretty much the same across these different types of documents, thanks in large part to the ready-made templates. So don’t let visual content design intimidate you. It’s more than achievable — and we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

What are some of your favorite visual content creation tools? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing