Now With 12 Million Users, Timehop Adds Twitter Vet Jason Goldman To Its Board

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timehop It’s been a very busy few months for Timehop.
The app, which provides users with a personal “today in history” memo by surfacing their photos and social networking posts from this day one year ago or more, is closing out the year with more than 12 million registered users, half of whom, some 6 million, open the app every single day. That’s double the number of both… Read More

Vía TechCrunch » Startups http://ift.tt/1AbKxhS

How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula + 5 Free Blog Post Templates by HubSpot

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You’ve probably heard how paramount blogging is to the success of your marketing. Without it, your SEO will tank, you’ll have nothing to promote in social media, you’ll have no clout with your leads and customers, and you’ll have fewer pages to put those oh-so-valuable calls-to-action that generate inbound leads. Need I say more?

So why, oh why, does almost every marketer I talk to have a laundry list of excuses for why they can’t consistently blog? Maybe because, unless you’re one of the few people who actually like writing, business blogging kind of stinks. You have to find words, string them together into sentences, and ughhh where do you even start?

Well my friend, the time for excuses is over. After you read this post, there will be absolutely no reason you can’t blog every single day — and do it quickly. Not only am I about to provide you with a simple blogging formula to follow, but I’m also going to give you free templates for creating five different types of blog posts:

  1. The How-To Post
  2. The List-Based Post
  3. The Curated Collection Post
  4. The SlideShare Presentation Post
  5. The Newsjacking Post

Click here to download our free blog post templates and learn how to write 5 different blog posts.

With all this blogging how-to, literally anyone can blog as long as they truly know the subject matter they’re writing about. And since you’re an expert in your industry, there’s no longer any reason you can’t sit down every day and hammer out an excellent blog post.

Writing a Blog Post: A Simple Formula to Follow

1) Understand your audience.

Before you start to write, have a clear understanding of your target audience. What do they want to know about? What will resonate with them? This is where creating your buyer personas comes in handy. Consider what you know about your buyer personas and their interests while you’re coming up with a topic for your blog post.

For instance, if your readers are Millennials looking to start their own business, you probably don’t need to provide them with information about getting started in social media — most of them already have that down. You might, however, want to give them information about how to adjust their approach to social media from a more casual, personal one to a more business-savvy, networking-focused approach. That kind of tweak is what separates you from blogging about generic stuff to the stuff your audience really wants (and needs) to hear.

2) Start with a topic and working title.

Before you even write anything, you need to pick a topic for your blog post. The topic can be pretty general to start with. For example, if you’re a plumber, you might start out thinking you want to write about leaky faucets. Then you might come up with a few different working titles — in other words, iterations or different ways of approaching that topic to help you focus your writing.  For example, you might decide to narrow your topic to “Tools for Fixing Leaky Faucets” or “Common Causes of Leaky Faucets.” A working title is specific and will guide your post so you can start writing.

Let’s take a real post as an example: “How to Choose a Solid Topic for Your Next Blog Post.” Appropriate, right? The topic, in this case, was probably simply “blogging.” Then the working title may have been something like, “The Process for Selecting a Blog Post Topic.” And the final title ended up being “How to Choose a Solid Topic for Your Next Blog Post.”

See that evolution from topic, to working title, to final title? Even though the working title may not end up being the final title (more on that in a moment), it still provides enough information so you can focus your blog post on something more specific than a generic, overwhelming topic.

3) Write an intro (and make it captivating).

We’ve written more specifically about writing captivating introductions in the post, “How to Write an Introduction [Quick Tip],” but let’s review, shall we?

First, grab the reader’s attention. If you lose the reader in the first few paragraphs — or even sentences — of the introduction, they will stop reading even before they’ve given your post a fair shake. You can do this in a number of ways: tell a story or a joke, be empathetic, or grip the reader with an interesting fact or statistic.

Then describe the purpose of the post and explain how it will address a problem the reader may be having. This will give the reader a reason to keep reading and give them a connection to how it will help them improve their work/lives. 

4) Organize your content.

Sometimes, blog posts can have an overwhelming amount of information — for the reader and the writer. The trick is to organize the info so readers are not intimidated by the length or amount of content. The organization can take multiple forms — sections, lists, tips, whatever’s most appropriate. But it must be organized!

Let’s take a look at the post, “Productivity Tools and Techniques to Stop Wasting Away Your Workday.” There is a lot of content in this post, so we broke it into four main sections using headers — Checking Email; Blocking Distractions; Sourcing Content; and Meetings, Collaboration, and Brainstorming. The sections are then separated into sub-sections that to go into more detail and also make the content easier to read and less intimidating using sub-headers.

To complete this step, all you really need to do is outline your post. That way, before you start writing, you know which points you want to cover, and the best order in which to do it. To make things even easier, you can also download and use our free blog post templates, which are pre-organized for five of the most common blog post types. Just fill in the blanks! 

5) Write!

The next step — but not the last — is actually writing the content. We couldn’t forget about that, of course.

Now that you have your outline/template, you’re ready to fill in the blanks. Use your outline as a guide and be sure to expand on all of your points as needed. Write about what you already know, and if necessary, do additional research to gather more information, examples, and data to back up your points, providing proper attribution when incorporating external sources. 

Don’t worry about the length of your post. Like my high school teachers used to say, “just make it as long as it needs to be” to be high quality and helpful.

6) Edit/proofread your post, and fix your formatting.

You’re not quite done yet, but you’re close! The editing process is an important part of blogging — don’t overlook it. Ask a grammar-conscious co-worker to copyedit and proofread your post, and consider enlisting the help of The Ultimate Editing Checklist. Then check your formatting for the following …

Featured Image 

Make sure you choose a visually appealing and relevant image for your post. As social networks treat content with images more prominently, visuals are now more responsible than ever for the sucess of your blog content in social media. And with data showing emails with images are preferred to those without, including images is also extremely important for the emails you send to your blog subscribers.

For help selecting an image for your post, read “How to Select the Perfect Image for Your Next Blog Post” — and pay close attention to the section about copyright law.

Visual Appearance

No one likes an ugly blog post. And it’s not just pictures that make a post visually appealing — it’s the formatting and organization of the post, too. 

In a properly formatted and visually appealing blog post, you’ll notice that headers and sub-headers are used to break up large blocks of text — and those headers are styled consistently. Screenshots always have a similar, defined border so they don’t appear as if they’re floating in space. The style stays consistent from post to post. Maintaining this consistency makes your content (and your brand) look more professional, and makes it easier on the eyes.

Topics/Tags

Tags are specific, public-facing keywords that describe a post. They also allow readers to browse for more content in the same category on your blog. Refrain from adding a laundry list of tags to each post. Instead, put some thought into a tagging strategy. Think of tags as “topics” or “categories,” and choose 10-20 tags that represent all the main topics you want to cover on your blog. Then stick to those. 

7) Insert a call-to-action (CTA) at the end.

At the end of every blog post, you should have a CTA that indicates what you want the reader to do next — subscribe to your blog, download an ebook, register for a webinar or event, read a related article, etc. Typically, you think about the CTA being beneficial for the marketer. Your visitors read your blog post, they click on the CTA, and eventually you generate a lead. But the CTA is also a valuable resource for the person reading your content — use your CTAs to offer more content similar to the subject of the post they just finished reading.

In the blog post, “How to Strategically Promote SlideShare Presentations on Your Blog,” for instance, readers are given tactical ways to promote their SlideShare presentations on their blog. At the end of the post is a CTA referring readers to download a PowerPoint template for SlideShare presentations.

See how that’s a win-win for everyone? Readers who want to learn more have the opportunity to do so, and the business receives a lead they can nurture … who may even become a customer! Learn more about how to choose the right CTA for every blog post in this article.

8) Optimize for on-page SEO.

After you finish writing, go back and optimize your post for search.

Don’t obsess over how many keywords to include. If there are opportunities to incorporate keywords you’re targeting, and it won’t impact reader experience, do it. If you can make your URL shorter and more keyword-friendly, go for it. But don’t cram keywords or shoot for some arbitrary keyword density — Google’s smarter than that!

Here’s a little reminder of what you can and should look for, but if you want a really detailed explanation, I suggest you read this blog post:

Meta Description

Meta descriptions are the descriptions below the post’s page title on Google’s search results pages. They provide searchers with a short summary of the post before clicking into it. They are ideally between 150-160 characters and start with a verb, such as “Learn,” “Read,” or “Discover.” While meta descriptions no longer factor into Google’s keyword ranking algorithm, they do give searchers a snapshot of what they will get by reading the post and can help improve your clickthrough rate from search.

Page Title and Headers

Most blogging software uses your post title as your page title, which is the most important on-page SEO element at your disposal. But if you’ve followed our formula so far, you should already have a working title that will naturally include keywords/phrases your target audience is interested in. Don’t over-complicate your title by trying to fit keywords where they don’t naturally belong. That said, if there are clear opportunities to add keywords you’re targeting to your post title and headers, feel free to take them. Also, try to keep your headlines short — ideally, under 65 characters — so they don’t get truncated in search engine results.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the word or words that link to another page — either on your website or on another website. Carefully select which keywords you want to link to other pages on your site, because search engines take that into consideration when ranking your page for certain keywords.

It’s also important to consider which pages you link to. Consider linking to pages that you want to rank well for that keyword. You could end up getting it to rank on Google’s first page of results instead of its second page, and that ain’t small potatoes.

Mobile Optimization

Having a website that is responsive or designed for mobile has become more and more critical. According to a report by Google, “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today,” 74% of users say they’re also more likely to return to a site in the future if it’s mobile-friendly. As a result of information like this and other similar statistics, Google is now prioritizing websites that are optimized for mobile. 

Learn more about effective mobile optimization in this free mobile marketing guide.

9) Pick a catchy title.

Last but not least, it’s time to spruce up that working title of yours. Luckily, we have a simple formula for writing catchy titles that will grab the attention of your reader. Here’s what to consider:

  1. Start with your working title.
  2. As you start to edit your title, keep in mind that it’s important to keep the title accurate and clear.
  3. Then, work on making your title sexy — whether it’s through strong language, alliteration, or another literary tactic.
  4. If you can, optimize for SEO by sneaking some keywords in there (only if it’s natural, though!).
  5. Finally, see if you can shorten it at all. No one likes a long, overwhelming title — and remember, Google prefers 65 characters or fewer before it truncates it on its search engine results pages.

If you’ve mastered the steps above, learn about some way to take your blog posts to the next level in this post. What other steps do you take to refine your blog posts? Don’t forget to download your five free blog post templates right here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

free blog post examples and templates

 
                                   

Vía HubSpot Marketing Blog http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-write-blog-post-simple-formula-ht

9 Professional New Year’s Resolutions You Should Actually Keep by HubSpot

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I never used to make New Year’s resolutions. They seemed like a forced, trite way to make a change in my life. If I really wanted to change, why would I wait around for January First? I figured I’d be better off just making sporadic changes throughout the year. 

Well, that strategy hasn’t always served me well. Waiting until I “felt ready” to change often enabled me to push aside goals that were important to me but not time-sensitive goals — like learning photography with a new camera I was given — in favor of more time-sensitive goals, like making next week’s brunch plans with friends.

But I got fed up with constantly pushing my goals back. I really did want to change. So one December, I decided to really commit to creating solid New Year’s resolutions … and it actually worked. By putting specific, time-bound goals in place, I was much more likely to achieve them. 

The great thing about resolutions is they don’t have to just live in your personal life; they can be a powerful aid to help you grow your business, too. If you’re looking to set resolutions for next year but are struggling with coming up with some solid, achievable ideas, keep on reading. Here nine resolutions you could pick for next year, and give you additional reading and resources to help you actually accomplish them.

1) Master Excel. 

It might seem like an old-school skill, but knowing how to use Excel can come in handy far more often than you think. The next time you have to create a custom report based on two data sources, track the growth of your marketing, or make a chart to prove a point to your boss, you’re going to wish you knew how to use the program. 

Resources to Help

2) Improve your design skills. 

You’ve probably heard all the hype about visual content already — you just haven’t buckled down to start creating some yourself. 

Well, 2015 is the year to do it. As more and more content on the web becomes visual, you’re going to need to be able to create the content yourself — or, if you have a bigger budget, learn to better communicate with contractors and agencies to create it for you.

Resources to Help

3) Hire new, awesome teammates. 

I’d venture a guess that most marketers are strapped for time and resources — which means you’ll be looking to hire new talent in the upcoming year. 

If you’re going to choose this resolution, be sure to take your time. It’s all about hiring the right candidate, not a warm body that can tweet on your company’s behalf. You need to ensure that you have a solid job description and a vigorous screening process to ultimately find a solid teammate. This process could take weeks, months, or even a full year, so get started as early as you can.

Resources to Help

4) Develop a mobile strategy. (Seriously.)

For several years, you’ve heard about mobile becoming an important focus for marketers … but have you truly invested the resources to learn about mobile, and adapted your marketing strategy accordingly? 

If not, spend some time next year developing a mobile strategy and overhauling your website, emails, social accounts, blog, and any other online content to be mobile-friendly. 

Resources to Help

5) Blog consistently.

Blogging is like working out: You’ve got to do it consistently to see great results. You can’t just publish once every few months and expect to rack up the views, lead, and customers. 

If you’re struggling to keep a tight editorial calendar, then commit to blogging consistently this year. It doesn’t matter if you decide to blog every two weeks, every week, or every day — the point here is to pick a frequency you think you can accomplish, and stick to it. Once you develop a solid, reliable cadence, then you can work on increasing the volume.

Resources to Help

6) Don’t forget about your old content, too.

If you already have a solid publishing cadence established, you might want to take the New Year to look back at your well-performing content. Take time to identify the posts that perform best for you, and then figure out how you can squeeze even more juice out of them. Next, apply those experiments’ findings to the posts that are “second tier” — the ones that are decently successful, but could be even more so if you optimized them. 

Spending time optimizing content you’ve already created can be a great way to keep your evergreen content fresh for readers and search engines. 

Resources to Help

7) Run big, strategic tests.

Many marketers tend to run small, haphazard tests — a subject line A/B test here, a CTA color change there. But all of these incremental tests might not really make a difference in your marketing. 

In the new year, think about running larger, more strategic tests to get to the heart of what your audience enjoys. Challenge conventional best practices. Make big changes to your marketing. Make your experiments as statistically valid as possible. By doing bigger experiments, you’ll have a better chance of getting big results. 

Resources to Help

8) Invest in better measurement. 

Ahh, marketing ROI … one of the most notoriously difficult things to measure, but also the key to unlocking career growth. So why not make it your New Year’s resolution next year? 

If you’re going to tackle this in the New Year, I’d highly suggest setting up a coffee meeting with your counterpart in Sales within the first two weeks of the year. To justify your department’s impact, you’re going to need to tie your activities to the bottom line — and your Sales team can help you do just that. Meeting early and often in the process will be key to your success.

Resources to Help

9) Move to the next level of your career.

Regardless of what “next” means for you — changing your title, getting more responsibilities, starting your own thing — you can set out to accomplish it this year. While it may take longer than a year to fully accomplish the career goal, setting up a plan for yourself to make big, life-changing moves isn’t a bad thing. If your goal is really really monstrous, try breaking it into a year-over-year plan, and using the first year plan as the basis for your resolutions. 

Resources to Help

Which of these resolutions will you make — and actually stick to? What else would you add to the list? 

free marketing goal setting template

Vía HubSpot Marketing Blog http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/new-years-resolutions-marketers

Grocery Delivery Startup Instacart Raises $210 Million More

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instacart Grocery delivery startup Instacart has raised an additional $210 million, according to an SEC filing on Monday. The filing confirms a Series C funding round reported earlier this month, which values the company at more than $2 billion. Read More

Vía TechCrunch » Startups http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/Ui98qGKw1-Y/

United And Orbitz Sue “Hidden Cities” Flight Search Engine Skiplagged

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skiplagged United Airlines and Orbitz are suing Skiplagged, a small startup founded by Aktarer Zaman that helps travelers hack the airlines’ opaque pricing schemes to get better deals by finding so-called “hidden city” fares. Airline pricing is incredibly complex and one of its many oddities is that when you are looking for a good price, it’s often cheaper to buy a ticket from,… Read More

Vía TechCrunch » Startups http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/CnkHvedmAwE/

What The Hell Is A Startup Anyway?

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Saplings on stack of coins representing growth against black background If you regularly read technology media, and I honestly can’t recommend it, you will run into occasional references to “startups.” Many consider startups to be small companies determined to grow quickly in the hopes of becoming the next passé giant whose corporate campus costs so much to maintain that it eventually has to stop serving chilled sake by robot on Thursdays. Read More

Vía TechCrunch » Startups http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/bkFrrhoqJG4/

How Google Works [Infographic] by HubSpot

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Ever wonder how Google manages to serve you just the content you’re looking for? You put in a few words, and within a few microseconds, you’ve got pages and pages of results ready to address your query. It’s so fast, so accurate, and so comprehensive, it almost seems like magic.

Almost. But we all know there’s more to delivering great search results than waving a magic wand.

So how does Google actually work? Neil Patel at Quick Sprout put together the following animated infographic to break down Google’s process for finding and serving up search results. Check it out below:

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free guide: seo myths

Vía HubSpot Marketing Blog http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-google-works

SwipeRadio Is A Faster Way To Listen To Terrestrial Radio On Your iPhone

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old radio On-demand music streaming services like Beats and Spotify continue to grow, but terrestrial radio also remains a popular way to listen to music on mobile via top-ranked apps like iHeartRadio (#8 in free Music apps on iTunes) and TuneIn Radio (#13). Now, newcomer SwipeRadio has launched its own minimalistic take on radio apps with a music app that lets users quickly access their favorite… Read More

Vía TechCrunch » Startups http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/techcrunch/startups/~3/4djJnjgL1Ek/

7 Boring Big Brands That Used Humor to Amp Up Their Marketing by HubSpot

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It seems like everyone is trying to be funny in their marketing these days, but why? Well, it works. Humor is a way to sell your brand without outwardly selling something, and consumers certainly don’t want to feel like you’re taking money right out of their pockets. By appealing to a consumer’s emotions you’re able to engage them and make them remember you.

You do have to be careful when using humor though; I don’t think we want to revisit the DiGiorno scandal around the #WhyIStayed campaign. It’s important to make sure that you understand your audience and how they are likely to respond so that nothing is taken offensively.

This doesn’t mean that we should kill a campaign just because it’s edgy or potentially controversial. You probably remember the “I Shipped My Pants” TV ad by Kmart last year. The goal of the ad was to bring people to Kmart’s website to take advantage of free shipping, but it did get some heat. With the pronunciation of “shipped” sounding awfully similar to a certain expletive, the ad was received with mixed feelings. Some people thought it was hilarious and a great way to make Kmart a little edgier and modern, while others thought it was offensive that they were alluding to vulgarity. Ultimately, this campaign was very successful for the struggling retailer and improved its website traffic.

So does humor work best for a specific type of company or can anyone do it? If done appropriately, I think most companies can take part. Businesses with highly-specialized or expensive products can take advantage by appealing to all audiences. Someone who interacts with your marketing may not be your target customer, but they could very well share your information with someone who is. It’s all about brand awareness.

Humor can also lend itself to companies in highly-competitive or saturated industries. What better way to stand out from those that sell a product or service of similar quality and price than by letting your company’s personality shine?

I think the most remarkable thing about using humor in marketing is how companies with seemingly ordinary products can make you feel like theirs is the most exciting one out there. Oftentimes it’s a product we all need, one that really isn’t much different from brand-to-brand, and one that doesn’t have much price variation. Yet, we are fascinated by its commercials and social media presence.

When it comes to humor, it’s all about authenticity. The brands that make humor work are authentic; they know their persona and they run with it. The companies below sell arguably “boring” products, but using humor in their marketing has transformed the way consumers perceive them.

1) Dollar Shave Club

If there is a company out there that embodies the effectiveness of using humor in marketing, it’s Dollar Shave Club. This is a company that a few years ago consisted of about 10 employees, just trying to find a way to compete in an industry filled with iconic, long-time brands. How did they expect to be able to compete with such big names as Gillette and Bic? The only way they knew how, by taking to social media to share their story.

You could probably call it the “ad seen around the world,” with over 17.5 million views on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. Trust me.

Being a small company, they couldn’t afford a production crew, ad space on TV, or anything glamorous right off the bat. So they took to good-old YouTube with their CEO as the main character to talk about why their blades are “f***ing great.” In an interview with the New York Times, CEO Michael Dubin expressed his firm belief in using video to tell stories and that the concept of using humor to promote a “smart business” led to the video going viral.

The ad is unconventional, outrageous, and blunt, but this is why people love Dollar Shave Club.

They aren’t conservative, they don’t “fit the mold,” and they’re perfectly okay with that. What they do is create a memorable experience for viewers while making them realize why they should give their service a try.

2) Charmin

Voted the “sassiest” brand on Twitter, Charmin has found a way to stand out in a highly-saturated market. Bathroom humor is a topic that is often perceived as being overdone, but when you see one of Charmin’s ads or interact with them on social media, you don’t feel that way.

On Twitter, they have launched their own hashtag campaign called #tweetfromtheseat. Hashtags are a great way to build brand recognition, track interactions, and create buzz about your company. They also interact with their followers and other big-name brands on social media by mentioning them in tweets.

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When the Charmin social media team was asked how they have achieved marketing success, they said, “At the end of the day, it boils down to authenticity. Define what your brand stands for and your voice. Don’t try to be something you’re not. It may be humor and entertainment, or it could be informative or educational. Understand the nuances of the different platforms and your community and how your brand is represented in each.”

And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Charmin has found its place in marketing by serving as comic relief for a potentially awkward or boring topic. You can’t help but think of their advertising when you see their product on store shelves and immediately create a positive association. They’re able to entertain and show why their product is superior to their competitors, it’s no wonder they’ve made such a name for themselves.

3) State Farm

When you think about it, there are probably few industries more difficult to market than insurance; it’s not particularly exciting and it can be expensive. Maybe that’s why every major insurance company is jumping on the humor train in an attempt to breathe life into this essential, but pretty uninteresting industry. State Farm is leading the pack with a practically seamless transition from campaign to campaign.

They didn’t get here overnight, that’s for sure. A few years ago you really weren’t seeing much of State Farm on TV and certainly not on social media. They went through a re-brand to target younger consumers, who make up their largest customer segment. As part of this transition, they changed their motto from “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” to “Get to a better State.”

State Farm has successfully appealed to younger generations through a well-known spokesperson like Aaron Rodgers and sponsoring events like ESPN’s College Game Day. The “Discount Double-Check” concept seems to be what put State Farm on the market as a major player in the industry. Their ability to attract a younger audience through this strategy, who in turn provide more long-term potential as customers, has allowed the company to be among the top insurance providers.

In addition to a celebrity spokesperson, State Farm introduced us to the “everyday” character of Jake. We can probably all recite in our sleep the TV ad featuring a customer calling “Jake from State Farm” at three in the morning as his wife comes downstairs to see him on the phone, refusing to believe he’s actually talking to an insurance agent. I’ve seen the commercial probably a thousand times and yet I still smile as she picks up the phone and asks Jake what he’s wearing.

Their ability to take an everyday person and make him iconic has helped State Farm triumph in a very competitive marketplace. They also haven’t gotten stuck in a rut with their advertising; they effectively use two different story lines at the same time so their audience is continuously engaged.

4) Old Spice

Have you ever not laughed watching an Old Spice ad or interacting with them on social media? It seems like they can do no wrong when it comes to their marketing.

Check out their Twitter page if you haven’t before. The persona they embody in their hilariously creative commercials perfectly translates to their social media presence. You can’t help but forget that they’re selling men’s soap!

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Their TV and print advertising focus on a seemingly “perfect” man that every man wants to be and every woman wants to have by her side. He’s attractive, physically fit, and talks about how you could be just like him if you use Old Spice. Their marketing works because even though their products are for men, women are entertained and drawn in as well.

Originally, Old Spice targeted women thinking that they would be the ones doing the shopping or encouraging their significant other to use the products. They realized that they needed to target men as well since they are the ones who actually use Old Spice, and have effectively revamped their marketing to appeal to everyone.

An indication of Old Spice’s success is how they’ve been able to make their marketing go viral. This is no easy task, especially when there is pressure on marketing departments to generate revenue. But we can see that Old Spice’s decision to not be so focused on a hard sell is paying off. When you interact with their marketing you might think that their tactics are outlandish and have nothing to do with what they’re trying to sell, but you remember their brand the next time you’re out shopping. And that’s exactly what they’re trying to do: generate positive emotions and make people remember them.

5) Allstate

Another insurance company? I know; I could probably list several others, but Allstate has made one of the most significant and effective transitions in marketing strategies the industry has seen.

A few years ago, Allstate snatched up Dennis Haysbert as their official spokesperson and it seemed like a match made in heaven. His role as President Palmer on the iconic show 24 had just come to an end, so what better person to make the face of your brand than a well-respected actor coming off such an authoritative role?

Using authority in marketing allows a company to demonstrate their expertise, and in this case Haysbert personified the idea that Allstate could protect you from anything.

Fast forward to today, where Allstate is taking a completely different approach to marketing by using a “character” named Mayhem. Mayhem represents all of the freak accidents or situations that you could never envision actually happening, but with the reassurance that even under these circumstances Allstate has you covered.

The marketers at Allstate have come up with the wildest situations in their advertising, that it’s always humorous and fresh in the consumer’s mind. Take this “tailgate gone wrong” ad:

Allstate is another great example of a brand that hasn’t been afraid to switch things up. Like State Farm, they have been able to transition seamlessly from one concept to another, which is a truly invaluable skill in marketing.

6) Clorox

Clorox is a classic American brand, one that has been trusted for decades to clean homes around the world. They realized they couldn’t just ride on the coattails of this “classic” persona forever, and have taken a more modern approach recently. Their motto today is “For life’s bleachable moments,” which gets you thinking a bit. What are some situations at home that are “bleachable moments,” circumstances where I need the best cleaning product out there to get the job done?

There have been a series of TV commercials produced over the past few months that provide outrageous, yet completely relatable situations where having that bottle of Clorox comes in handy. You’ve probably seen the ad where a child is being potty-trained and he is running around the house with his training toilet to proudly show his mom what he has done. In the process, he spills the contents all over the floor. When he gets to his mom she sees an empty toilet and realizes what has happened. The ad immediately cuts to a picture of Clorox and a mop along with their tagline.

The reason I think this approach to advertising has worked so well is that these things actually happen in life. We laugh at their marketing because we can either think of a time that something like this has happened or we can imagine it happening someday. And in this type of situation, it definitely doesn’t hurt to have a bottle of Clorox around.

Clorox has also taken this tagline to its website, where it has a dedicated page for consumers to share their “bleachable moments.” This is a great way to interact with their customers while also getting free publicity. People go to the website to share times that they were happy to have Clorox in the house, so they’re essentially creating an opportunity for people to say how great their product is (known as crowdsourcing). Genius!

7) Wonderful Pistachios

As society becomes more health-conscious, companies are finding ways to entertain consumers in their marketing while promoting a healthy lifestyle. Wonderful Pistachios is a brand that has paved the way by using humor to encourage healthy snacking. Most recently, comedian Stephen Colbert has served as the official spokesperson in the “Get Crackin’” campaign’s fifth year.

Stephen Colbert is not only one of the most popular comedians today, he was also a very timely choice as his show “The Colbert Report” came to an end and he will be taking over the “Late Show” in the spring. The buzz around the new era that is about to begin at the “Late Show” carries over to Wonderful Pistachios’ branding by their association with Colbert.

They launched his campaign during the 2014 Super Bowl through a two-part ad. The first 15 seconds of the ad aired, followed by another brand’s 30 second spot, and then the rest of the ad was shown. In the second half, Colbert jokes about how he was told that there wasn’t enough branding the first time around, so the second ad was necessary. This was an excellent strategy to make sure they didn’t get lost in the sea of other promotions.

Previous spokespeople for Wonderful Pistachios have included Gangnam Style’s PSY, Jersey Shore’s Snooki, and YouTube sensation Keyboard Cat. Their ability to attract media icons to work with their brand has allowed Wonderful Pistachios’ brand recognition to skyrocket in recent years.

For the most part, these “boring” brands are pretty different from one another, which goes to show that you don’t have to be in a particular business to use humor in your marketing. These companies occupy different industries, sell at various price points, and they all take a slightly different approach to how they use humor.

There are some common themes here, though. Some of these brands have been around for ages, like Clorox. After some time, there’s a need to reinvent your brand to stay fresh in people’s minds, especially with how many options we have in the marketplace today.

Others like Dollar Shave Club are relatively new, so they are setting a precedent for how they are perceived. It’s difficult to start a company these days, especially when there are so many long-time brands still in existence. That’s why we see companies using provocative and outrageous marketing to stand out, and I think we can agree a lot of them have done that quite well.

Most importantly, these brands sell dull products. Who likes shopping for insurance or toilet paper? That’s why the use of humor is all the more valuable. It’s easy to take an exciting or entertaining product, like a car or clothing line, and make the marketing enjoyable. But the real gift is with those who can take something that people don’t typically enjoy shopping for and make it an experience they will actually look forward to.

If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that people love to laugh. We could all afford to smile and laugh a little more in our lives, and if you’re a brand that can make us do that, we’re going to appreciate it. So keep the laughs coming!

Want to learn how you can get a headstart at improving your branding in 2015? Dowlonad our buyer persona worksheet and start developing the right types fo content for your target audience!

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Vía HubSpot Marketing Blog http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/7-boring-big-brands-that-used-humor-to-amp-up-their-marketing

How to Simplify Your Writing by HubSpot

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simple

I love reading simple writing. It’s clear. It’s easy to understand. And it doesn’t force me to work hard.

But simple writing is easier said than done. Even though it’s easy on the readers, it’s hard for the writer. In this article, I’ll go over what I mean by “simple” in writing, and then give you eight tips on how to simplify your writing.

What do I mean by ‘simple’?

Simple doesn’t mean dumb.

You don’t need to talk to down to your readers. That’s not simple — that’s condescending (and possibly offensive). You can write smart content using simple words.

Simple means easy to understand.

If the reader has to work so hard to understand what you’re trying to say, it’ll distract them from your message. You’ll lose out in the end.

Simple writing can communicate complex ideas.

I love this quote by Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.” That comes from the guy who summed up the equation below with e = mc².

einstein-equations

That’s why Einstein was a genius: He understood some really complicated stuff and also knew how to convey that complicated stuff in simpler terms. Think about the complex, specialized topics you know a lot about. It’s key that you’re able to explain those topics clearly and concisely to others.

‘Simple’ is relative to the audience.

I write in different ways for different audiences. Every audience has their own idea of “simple.” Something that’s simple for a medical doctor to read is not going to be simple for a lawyer, and vice versa.

Let me give you an example. Below is an excerpt from an article on Quicksprout. Now, my Quicksprout readers are smart and savvy — they love SEO, detailed guides, and advanced techniques. So I wrote an article about infinite scrolling and SEO — which is pretty technical, specialized stuff. But I tried to use as simple language as possible in the article. I’ve highlighted some of these examples in yellow:

quicksprout-article

Here’s another screenshot of the same section in the article, where I’ve highlighted some of the easy expressions I used to simplify the language where possible.

quicksprout-article-explanation

Now that we’ve talked a little about what simplicity in writing is, let’s dive into tips for how to make your writing more simple.

8 Tips to Simplify Your Writing

1) Write like you speak.

Ramit Sethi is the author of the New York Times bestseller I Will Teach You To Be Rich. In addition to writing that book, he writes a lot of stuff — and his stuff is good. The coolest thing about his writing style is that it sounds like he’s chatting with me over drinks at the bar. He doesn’t mind tossing a four-letter word or two in the mix every once in a while, because that’s just who he is. It’s him being real, and it’s him talking to you. He just happened to write it down.

Here’s an example from his blog, also called “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”:

i-will-teach-you-to-be-rich

Casual language, colloquial expressions, personal anecdotes — they make your writing sound more human. And humans relate to one another.

The takeaway here: People like when you write like you speak.

2) Tell your readers when you’re switching gears.

Writing is like leading someone down a path. If you suddenly jump off the path into the woods, they might get lost. They might keep walking down the path, wondering where in the world you went. A transition is where you tell the person whom you’re leading, “Okay, I’m stepping off the path here. Come with me.” That warning is crucial.

It’s important to make transitions as clear as possible for your readers so they can follow along whether they’re skimming or reading every word. Usually, a header will do. Other times, you’ll need to actually explain with words that you’re doing it. Or both.

3) Use examples and illustrations.

One of the best ways to clear up a point is to show an example or an illustration. A great example of this is this article by Giles Thomas on the ConversionXL Blog. In the brief excerpt below, note his use of images to illustrate his point.

form-label-alignment 

Remember: Showing someone is often better than telling someone. Plus, people like pictures.

4) Make paragraphs short.

If you scan over this article, you’ll see that no paragraph is more than a few lines long. I recommend a maximum of six lines for paragraphs.

Why do I use such short paragraphs? Because it gives your brain time to think about what I just said. Paragraph breaks are like periods, only better. They tell you where one idea ends and another idea begins. Between those ideas, your brain gets a little chance to think about it, process it, and take a mental breath for the next thought.

Your eyes can move faster across a line of text faster than your brain can process it. Paragraph breaks are a technique that helps to break up the eye movement and help your brain with little pauses.

5) Have someone else read it.

If you struggle with keeping it simple, get help. Friends don’t let friends write complicated stuff.

Ask (or demand) that someone ruthlessly edit your writing for simplicity. Consider asking someone who doesn’t know much about the topic you wrote about — if he or she understands your explanation, then you’ll know your writing clear.

6) Ask questions, and provide answers.

The Socratic Method is the process of asking questions and then providing answers to reach a conclusion. I do this all the time in my writing because it helps me to organize my own thoughts, and thereby helps my readers.

Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote on split testing. In this article (which is pretty long), I ask more than 70 questions. It’s a great technique for writing clearly and simply.

ppc-ad-testing

8) Remove unnecessary words.

If you don’t need to say it, take it out.

Check the sentence I highlighted from an article on ShopifyNation.com:

shopify-nation

That highlighted sentence is clear and succinct. But the author could easily have written something like this: 

“Often, in many ecommerce sites, it’s apparent that the main difference between a good or favorable photo and a bad or unprofessional photo can create disruption in the sales process, creating cognitive and visual dissonance in the mind of the potential buyer, and reducing their eagerness to purchase the featured product — to make or break the sale.”

 What the heck does that mean?

When you boil down to the crux of that long, convoluted sentence, you come up with: “The difference between good or bad photos can make or break the sale.” It’s the same concept using fewer words, less clutter, and less confusion.

8) Use short sentences.

Short sentences are atomic power in simplicity. The maximum words you should use in a sentence is 25. Short sentences are always better than long sentences. (Although sentence length variability can be a good thing, to a certain point.)

What it comes down to is this: If you can write simpler, you will write better.

I know that I’m not the world’s best creator of simple content, but I’m trying.

 What are your tips for simpler writing?

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Vía HubSpot Marketing Blog http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/write-simply