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The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling

An art.

Not a process, method, or technique. Storytelling is described as an art … the “art” of storytelling.

And — like art — it requires creativity, vision, skill, and practice. Storytelling isn’t something you can grasp in one sitting, after one course. It’s a trial-and-error process of mastery.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, and rightfully so because storytelling has become a crucial component of the most successful marketing campaigns. It sets apart vibrant brands from simple businesses and loyal consumers from one-time, stop-in shoppers.

It’s also the heart of inbound marketing.

Storytelling is an incredibly valuable tool for you to add to your proverbial marketing tool belt. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide, to help you discover and master storytelling and weave gorgeous, compelling tales for your audience.

Pick up your pen, and let’s dive in.

While this definition is pretty specific, stories actually resemble a variety of things. This graphic from ReferralCandy helps outline what stories are and are not.

what-is-storytelling

Storytelling is an art form as old as time and has a place in every culture and society. Why? Because stories are a universal language that everyone — regardless of dialect, hometown, or heritage — can understand. Stories stimulate imagination and passion and create a sense of community among listeners and tellers alike.

Telling a story is like painting a picture with words. While everyone can tell a story, certain people fine-tune their storytelling skills and become a storyteller on behalf of their organization, brand, or business. You might’ve heard of these folks — we typically refer to them as marketers, content writers, or PR professionals.

Every member of an organization can tell a story. But before we get into the how, let’s talk about why we tell stories — as a society, culture, and economy.

Why Do We Tell Stories?

There are a variety of reasons to tell stories — to sell, entertain, educate or brag. We’ll talk about that below. Right now, I want to discuss why we choose storytelling over, say, a data-driven powerpoint or bulleted list. Why are stories our go-to way of sharing, explaining, and selling information?

Here’s why.

Stories Solidify Abstract Concepts and Simplify Complex Messages

We’ve all experienced confusion when trying to understand a new idea. Stories provide a way around that. Think about times when stories have helped you better understand a concept … perhaps a teacher used a real-life example to explain a math problem, a preacher illustrated a situation during a sermon, or a speaker used a case study to convey complex data.

Stories help solidify abstract concepts and simplify complex messages. Taking a lofty, non-tangible concept and relating it using concrete ideas is one of the biggest strengths of storytelling in business.

Take Apple, for example. Computers and smartphones are a pretty complicated topic to describe to your typical consumer. Using real-life stories, they’ve been able to describe exactly how their products benefit users … instead of relying on technical jargon that very few customers would understand.

Stories Bring People Together

Like I said above, stories are a universal language of sorts. We all understand the story of the hero, of the underdog, or of heartbreak. We all process emotions and can share feelings of elation, hope, despair, and anger. Sharing in a story gives even the most diverse people a sense of commonality and community.

In a world divided by a multitude of things, stories bring people together and create a sense of community. Despite our language, religion, political preferences, or ethnicity, stories connect us through the way we feel and respond to them … Stories make us human.

TOMS is a great example of this. By sharing stories of both customers and the people they serve through customer purchases, TOMS has effectively created a movement that has not only increased sales but also built a community.

Stories Inspire and Motivate

Stories make us human, and the same goes for brands. When brands get transparent and authentic, it brings them down-to-earth and helps consumers connect with them and the people behind them.

Tapping into people’s emotions and baring both the good and bad is how stories inspire and motivate … and eventually, drive action. Stories also foster brand loyalty. Creating a narrative around your brand or product not only humanizes it but also inherently markets your business.

Few brands use inspiration as a selling tactic, but ModCloth does it well. By sharing the real story of their founder, ModCloth not only makes the brand relatable and worth purchasing, but it also inspires other founders and business owners.

storytelling-modcloth

Source: ModCloth

What Makes a Good Story?

Words like “good” and “bad” are relative to user opinion. But there are a few non-negotiable components that make for a great storytelling experience, for both the reader and teller.

Good stories are …

  • entertaining. Good stories keep the reader engaged and interested in what’s coming next.
  • educational. Good stories spark curiosity and add to the reader’s knowledge bank.
  • universal. Good stories are relatable to all readers and tap into emotions and experiences that most people undergo.
  • organized. Good stories follow a succinct organization that helps convey the core message and helps readers absorb it.
  • memorable. Whether through inspiration, scandal, or humor, good stories stick in the reader’s mind.

According to HubSpot Academy’s free Power of Storytelling course, there are three components that make up a good story — regardless of the story you’re trying to tell.

  1. Characters. Every story features at least one character, and this character will be the key to relating your audience back to the story. This component is the bridge between you, the storyteller, and the audience. If your audience can put themselves in your character’s shoes, they’ll be more likely to follow through with your call-to-action.
  2. Conflict. The conflict is the lesson of how the character overcomes a challenge. Conflict in your story elicits emotions and connects the audience through relatable experiences. When telling stories, the power lies in what you’re conveying and teaching. If there’s no conflict in your story, it’s likely not a story.
  3. Resolution. Every good story has a closing, but it doesn’t always have to be a good one. Your story’s resolution should wrap up the story, provide context around the characters and conflict(s), and leave your audience with a call-to-action.

Now that you know what your story should contain, let’s talk about how to craft your story.

The Storytelling Process

We’ve confirmed storytelling is an art. Like art, storytelling requires creativity, vision, and skill. It also requires practice. Enter: The storytelling process.

Painters, sculptors, sketch artists, and potters all follow their own creative process when producing their art. It helps them know where to start, how to develop their vision, and how to perfect their practice over time. The same goes for storytelling … especially for businesses writing stories.

Why is this process important? Because, as an organization or brand, you likely have a ton of facts, figures, and messages to get across in one succinct story. How do you know where to begin? Well, start with the first step. You’ll know where to go (and how to get there) after that.

1. Know your audience

Who wants to hear your story? Who will benefit and respond the strongest? In order to create a compelling story, you need to understand your readers and who will respond and take action.

Before you put a pen to paper (or cursor to word processor), do some research on your target market and define your buyer persona(s). This process will get you acquainted with who might be reading, viewing, or listening to your story. It will also provide crucial direction for the next few steps as you build out the foundation of your story.

2. Define your core message

Whether your story is one page or twenty, ten minutes or sixty, it should have a core message. Like the foundation of a home, it must be established before moving forward.

Is your story selling a product or raising funds? Explaining a service or advocating for an issue? What is the point of your story? To help define this, try to summarize your story in six to ten words. If you can’t do that, you don’t have a core message.

3. Decide what kind of story you’re telling

Not all stories are created equal. To determine what kind of story you’re telling, figure out how you want your audience to feel or react as they read.

This will help you determine how you’re going to weave your story and what objective you’re pursuing. If your objective is to …

  • incite action, your story should describe a how a successful action was completed in the past and explain how readers might be able to implement the same kind of change. Avoid excessive, exaggerated detail or changes in subject so your audience can focus on the action or change that your story encourages.
  • tell people about yourself, tell a story that features genuine, humanizing struggles, failures, and wins. Today’s consumer appreciates and connects to brands that market with authenticity and storytelling is no exception.
  • convey values, tell a story that taps into familiar emotions, characters, and situations so that readers can understand how the story applies to their own life. This is especially important when discussing values  that some people might not agree with or understand.
  • foster community or collaboration, tell a story that moves readers to discuss and share your story with others. Use a situation or experience that others can relate to and say, “Me, too!” Keep situations and characters neutral to attract the widest variety of readers.
  • impart knowledge or educate, tell a story that features a trial-and-error experience, so that readers can learn about a problem and how a solution was discovered and applied. Discuss other alternative solutions, too.

4. Establish your call-to-action

Your objective and call-to-action are similar, but your call-to-action will establish the action you’d like your audience to take after reading.

What exactly do you want your readers to do after reading? Do you want them to donate money, subscribe to a newsletter, take a course, or buy a product? Outline this alongside your objective to make sure they line up.

For example, if your objective is to foster community or collaboration, your call-to-action might be to “Tap the share button below.”

5. Choose your story medium

Stories can take many shapes and forms. Some stories are read, some are watched, and others are listened to. Your chosen story medium depends on your type of story as well as resources, like time and money.

Here are the different ways you can tell your story.

  • A written story is told through articles, blog posts, or books. These are mostly text and may include some images. Written stories are by far the most affordable, attainable method of storytelling as it just requires a free word processor like Google Docs … or a pen and paper.
  • A spoken story is told in person, like  a presentation, pitch, or panel. TED talks are considered spoken stories. Because of their “live”, unedited nature, spoken stories typically require more practice and skill to convey messages and elicit emotions in others.
  • An audio story is spoken aloud but recorded — that’s what sets it apart from the spoken story. Audio stories are usually in podcast form, and with today’s technology, creating an audio story is more affordable than ever. (For a great story-driven podcast, check out The Growth Show!)
  • A digital story is told through a variety of media, such as video, animation, interactive stories, and even games. This option is by far the most effective for emotionally resonant stories as well as active, visual stories … which is why it’s also the most expensive. But don’t fret: video quality doesn’t matter as much as conveying a strong message.

6. Write!

Now it’s time to put pen to paper and start crafting your story.

With your core message, audience objective, and call-to-action already established, this step is simply about adding detail and creative flair to your story. Read more about our storytelling formula to help you with this step.

7. Share your story

Don’t forget to share and promote your story! Like with any piece of content, creating it is only half the battle — sharing it is the other.

Depending on your chosen medium, you should definitely share your story on social media and email. In addition, written stories can be promoted on your blog, Medium, or through guest posting on other publications. Digital stories can be shared on YouTube and Vimeo. While spoken stories are best conveyed in person, consider recording a live performance to share later.

The more places you share your story, the more engagement you can expect from your audience.

Storytelling Resources

Storytelling is a trial-and-error process, and no one tells a story perfectly on the first try. That’s why we’ve collected these resources to help you fine-tune your storytelling skills and learn more about the different ways a story can be told.

For a written story

For a spoken story

For an audio story

For the digital story

Over To You

Storytelling is an art. It’s also a process worth mastering for both your business and your customers. Stories bring people together and inspire action and response. Also, today’s consumer doesn’t decide to buy based on what you’re selling, but rather why you’re selling it. Storytelling helps you communicate that “why” in a creative, engaging way. Plus, isn’t storytelling more fun?

7 Free Career Aptitude Tests You Can Take Online Today

Whether you’re a recent graduate or someone considering a career change, career aptitude tests can offer unique insight regarding jobs best-suited for your skillset and personality.

Best of all, the career aptitude tests are objective measures of your interests — so you can avoid awkward career conversations at family parties like, “My neighbor Bill is hiring for a financial analyst. I know you want to be a writer, but it’s a start.”

Here, we’ve compiled seven of the best career aptitude tests you can take online for free, so you don’t waste time applying for jobs you wouldn’t enjoy. If you feel unfulfilled in your current role, or if you’re tired of hearing what you “should” be doing at family parties, read on.

1. 123 Career Test

It’s important to find a job that suits your personality and makes you feel passionate about what you do. Occasionally, you might feel tempted to take a job for money or status, rather than truly considering if your personality would fit well in the work environment or job itself.

123 Career Test is a simple, five-to-ten minute assessment of your career personality. You simply look at pictures of people doing work-related tasks, and choose “yes” or “no” in regards to whether you could see yourself enjoying that task. 123 Career Test is based on Holland Code personality types, and will tell you which work environments and occupations best suit your career personality.

123careertest-2

2. Princeton Review Career Quiz

Similar to 123 Career Test, Princeton Review’s Career Quiz offers examples of people doing tasks, and asks you to choose which one you’d rather do. However, while 123 Career Test shows you pictures, Princeton Review’s test offers phrases such as “I would rather be a tax lawyer” or “I would rather be a newspaper editor”. If you’d prefer words over images, this test is the better option for you.

The test consists of 24 questions. At the end of the test, you’ll be assigned a color based on your perceived interests and style — then, Princeton Review offers potential careers well-suited for people in your color category. While not as diligent as some of the others in this list, the results are nonetheless useful indicators of potential paths you might take.

princetonreview

3. My Next Move O*NET Interests Profiler

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the O*NET Interests Profiler asks you 60 questions regarding various work activities. After you provide a level of interest for each task, ranging from “strongly dislike” to “strongly like”, the tool identifies your career interests and suggests potential career paths.

Best of all, the O*NET Interests Profiler allows you to filter your career path search based on how much preparation is necessary, so you can find jobs for which you’re currently qualified.

O_Net-compressor

4. MyPlan.com

A company is only a good fit if it matches your values — but sometimes, particularly if you’ve never worked in a corporate environment, it’s hard to identify those values. MyPlan.com offers a free values assessment that identifies your work values, which can help you narrow your search when it comes to both positions and companies.

The test separates work values into six separate clusters. Once you’ve completed the test, you are assigned one of those clusters — then, you’re shown a list of 739 occupations, ranked by how well each position matches your personal values. If you’re unsure which industry best suits your values, this test might offer some useful initial insights.

myplan

5. MAPP Career Test

The MAPP Career Test (Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential) provides you with insights regarding your career motivations, and then offers you a list of ten industries best-suited for you. Additionally, the MAPP Test matches you with specific careers in their database of over 1,000 roles, helping you narrow your job-hunting scope.

The MAPP test has been taken by over 8 million people since 1995, and is offered in six different languages. The test has undergone reliability testing by psychologists, and results are correlated to the Strong Interest Inventory®. While some of the other tests in this list offer general personality or value assessments, this one matches you with specific roles. If you’re interested in more literal or concrete advice, this is a good test to take.

MAPP

6. Career Strengths Test

Searching for jobs requires a certain level of self-awareness, but oftentimes, it can be difficult to remain open-minded and unbiased when considering your own strengths and weaknesses. The Career Strengths test, a collection of assessments developed by the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation for Oprah, evaluates your strengths when it comes to skills varying from numerical reasoning to concept organization.

After completing the four quick tests, you’re given a list of multiple jobs that require your skills. This is a good test for identifying your job strengths, and limiting your career search to roles best-suited for your skills.

oprah

7. PathSource

PathSource created a free career assessment app for those of you who prefer using your smartphone over a desktop. Once you input personality characterists and interests, PathSource provides you with a list of potential career options, and includes information such as lifestyle and income expectations for each potential role. Additionally, the app offers 2,600 informational interviews, showcasing an insider’s view from people in various professions.

PathSource also provides a database of careers related to various academic majors. If you’re a recent graduate and are unsure which career paths you can pursue with your major, this is a helpful tool.

pathsource

How to Add a Facebook Virtual Event to Your Launch Strategy

Do you host online events, webinars, or product launches? Wondering how to incorporate Facebook events into your marketing strategy? In this article, you’ll discover how to create and host a virtual Facebook event. Why Host a Virtual Facebook Event? A virtual Facebook event allows you to actively engage Facebook users without having (or in addition […]

The post How to Add a Facebook Virtual Event to Your Launch Strategy appeared first on Social Media Examiner.

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Network Effects: How Growing Your User Base Can Increase the Value of Your Product or Service

When the World Wide Web launched in 1991, most people thought it would fizzle out in a few years. Experts considered it to be a shiny, new fad that no one was really using — six countries in the world had more than one Internet user per 100 people. 

But when the development of various web browsers like Netscape, Internet Explorer, and AOL enabled easier and simpler Internet use in the mid-90s, the web boomed in popularity.

In fact, 28 million online users sent or received email at least once every few weeks and businesses like Amazon.com and eBay opened online stores.

By the early-to-mid-2000s, internet technology vastly improved, allowing more people to access the web at faster speeds and letting them connect on social media and collaborative websites like Wikipedia. And once people could access the internet with mobile phones in the late 2000s, there was no looking back — the web had become mainstream. To communicate, connect, research, and buy things, the internet was starting to become the most widely-used platform.

You might think the evolution of the internet’s capabilities was what grew its user base. But it was actually the evolution of its network. When more people started using the internet, connecting with each other, and buying products on it, the web became necessary to do everyday things, making the platform more valuable for current users and non-users.

A product’s or service’s increase in value due to a surge in usage is called a network effect. And companies can leverage this phenomenon to make their own product or service so valuable that it becomes essential for their entire target market to use.

Below, we’ll delve into the economic benefits of network effects and the most common examples to help you apply them to your own business model. But first, let’s go over what a network effect exactly is.

The telephone and social networks are good examples of how network effects can impact a product or service. As more people started using these technologies, they became necessary for communication, boosting their value for existing and future users, which weakened the alternative’s value.

For instance, when everyone started communicating with landline phones, it became the most popular way to talk to people, increasing the telephone’s user base, necessity, and value while simultaneously diminishing the need for the telegraph.

Similarly, when the majority of people and businesses started connecting on Facebook, it became the most popular way to communicate with your entire network, increasing its user base, necessity, and value while simultaneously reducing MySpace’s value.

As you can see, leveraging network effects can greatly increase the size of your user base, your company’s market share, and your product’s or service’s value. But if you’re in the SaaS space, it can also boost your business’ profitability.

The Economic Benefits of Network Effects

From a pure accounting perspective, your SaaS company’s variable costs only consist of hosting and servicing your product. These costs are much lower than than your software’s price, so the profit from selling your product is a lot higher than the cost of producing it.

Your variable costs also don’t increase at the same rate as the rate you sell your software at — like physical products — because you already built the software. The more users you can attract and retain with network effects, the faster you’ll generate the revenue to cover your fixed costs and the faster you’ll start earning a profit.

But any company that wants to leverage network effects will also face the high hurdle of attracting a sufficient amount of users to produce enough momentum for a network effect to even take place.

This threshold is called the critical mass point, where the product’s value becomes greater than its cost, which is what ultimately attracts new users.

Before hitting the critical mass point, though, the cost of signing up for a product is greater than the value of signing up for it. To incentivize early adopters to sign up for their product, brands usually use discounts or referral benefits to lower the product’s price to the point where the value of subscribing is higher than the cost of subscribing.

Once companies can attract enough early adopters and users to surpass the critical mass point, they can start leveraging network effects. But they can’t just coast from that point on. Businesses must be able to sustain their network’s growth, and to avoid congestion or saturation, they must align the growth of their staff and capacity with the growth of their user base.

For instance, if a ridesharing app, like Uber or Lyft, has too much consumer demand and not enough cars, its prices will skyrocket, congesting the app and providing less value to its users. This is called a negative network effect. And brands who want to leverage network effects must make sure they can satisfy their growing user base before it even hits its critical mass point.

But if they’re successful at it, they’ll be able to use network effects to their full advantage and depend on a more reliable and cheaper way to grow their business than developing and shoving countless product updates into their prospects’ faces.

The Three Most Common Examples of Network Effects

There are three main types of network effects that can increase your product’s user base and, in turn, value: direct, two-sided, and local. We’ll go over and give an example of each of them below.

Direct Network Effect

A direct network effect is when an increase in usage and users leads to a direct increase in the product or service’s value for other users.

The App Store is a good example of having a direct network effect. For example, the more people who use iPhones, the more app developers will build apps for the App Store, making the iPhone more valuable for current users, which attracts new users. This ever-growing user base also prompts even more developers to build apps for the App Store, which boosts the iPhone’s value even more. 

On the other side of the coin, though, iPhone app developers don’t reap nearly as many benefits as iPhone users do. They have to heavily depend on the App Store’s direct network effect to generate app downloads. And with an ever-growing user base of iPhone users who only have one place to download apps, developers who build IOS apps can garner the most attention for their products in the App Store. But developing IOS apps also becomes a necessity for their business to survive.

Two-Sided Network Effect

A two-sided network effect is when the value of the product or service equally increases for both buyer and seller. This usually happens because the entrance of new sellers and buyers into a service like a marketplace or platform entices even more sellers and buyers to join the service.  

Marketplaces like eBay are a great example of the two-sided network effect in action. eBay has a lot of buyers bidding on auctions, which increases demand and prices, attracting more sellers to the marketplace. When more sellers join the platform, though, supply increases and prices decreases, which attracts more buyers to the marketplace. 

This constant increase in the marketplace’s supply and demand oscillates its products’ prices, making the site valuable to its buyers during certain times and sellers at others.

Platforms like social media can also have a two-sided network effect. But to leverage the effect to its full potential, social networks need to maintain their user quality to keep attracting more valuable users in the future.

For instance, Facebook started out with an extremely specific user base: students at Harvard University. Next, they slowly opened their platform up to more colleges around the world, then to high schools, and eventually, to everyone.

To convince the entire world to join their platform, Facebook had to be highly-dedicated to deleting spam accounts and making sure the majority of their users were real people. This way, users could connect and communicate with their entire social circle on the website, which also attracted most advertisers — almost every brand’s entire target audience was and still is on Facebook.

Good growth, not just growth, is what lead to Facebook’s lasting expansion. That’s why they exploded in popularity while Myspace nosedived into irrelevance.

Local Network Effect

Every major social network’s user base is actually made up of a bunch of smaller, local networks. And the strength of each local network is what boosts the size and engagement of the social network’s entire user base.

Social media platforms like Instagram aren’t valuable to you because you can communicate with over one billion other users. They’re valuable because all your friends are on it, and you can easily connect with them on the platform. Referencing inside jokes or personalizing your posts is socially acceptable because your following usually understands the context of your posts. This lets you express yourself in an environment you truly feel comfortable in.

21 Brand Style Guide Examples for Visual Inspiration

When it comes to building a memorable brand, it’s all about consistency.

When you’re shopping for your favorite cereal or coffee at the grocery store, you want to be able to spot it from a mile away.

The best brands stick in our brains because their presence is defined by the repetition of the same logo, fonts, colors, and images. Once we see them enough, they become instantly recognizable, bringing us a clear sense of reliability and security.

Click here to download our comprehensive guide to effective and measurable  branding.

Developing a consistent brand starts with creating a brand style guide. These branding rule books help graphic designers, marketers, web developers, community managers, and even product packaging departments all stay on the same page, and present a unified vision of the brand to the public.

We’ve compiled a list of some awesome brand style guides to use as inspiration for your next branding project or website redesign. Check them out below.

Picture the most recognizable brands you can think of. Chances are, you’ve learned to recognize it because of the consistency across of the messaging — written or visual — that brand broadcasts. The same brand colors are reflected across them. The language sounds familiar. It’s all very organized and, while not rigid, it’s cohesive.

Here are a few types of guidelines you’d find in a brand style guide and which parts of a brand they can influence.

Mission Statement

By reputation, you might think a mission statement is in its own category of importance to a business. And it is. But your business’s mission statement is also compass for your brand style guide. A mission statement ensures every piece of content you create for your brand is working toward the same goal — and, ideally, strives to solve the same problem for your customer.

Your mission statement can guide your:

  • Blog content.
  • Paid/sponsored content
  • Ad copy.
  • Visual media.
  • Slogan or tagline.

Buyer Persona

By definition, a buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It can include details related to your customer’s age, gender, job title, and professional challenges. For this reason, your buyer persona should also appear in your brand style guide. Your buyer persona is your target audience, and therefore stipulates for whom your brand publishes content.

Your buyer persona can guide your:

  • Blog content.
  • Ad copy.
  • Visual media.

Color Palette

A color palette, you’ll correctly assume, will guide every piece of visual content you create on behalf of your brand. Your color palette can be as simple or as elaborate as you want, so long as your brand doesn’t deviate from the colors you choose to include.

Color palettes that feature multiple colors often dedicate specific colors to specific types of marketing content. While the first two colors of your color palette might govern your logo, for example, the next two colors might support your website and blog design. Another two or three colors might be the basis for all your printed branding material.

No matter what colors you use for your color palette, make sure you identify their HEX or RGB color codes. These codes consist of numbers and letters to help you recall the exact shade, brightness, contrast, and hue you want associated with your brand, so your colors don’t gradually drift in appearance as you create new content. You can find color codes using most photo-editing or design software that comes standard on your computer. Learn more about finding and committing to color codes in this blog post.

Your color palette can guide your:

  • Logo.
  • Website design.
  • Printed advertisings.
  • Event collateral.

Editorial Style Guide

Nowadays, an editorial style guide is the bread and butter of an authoritative brand. This component of your brand style guide can have strong implications for your PR team, as well as the people who write articles, scripts, blog posts, and website copy for your company.

An editorial style guide’s main job is to commit to an editorial stylebook (such as Associated Press or Chicago), how to phrase certain products, topics the brand can and cannot write about, and even other companies the brand can and cannot mention. However, a brand’s editorial style guide can also go into much deeper detail about your buyer persona: what they like to read about, where they read it, their general reading level, etc.

Your editorial style guide can guide your:

  • Blog content.
  • Video scripts.
  • Website copy.
  • Landing page copy.
  • Public relations talking points.
  • A knowledge base supported by your customer service team.
  • Paid/sponsored content.

Typography

Typography is another visual element of your brand style guide, but it isn’t just the font you use in your company logo. Typographic guidelines can support your blog design — which font you publish articles in — the links and copy on your website, and even a tagline to go with your company logo.

As you can see, the purpose of the brand style guide is to form and maintain all of the various elements of a company that, when combined, spell out the entire brand as it’s recognized.

Intrigued? Check out 21 of the best ones we could find.

1. Medium

Medium emphasizes both typography and color in its brand style guide. Its guide also include details related to the company’s “Purpose” and “Product Principles.”

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide from Medium, featuring a white, black, and green color palette.

Source: Behance

2. Wolf Circus Jewelry

Wolf Circus Jewelry’s product is all about appearance. Naturally, the company’s style guide is too. The brand’s style guide includes the company’s mission statement, product details, typeface, logo variations, a color palette, and a separate set of guidelines just for advertisements.

See the full brand guide here.

Logo variations for Wolf Circus Jewelry
Color palette for Wolf Circus Jewelry with three different shades of purple.

Source: Issuu

3. Ollo

Ollo is so into color and typography, it turned its style guide into a game. Click the link below to see how much you can manipulate the brand. It’s the perfect way to show content creators how creative they can get but also still adhere to Ollo’s specific typeface and color codes.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide by Ollo with color palette including four color codes

Source: Bibliothèque Design

4. Skype

Everyone’s favorite video chat platform also has a squeaky-clean style guide for its brand. Skype, now owned by Microsoft, focuses primarily on its product phrasing and logo placement.

See the full brand guide here.

skype-brand-guidelines

Source: Microsoft

5. Barre & Soul

Barre & Soul’s brand style guide includes variations of its logo, logo spacing, secondary logos, supporting imagery, and a five-color color palette.

See the full brand guide here.

Color palette for Barre & Soul whose brand inspiration includes Retro, Energetic, and Edgy

Source: Issuu

6. Spotify

Spotify’s style guide might appear simple and green, but there’s more to the brand than just a lime green circle. Spotify’s color palette includes three color codes, while the rest of the company’s branding guidelines focus heavily on logo variation and album artwork. The style guide even allows you to download an icon version of its logo, making it easier to represent the company without manually recreating it.

See the full brand guide here.

spotify-brand-guidelines

Source: Spotify

7. Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver has an extremely thorough brand style guide, covering logo placement across all of its kitchenware products. The company also includes a large color palette with each color sorted by the product it should be shown on.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide for Jamie Oliver with red tiled images showing photography restrictions
Typography guidelines for Jamie Oliver

Source: Issuu

8. Herban Kitchen

Herban Kitchen has both a color and texture palette in its style guide. These guidelines help to show not just how the brand’s logo will appear, but how the company’s various storefronts will look from the outside to potential customers.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide for Herban Kitchen with eight logo variations and six color code tiles

Source: Issuu

9. Urban Outfitters

Photography, color, and even tone of voice appear in Urban Outfitters’ California-inspired brand guidelines. However, the company isn’t shy to include information about its ideal consumer and what the brand believes in, as well.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide for Urban Outfitters with black and white logo variations

Source: Issuu

10. Love to Ride

Love to Ride, a cycling company, is all about color variety in its visually pleasing style guide. The company’s brand guidelines include nine color codes and tons of detail about its secondary logos and imagery.

See the full brand guide here.

Color palette for Love to Ride with nine cool colors in circular icons
Infographic guidelines for Love to Ride

Source: Issuu

11. Barbican

Barbican, an art and learning center in the United Kingdom, sports a loud yet simple style guide focusing heavily on its logo and supporting typefaces.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide for Barbican with black and white logo in circle and gridlines
Typography guidelines in the style guide of Barbican art and learning centre

Source: Issuu

12. I Love New York

Despite its famously simple t-shirts, I Love New York has a brand style guide. The company begins its guidelines with a thorough explanation of its mission, vision, story, target audience, and tone of voice. Only then does the style guide delve into its logo positioning on various merchandise.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide for I Love New York with logo and gridlines

Source: Issuu

13. Cisco

Cisco’s style guide isn’t just a guide — it’s an interactive brand book. The company takes website visitors page by page through its brand’s vision, mission, strategy, and even its promise before showing users their logo and allowing them to actually type using their proprietary typeface, “CiscoSans.” Where’s Cisco’s color palette, you ask? The business has a separate webpage for just that.

See the full brand guide here.

cisco-brand-book
cisco-sans-typography

Source: Cisco

14. University of the Arts Helsinki

The style guide of the University of the Arts Helsinki is more of a creative branding album than a traditional marketing guide. It shows you dozens of contexts in which you’d see this school’s provocative logo, including animations.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide of the University of the Arts Helsinki with black background and white sans typeface and X logo

Source: Behance

15. NJORD

NJORD’s minimalist style guide gives you everything you’d need to know to design using the brand’s logo and color palette for both web and print.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide for NJORD with black and white logo and color palette

Source: Behance

16. Espacio Cultural

This cultural center in Argentina has a color palette that’s as elaborate as the artistic workshops it hosts. Nonetheless, the brand does a fantastic job of breaking down every last color code and logo placement you can find — from the building itself to the advertisements promoting it.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide for Espacio Cultural with four typefaces and vibrant color palette

Source: Behance

17. Alienware

Video gamers know Alienware from its game-friendly computers, but the rest of the world knows it by the brand’s sleek aesthetic. The company organizes its brand style guide into four basic parts: voice, design, photography, and partner. The latter describes (and shows) how the brand interacts with partner brands, such as Star Wars.

See the full brand guide here.

Brand style guide and color palette for Alienware

Source: Issuu

18. Netflix

As far as its public brand assets are concerned, Netflix is focused primarily on the treatment of its logo. The company offers a simple set of rules governing the size, spacing, and placement of its famous capitalized typeface, as well as a single color code for its classic red logo.

See the full brand guide here.

netflix-brand-assets-style-guide

Source: Netflix

19. Scrimshaw Coffee

Featuring a five-code color palette, this “laid back,” “friendly,” and “modern” brand has a number of secondary logos it embraces in various situations.

See the full brand guide here.


Source: Issuu

20. NASA

NASA’s “Graphics Standards Manual” is as official and complex as you think it is. At 220 pages, the guide describes countless logo placements, color uses, and supporting designs. And yes, NASA’s space shuttles have their own branding rules.

See the full brand guide here.

The NASA Graphics Standards Manual white cover sheet

Red color palette of the NASA brand style guide

Black NASA logo variations from large to small

Source: Standards Manual

21. New York City Transit Authority

Like NASA, the NYCTA has its own Graphics Standards Manual, and it includes some fascinating typography rules for the numbers, arrows, and public transit symbols the average commuter takes for granted every day.

See the full brand guide here.

nycta-typography

nycta-brand-guidelines

Source: Standards Manual

Want more? Read How to Create a Writing Style Guide Built for the Web [Free Template].

How to build a brand

The Many Sides of — and Reactions to — Storefronts

It was quite a day for Recode — a digital tech news site owned by Vox — to kick off its annual Code Commerce event.

The morning’s headlines were crowded. Marc and Lynne Benioff (the former of whom is CEO of Salesforce) announced plans to purchase Time Magazine. The Adbusters Media Foundation unveiled its plans for #OccupySiliconValley, a day of efforts to take down Big Tech. And Amazon — perhaps the biggest name in (online) retail, which is at the core of Code Commerce — had its own news.

First, the ecommerce giant said it would be looking into allegations that some of its employees were involved in trade deals with independent merchants selling on the site. The way it worked, the story goes, is that in exchange for internal sales data and the deletion of negative reviews, these employees would receive a financial reward ranging anywhere between $80 and $2,000.

It may not have been a coincidence, then, that Amazon announced only hours later that it would launch Storefronts: “a new store for customers to shop exclusively from U.S. small and medium-sized businesses selling on Amazon.” 

Storefronts, Amazon says, will make efforts to highlight small businesses — by highlighting a “Storefront of the Week”: a small U.S. business that Amazon features through a video that talks about its products or services, and the people behind them.

Remember that for later — because people, it turns out, are key to this story.

Putting a Face to a Purchase

Code Commerce kicked things off with a talk from NYU Stern Marketing Professor Scott Galloway, who — if the name doesn’t ring a bell — is the same guy who predicted that Amazon would acquire Whole Foods in May 2017, a good three months before it was announced. (For the record, he predicted today that Amazon’s HQ2 location will be somewhere in the D.C. metropolitan area.)

He was blunt. “”It’s impossible to compete with Amazon,” he said.

This observation isn’t unfounded. After all, just have a look at its market capitalization figures:

IMG_3294

That’s a visual representation of how much, in terms of the value of other retailers, Amazon’s market capitalization has grown over the past year. Simply put — its absorbed the value of Target, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and a handful of others.

The perception that it’s “impossible to compete with Amazon” is quite possibly part of the drive behind Storefronts — as The Verge puts it, the company is “trying to convince you that it isn’t putting small businesses out of work.”

But maybe there’s some truth to it — that Amazon isn’t really trying to put an end to small businesses. As glib as Galloway’s remarks may be — he didn’t paint a picture of Amazon as a mortal enemy to smaller, local retailers. He even pointed out examples of some retailers who have continued to succeed not just among Amazon’s seeming overtaking of commerce, but also, among rumors of artificial intelligence (AI) replacing the jobs of store employees in the not-so-distant future.

So what does it take to be successful as the mom and pop business alongside the likes of Amazon? Here’s a brick-and-mortar success secret that Galloway let us in on: it boils down to making big investments in technology, keeping an eye on AI, and “organic intelligence.”

That last phrase refers to the people working in the store — the ones who many speculate could be replaced by AI. Amazon has been dipping its toe into AI-operated stores with its cashier-less Go stores.

In contrast, Galloway floated the example of Sephora: a store where passionate associates — cast members, as the company calls them — seem to show genuine enthusiasm, as he put it, “about helping a 52-year-old with a tea extract.”

“People go to stores for people, not products,” he continued — and replicating that with AI might not only be a tall order, but ultimately detrimental to retailers.

And considering that many of the sellers using Amazon’s platform are small-to-midsize business (SMBs), featuring the humans behind the online purchases could be another driver behind Storefronts. 

“It makes sense that Amazon would want to spotlight small businesses on the platform. Every indication we have shows that trust is at an all-time low when it comes to purchase behavior and more so, customers will pay a premium for a company they know, trust and respect,” said HubSpot VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson. “Putting a face to the thousands of SMBs already on Amazon not only gives buyers that outlet, it arguably makes Amazon feel like a more familiar and trustworthy place.”

Can Amazon Truly Feel Like a “Storefront”?

Shopify CEO Toby Lütke, who claims to have started his business to make entrepreneurship accessible to everyone, had this to say about the ecommerce giant’s newest venture: It “feels like a trap to me.”

“Amazon’s worldview is that merchants don’t matter,” Lütke summarized.

Others assert that Amazon simply can’t replicate the unique benefits of shopping from a smaller business. For one, the sense of community.

It’s something that HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar pointed to earlier this year when he wrote about building an ecommerce business. Building a community that rallies around a certain product, he said, is “something Amazon simply can’t do for every single category they occupy.”

Jen Rubio, co-founder of luggage company Away, expressed a similar sentiment.

“Samsonite could recreate our product overnight,” she said. “But our brand and community, that’s what they can’t build overnight.”

Distribution vs. Customer Experience Control

Whatever your opinion of Storefronts, Amazon is an unarguably unparallelled distribution channel for SMBs. But in exchange for that distribution channel, business owners are faced with the decision to cede control over the customer experience.

“You will never have control of the full buying experience selling your products on Amazon, but you will get reach,” Keaney Anderson pointed out. And “the impact of that reach could be an absolute game changer for your business.”

However, she also pointed out that that sometimes reach can be achieved without an intermediary.

“You don’t have to lose control to gain reach,” she said. “Companies like Glossier and The Cactus Store have achieved remarkable traction and loyalty because of their decision to sell direct to consumer and have creative control over the entire customer experience.”

So, it’s not necessarily an either-or situation. For some retailers, a channel like Amazon might make sense — but it’s not the end-all, be-all of raising brand awareness.

“If you’re already selling through a marketplace or retail outlets for the sake of reach, it makes complete sense to also lean into Amazon – particularly now that they’re putting such a spotlight on SMBs,” Keaney Anderson said. “But know that it’s not the only way to grow.”

We’ll be back for day two of Code Commerce tomorrow — where we’ll share more experiences, insights, and takeaways.

The Ultimate Guide to Video Marketing

Brands need a video marketing strategy — this idea isn’t new. What has changed is how important video has become on every platform and channel.

It’s no longer just one piece of your overall marketing plan. It’s central to your outreach and campaign efforts … especially your social strategy.

Video has absolutely dominated social. According to a recent HubSpot Research report, four of the top six channels on which global consumers watch video are social channels. In addition, a Facebook executive recently predicted that the platform will be all video in less than five years.

Why is this important? Well, if you aren’t creating video, you’re likely falling behind. But, don’t fret. For most videos, the more simple and raw it is, the more authentic the content seems … and that’s what really matters to your audience.

Better yet, video production is more cost effective than ever — you can shoot in high-quality, 4K video with your smartphone.

So … video is cheaper and easier than ever. But, between camera equipment to lighting to editing software, the topic of video marketing can still seem pretty complicated. That’s why we compiled this guide.

Continue reading learn everything you need to know about video marketing, or use the links below to jump to a specific section.

Why You Need to Focus on Video Marketing in 2018

2016 saw a surge in the popularity of video as a content marketing format. 2017 saw video rise to the top of your marketing tactic list.

What has 2018 seen? In short, 2018 has transformed video from a singular marketing tactic to an entire business strategy.

Video as a tactic was likely centralized with your creative team as an one-to-many awareness play, with lots of focus on expensive production and little analysis to show for it.

Video as a strategy is quite the opposite. It’s produced by all teams, in a conversational, actionable, and measurable way. Video as a strategy is the future.

According to a report from HubSpot Research, more than 50% of consumers want to see videos from brands … more than any other type of content.

Video is useful for more than entertainment, too. Video on landing pages is capable of increasing conversion rates by 80%, and the mere mention of the word “video” in your email subject line increases open rates by 19%. 90% of customers also say videos help them make buying decisions.

But video hasn’t only transformed how businesses market and consumers shop; it’s also revolutionized how salespeople connect with and convert prospects and how service teams support and delight customers. In short, video is incredibly useful throughout the entire flywheel — not just to heighten brand awareness.

Video can be versatile tool for salespeople throughout the entire customer buying journey, and it can do much more than increase engagement. Backend analytics also help salespeople qualify and prioritize cold or unresponsive leads.

The options are also endless for service teams — onboarding videos, knowledge-based videos, meet the team videos, support video calls, and customer stories are just a few ways that video can create a more thorough, personalized customer support experience.

Lastly, 2018 has brought about a penchant for the authentic and raw. According to HubSpot Research, consumers and customers actually prefer lower quality, “authentic” video over high-quality video that seems artificial and inauthentic. What does this mean for you? That video is within reach for businesses of virtually any size — team and budget, alike.

The 12 Types of Marketing Videos

Before you begin filming, you first need to determine the type of video(s) you want to create. Check out this list to better understand your options.

1. Demo Videos

Demo videos showcase how your product works — whether that’s taking viewers on a tour of your software and how it can be used or unboxing and putting a physical product to the test.

2. Brand Videos

Brand videos are typically created as a part of a larger advertising campaign, showcasing the company’s high-level vision, mission, or products and services. The goal of brand videos is to build awareness around your company and to intrigue and attract your target audience.

3. Event Videos

Is your business hosting a conference, round table discussion, fundraiser, or another type of event? Produce a highlight reel or release interesting interviews and presentations from the gathering.

 4. Expert Interviews

Capturing interviews with internal experts or thought leaders in your industry is a great way to build trust and authority with your target audience. Find the influencers in your industry — whether they share your point-of-view or not — get these discussions in front of your audience.

5. Educational or How-To Videos

Instructional videos can be used to teach your audience something new or build the foundational knowledge they’ll need to better understand your business and solutions. These videos can also be used by your sales and service teams as they work with customers.

6. Explainer Videos

This type of video is used to help your audience better understand why they need your product or service. Many explainer videos focus on a fictional journey of the company’s core buyer persona who is struggling with a problem. This person overcomes the issue by adopting or buying the business’s solution.

7. Animated Videos

Animated videos can be a great format for hard-to-grasp concepts that need strong visuals or to explain an abstract service or product. For example, we created the following video to promote a key (intangible) theme from the 2017 State of Inbound report.

8. Case Study and Customer Testimonial Videos

Your prospects want to know that your product can (and will) solve their specific problem. One of the best ways prove this is by creating case study videos that feature your satisfied, loyal customers. These folks are your best advocates. Get them on-camera describing their challenges and how your company helped solve them.

9. Live Videos

Live video gives your viewers a special, behind-the-scenes look at your company. It also draws longer streams and higher engagement rates — viewers spend up to 8.1x longer with live video than with video on-demand. Live-stream interviews, presentations, and events, and encourage viewers to comment with questions.

10. 360° & Virtual Reality (VR) Videos

With 360° videos, viewers “scroll” around to see content from every angle — as if they were physically standing within the content. This spherical video style allows viewers to experience a location or event, such as exploring Antarctica or meeting a hammerhead shark. VR allows viewers to navigate and control their experience. These videos are usually viewed through devices such as Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard.

11. Augmented Reality (AR) Videos

In this style video, a digital layer is added to what you are currently viewing in the world. For example: You can point your phone’s camera at your living room and AR would allow you to see how a couch would look in the space. The IKEA Place app is a great example of this.

12. Personalized Messages

Video can be a creative way to continue a conversation or respond to someone via email or text. Use HubSpot Video or Loom to record yourself recapping an important meeting or giving personalized recommendations. These videos create a delightful, unique moment for your prospects and can drive them further down the purchasing funnel.

The Video Creation Process

Before you set up, record, or edit anything, start with a conversation about the purpose of your video. Why? Every decision made during the video creation process will point back to your video’s purpose and what action you’d like your audience to complete after watching it.

And, of course, without a clear purpose agreed upon by your team, you’ll find yourself in a whirlwind of re-shooting, re-framing, editing … and wasting a lot of precious time.

There are typically a lot of players when making a video. How can you ensure they’re all aligned?

Create a questionnaire using Google Forms or SurveyMonkey and pass it along to the stakeholders of the project. This way, you can ask the same questions of everyone and aggregate your answers in one place.

  • Who’s your target audience? What buyer persona are you targeting? This may be a segment of your company’s typical buyer persona.
  • What’s the goal? Is it to increase brand awareness? Sell more event tickets? Launch a new product? Ultimately, what do you want your audience to do after watching the video?
  • Where’s the video going to live? On Facebook? Behind a landing page form? You should begin with one target location — where you know your audience will discover the video — before repurposing it for other channels.
  • When’s it due? Always start with a timeline. A video on which you have a few months to work will have very a different budget and creative scope than a video needed in a few days.
  • What’s the budget? Video can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be … if you set a budget. Do your research and set realistic parameters, especially before you answer the next question.
  • What are the creative requirements? With your budget, skills, and resources in mind, think about the creative roadblocks that might arise. Do you need a designer to create lower third graphics? Are you going to create an animated video or a live action video?
  • What will constitute success for the video? Choose several key performance indicators that correspond with your video goals — or hop down to the chapter in this guide on measuring and analyzing video.

Step One: Scripting Your Video

There’s a time and place for videos to be off-the-cuff and completely unscripted. You have tear-jerking documentaries, vlogging rants, and, of course, the holy grail: cat videos.

That being said, most business videos need a script.

If you skip this step, you’ll find yourself editing more than you need to, releasing a video longer than it should be, and probably losing your audience along the way.

Start writing your script the way you would begin a blog post — with an outline. List out your key points and order them logically.

Do all of your drafting in Google Docs to promote collaboration and real-time commenting. Use the “Insert > Table” function to adopt one of television’s traditional script writing practices: the two-column script. Write your audio (script) in the left column and insert matching visual ideas in the right column.

Don’t make the viewer wait until the final seconds to understand the purpose of your video … we promise, they won’t stick around. Similar to a piece of journalistic writing, include a hook near the beginning that states the purpose of the video, especially for educational and explainer videos.

Notice, in our example below, that we don’t let the audience get past the second sentence without understanding what the video will be about.

As you begin creating videos, you’ll notice a key difference between scripts and your typical business blog post — the language. Video language should be relaxed, clear, and conversational. Avoid using complex sentence structures and eloquent clauses. Instead, connect with your audience by writing in first person and using visual language. Keep the language concise, but avoid jargon and buzzwords.

Following the “Little-Known Instagram Hacks” example, note how a section from the original blog post could be transformed for video by using less words and relying on visuals.

  • Blog Post Version: “When someone tags you in a photo or video on Instagram, it’s automatically added to your profile under “Photos of You,” unless you opt to add tagged photos manually (see the next tip). To see the posts you’ve been tagged in, go to your own profile and click the person icon below your bio.”
  • Video Script: “The bigger your following gets, the more people will tag you in their posts. You can find all of these under the “Photos of You” tab on your profile.”

Most video scripts are short … probably shorter than you think. Keep a script timer handy to check your script length as you write and edit. For example, a 350-word script equates to a video that is nearly 2 minutes long.

Words on paper sound a lot different than they do when read out loud. That’s why we encourage organizing a table read of your script before you start filming. The point of a table read is to smooth out the kinks of the script and nail down inflection points.

Have a few people (writer and talent included) gather around a table with their laptops and read the script multiple times through. If you accidentally say a line different than what the script prescribes, think about why and consider changing the language to make it sound more natural.

Step Two: Understanding Your Camera(s)

Too often the fear and uncertainty of equipment keeps businesses from trying out video marketing. But learning to shoot video doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

It’s likely you have a great, easy-to-use camera right in your pocket: your iPhone.

Shooting with Your iPhone

Before filming with your iPhone, ensure your device has enough storage. Also, don’t forget to enable your iPhone’s Do Not Disturb feature to avoid distracting notifications while filming.

Once you open the iPhone’s camera, flip your phone horizontally to create the best possible viewing experience. Then, move close enough to your subject so you don’t have to use the zoom feature — it often makes the final video look pixelated and blurry.

Your iPhone might do a great job of focusing on the subject when you take photos, when when it comes to video, the camera will continue adjusting and re-adjusting as you move around the scene. To solve this problem, lock the exposure before you press record. Hold your finger down on the subject of the video until a yellow box appears with the words “AE/AF Lock”.

Shooting with Prosumer and Professional Cameras

While iPhones are great for filming on the fly or becoming acclimated with video, at some point you may feel ready to graduate up to the next model. With all the digital cameras on the market, there are a ton of choices to pick from. Below we’ve identified a few options to simplify your search.

The first choice you make will be between purchasing a “prosumer” camera and a professional camera.

Prosumer cameras are considered the bridge between basic compact cameras and more advanced cameras. They’re perfect for someone interested in creating more video but want the option to just press record. Most have a fixed lens to keep things simple.

Professional cameras, like DSLRs, give you fine control over the manual settings of shooting video and allow you achieve the shallow depth of field (background out of focus) that people rave about. While they’re primarily used for photography, DSLRs are incredibly small, work great in low light situations, and pair with a wide range of lenses — making them perfect for video. However, DSLRs do require some training (and additional purchases) of lenses.

If you’re interested in going the prosumer route, take a look at the Canon PowerShot ELPH 340. The GoPro HERO5 is another fun option for adventurous shoots with lots of movement.

Considering the expense of a DSLR camera, research your options and read plenty of reviews. Top of the line options (from most expensive to least) include the Sony Alpha a7SII, Nikon D810, and Canon EOS 5D Mark III. For a more cost-effective option, check out the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon 80D, Nikon d3300, or Canon EOS Rebel T6.

Understanding Your Camera’s Manual Settings

If you choose a DSLR, there are a few settings you need to understand before your first shoot: frame rate, shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and color balance. Definitely keep your camera nearby as you read — manual settings can seem quite abstract without testing them for yourself.

But before we dive in, we want to stress that this is a high-level overview of each setting. If you find yourself wanting more, dive in and do some of your own research. There’s plenty to learn about how to manipulate these settings and use them together to create different looks.

Lastly, there will be a different method for adjusting these settings based on your specific camera. Always refer to your camera’s instruction manual.

Frame Rate

As with video concepts, there are tons of customization options. The most basic customization option when it comes to frame rate is shooting your video at 24 frames per second (fps) or 30fps.

Video experts often credit 24fps with a more “cinematic” look, while 30fps is more common, especially for videos that need to be projected or broadcasted. A good rule of thumb is to ask the end user of your video what his or her preferences are and shoot based on that. Then, be sure your resolution is at least 1920 x 1080 to maintain quality footage.

Aperture

Once you’ve set your frame rate and resolution in your camera’s settings, it’s time to determine your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Be sure to turn your camera to manual mode to control these settings.

(While we’ll define each of of these individually, know that these three variables are meant to work in tandem with each other. In fact, many photographers use the term Exposure Triangle to describe how they relate to light and how it interacts with the camera.)

Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens. Like a human eye, a len opens and closes to control the amount of light reaching the sensor. Aperture is measured in what’s called an f-stop. The smaller the f-stop number, the more open the lens is, while a larger number means the lens is more closed.

What does aperture mean for your video? When a lot of light comes into the camera (with a low f-stop number), you get a brighter image and a shallow depth of field. This is great for when you want your subject to stand out against a background. When less light comes into the camera (with a high f-stop number), you get what’s called deep depth of field and are able to maintain focus across a larger portion of your frame.

Shutter Speed

To understand shutter speed, we first have to talk about photography. When taking a photo, shutter speed refers to the length of time the camera’s sensor is exposed to light. Think of it as how quickly or slowly the camera blinks.

If you’ve seen a perfectly timed photo of a hummingbird seemingly frozen in time, you’ve witnessed a very fast shutter speed. Meanwhile, an image of a rushing river with the water blurring together was probably taken with a slow shutter speed.

Shutter speed is measured in seconds, or in most cases, fractions of seconds. The greater the denominator of the fraction is, the faster the shutter speed. So, 1/1000 would be faster than 1/30.

But what does shutter speed mean for video? We won’t go too deep into the science of shutter speed, but to pick the adequate setting, you’ll have to do a little math. First, multiply your frame rate by 2. So if you’re shooting in 24fps, that would be 48. This number becomes the denominator of your shutter speed fraction.

Since shutter speed is only available in a few increments, you’ll need to round 1/48 up to the next closest setting: 1/50. Here are some common shutter speeds and how to calculate them:

  • At 24fps, 24 x 2 = 48, equalling a shutter speed of 1/50
  • At 30fps, 30 x 2 = 60, equalling a shutter speed of 1/60
  • At 60fps, 60 x 2 = 120, equalling a shutter speed of 1/20

Remember, this process is just a guideline for choosing shutter speed. Traditionalists stick to these calculations, but there’s always room to tweak shutter speed slightly to achieve a desired effect. In the case of video, rules can be broken — as long as you have a good enough reason.

ISO

Last in the Exposure Triangle is ISO. In digital photography and videography, ISO measures the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. On your camera, you’ll see the settings referred to with numbers in the hundreds or thousands (e.g. 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc).

The higher the number, the more sensitive your camera is to light … the lower the number, the less sensitive. ISO also affects the graininess of the image. Low ISOs produce a crisp shot, while high ISOs create a more noisy, grainy shot.

When choosing an ISO, consider the lighting. If your subject is well-lit (for example, if you were outside), you can get by with a lower ISO, ideally around 100 or 200. If you’re indoors in a low-light situation, you’ll need bump up the ISO — just be careful of how grainy it makes your shot.

This is where you can begin to see how the three factors of the Exposure Triangle work together. When you have a low-lit situation, for example, you may choose a lens that can shoot with a low f-stop to let more light into the camera and avoid making the shot too noisy with a high ISO.

If you’re just starting out with manual video settings, don’t be overwhelmed. Understanding the ins and outs of the Exposure Triangle takes time and a lot of practice. Here are two tips to beat the learning curve:

  • Start with photos. By switching your camera off video mode, you’ll be able to see the relationship between aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. Take a ton of photos and change each setting incrementally. Over time, the numbers will be less intimidating and switching between settings will make more sense — and become easier to apply to video.
  • Form a process. Every videographer has their own method, but we suggest setting your shutter speed first according to the math described above. Then adjust aperture according to the depth of field you want to create. Then, ISO. Finally, circle back to shutter speed for any fine adjustments.

White Balance

While aperture, shutter speed, and ISO may be the three main pillars of manual photography and videography, there is a fourth piece of the puzzle that’s just as important: white balance.

White balance tells your camera the color temperature of the environment you’re shooting in. Different types of light have different colors. For example, incandescent bulbs (like what many people put in a lamp) have a very warm color. The florescent lights (if you’re reading this in an office, look up) are a little bit cooler. Daylight is cooler yet. Before you begin shooting, you have to adjust your camera’s white balance according to your setup.

The exact settings on your camera will depend on your model, but there’s likely an auto option, a bunch of presets (daylight, cloudy, tungsten, etc.), and custom. Avoid auto white balance at all costs and opt for a preset or custom instead. If you have a top-of-the-line DSLR, there may also be an option to manually set the color temperature of the room, measured in Kelvin.

To help you understand the importance of setting your white balance, consider the difference between these two photos. The environment is lit with yellow fluorescent lights. You can see how the appropriate setting looks natural, while the daylight setting adds a blue tint to the scene.

Focus

Focus isn’t one of the key settings of shooting, but it’s definitely important to keep in mind. With a DSLR, you have the option to shoot with autofocus or manual focus. It depends on the camera and lens you have, but typically autofocus is not the most accurate.

Instead, flip your lens to manual focus. Use the (+) and (-) buttons to enlarge the viewfinder and move in close to your subject’s face. Then, adjust the focus on the lens. For shooting a stationary setup like an interview, make sure the subject’s eyelashes are in focus — that way, you can be certain your footage is clear and sharp.

Step Three: Setting Up a Studio

When you begin building your in-office studio, the purchases can add up quickly. Not only do you need a camera, but the more you read, the more you realize you need tripods, lights, microphones, and more.

Take a breath. With a little bit of know-how, building your studio doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are plenty of cost-effective choices and DIY hacks to make sure your videos look top-of-the-line.

Basic Equipment

Always shoot with a tripod. It should go without saying, but the handheld method you use for your Snapchat story isn’t going to cut it. Tripods will ensure you maintain a steady shot and not break any expensive equipment in the process.

Tripods range tremendously in price, and the quality of your tripod should depend on the level of camera and lens you have. If you’re shooting with your phone, you can get by with a table mount like the Arkon Tripod Mount or a full-size tripod like the Acuvar 50” Aluminum Tripod. For a DSLR, Manfrotto makes a variety of trustworthy tripods starting with the Manfrotto BeFree and increasing in quality and price from there.

Along with the tripod, stock up on camera batteries and SD cards. Recording video will cause you to run through both much quicker than taking photos.

Audio Equipment

If you’ve begun testing out your camera’s video capabilities, you’ve probably noticed that it has an internal microphone to record audio … don’t use it.

If you set up your camera at a reasonable distance from your subject, you’ll quickly learn that the internal microphone isn’t powerful enough to adequately record audio. Instead, you should begin investing in a few pieces of quality sound equipment.

When you’re shooting with your iPhone, there are a ton of microphone options that are all easy to use and decently cheap. For example, the Movo MA200 Omni-Directional iPhone microphone will give you a plug-and-play solution for capturing audio on the fly.

Opinions vary greatly among sound engineers on the best method and equipment for recording audio with a DSLR. You’ve likely seen many videos that use a lavalier microphone — the small piece that clips below the collar of the talent’s shirt. Lavaliers come in both wired and wireless options. However, lavaliers can be a bit obtrusive both for the talent (who has to have a wire threaded down his or her shirt) and for the viewer (who has to see a microphone for the whole video).

Instead, if you know you’re recording in a controlled environment (like a conference room in your office) we suggest recording with a shotgun mic. They’re reliable, remain out of the shot, and record background noise in a natural sounding way.

To create a shotgun mic setup in your office studio, you’ll need a shotgun mic like the Sennheiser ME66, a shotgun clip, light stand, XLR cable, and Zoom H4N recorder. The Zoom recorder will allow you to record audio separately on an SD card and adjust the gain for the environment you’re shooting in.

We admit, these audio purchases may sound like a lot. But a shotgun mic setup is a worthy investment that will last for years. If you’re looking for a more cost-effective solution, look into the Rode VideoMic that mounts on top of your DSLR and plugs right into the camera body.

Lighting Equipment

You have a camera. You have audio. Now, let’s talk about lights.

To outfit your studio without breaking the bank, head over to your local home improvement store. Pick up extension cords and a few clamp lights with bulbs. You’ll also need three light stands, which are available on Amazon.

The traditional setup of video lights is known as three-point lighting. As you might guess, it involves three lights placed strategically around the subject, wrapping them in light and creating appealing shadows on their face.

First, you’ll need a key light. Place this at a 45-degree angle to the left or right of the subject. Lift the light above their head and aim it downwards. As the name suggests, this is the key light and should be bright enough that it could be the only light in the scene … if it had to be.

Next, place the fill light at a 45-degree angle on the other side and lift it close to or just above eye level. The purpose of the fill is to soften the shadows created by the key, but without getting rid of them completely. Therefore, the fill should be dimmer than the key light. If you have to use the same type of light for both, scoot the fill back and diffuse it by clipping a clear shower curtain onto the clamp light with clothes pins.

Finally, the backlight will add a third layer of dimension. Scoot your subject away from the background. Lift a light above the subject’s head and place it behind them and off to the side so it’s out of the frame. The light should be aimed at the back of their head, creating a subtle rim of light and separating them from the background.

Setting Up Your In-Office Studio

Now that you have all of your equipment, you’re finally ready to build your office studio. While you could always grab a closet to store your equipment in, let’s go a bit bigger and claim a conference room.

By having a designated studio, you’ll save loads of prep time for each shoot. Just make sure the conference room isn’t too empty. If you have to, bring in a couch, chairs, or blankets to minimize the echos in the room.

Speaking of sound, pay special attention to the hum of the air conditioning. Find a room with minimal noise or turn down the fan during recording. Consider purchasing photography paper to create a background that’s a little more appealing than a white conference room wall.

When it comes time to shoot, clear out unnecessary people from the room and turn off the overhead lights. With your three-point lighting setup, there will be no need for those harsh fluorescents. When — and only when — everything is set up, call in your talent. There’s nothing worse than being nervous, and then having to anxiously watch as lights are turned on and the camera is tested.

Step Four: Preparing Your Talent

If you have experienced, confident actors in your company, you’re lucky. Video talent is a rare resource. But with a little bit of coaching (and a fair share of nervous laughter), you can help your teammates thrive in front of the camera.

No matter if it’s your first video or your fiftieth, remember that getting in front of the camera is scary. Schedule plenty of time and give your talent the script early — but make it clear they don’t need to memorize it.

Instead, place a laptop below the eye-line of the camera. Break the script into short paragraphs and record it section by section until you capture a great take of each. If you plan in advance when the final video will show b-roll (supplementary footage or screenshots), you can have your talent read those lines directly off the laptop like a voice over.

During the shoot, your job goes beyond pressing record. First and foremost, you need to be a coach. Balance critical feedback with support and be quick to give encouragement after each take. This is why conducting a table read during the scripting process is so important: It’s easier to give feedback when there’s not a camera in the room. Remember, be a little silly during the shoot or your talent will be on edge and uncomfortable — and it will show in the footage.

But while you’re maintaining the fun level on set, remain vigilant. It’s your job to pay attention to the little things, like making sure all of the mics are on or noticing if the lighting changes. Record each section many times and have your talent play with inflections. When you think they’ve nailed the shot … get just one more. At this point, your talent is already on a roll, and options will help tremendously during editing.

Finally, circle back to the beginning of the script at the end of your recording. Chances are your subject got more comfortable throughout the shoot. Since the beginning is often the most crucial part of the video, record that section again when they’re feeling the most confident.

Composition Basics

There are some films that are simply beautiful. It’s not the story or even the picturesque setting. In fact, the scene might take place in the dingiest of sets, but somehow each shot just feels right.

That’s the power of composition. When objects appear where they should in the frame, the quality of your video increases exponentially.

For video, the rules of composition are similar to what you may have learned in a photography or art class. First, consider the rule of thirds — the idea that you can create a sense of balance by imagining the canvas with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Key elements should occur at the intersection of these lines.

For example, if you are shooting an interview or a how-to video, the subject’s eyes should align with the top horizontal line around one of the two intersections. For this “talking head” shot, you can also improve your composition by leaving enough (but not too much) head room. This is the empty space above the person’s head.

Image Credit: Hubspot Customer Success Story Featuring Parlor Skis

One of the best ways to improve the look of your video is to include b-roll. B-roll is the supplementary footage included as a cutaway. This might include shots of a customer service rep talking on a phone, a designer editing your website, visuals of your office, or even screenshots of your product. The key with b-roll is to make sure each and every piece enhances the story.

When you’re collecting b-roll, include a mix of shots from varying angles and distances. In fact, film professionals use different names to describe these variations.

  • Establishing shots: Wide shots that allow the viewer to see the entire scene. These are great to use when introducing the scene at the beginning of a video.
  • Medium shots: Tighter shots that focus on the subject or a portion of the scene. Your classic interview shot could be considered a medium shot.
  • Close ups: Tightly cropped shots zoomed in to show detail. These might feature someone’s hands typing on a keyboard or pouring a cup of coffee.

As practice, try telling a story with your b-roll and planning out a shot sequence. For example, your subject might open a door from the hallway, walk into their office space, sit down at their desk, open their laptop, and begin typing. Seems simple, right? But a shot sequence showing this 10 second scenario might consist of six or more different b-roll clips.

Here’s where the final lesson of composition comes in: continuity. Continuity is the process of combining shots into a sequence so that they appear to have happened at the same time and place. A key part of continuity is making sure any ancillary objects in the scene — for example, a cup of water on a desk — stay in the same place (and have the same amount of water) throughout all of the shots.

The other part of learning continuity is match on action. For the scene described above, you’d want to record the subject opening the door and walking in from both inside and outside the room. In post-production, you could then flip between the clips at the exact right time to make the cut seamless.

Step Five: Shooting for the Edit

When it comes to video, some are better at shooting while others are better at editing. Whatever side you claim, you should understand the process and pain points of each.

For instance, as the person behind the camera, you may believe you collect ample footage and ask all the right interview questions. But to the editor, you may actually be shooting too much of one type of shot and missing out on some that would make their job easier.

Filmmakers teach a valuable lesson here: shoot for the edit. By remembering that the footage you record will be edited later, you can make smarter decisions and save countless hours in the editing room.

The first step in adopting a shoot-for-the-edit mindset is remembering to leave a buffer at the beginning and the end of each clip. There are called handles and can save editors from the headache of cutting too close to an important shot.

In the section on preparing talent, we discussed how to record your script in short sections. If the editor were to stitch these sections together side-by-side, the subject’s face and hands might abruptly switch between clips. This is called a jump cut, and for editors, it poses an interesting challenge. Thankfully, this is where b-roll comes in handy, to mask these jump cuts.

Example of a jump cut

As a producer, your job is to capture plenty of b-roll to make sure your editor never runs out. Create a shot list of more b-roll ideas than you think you’ll need and mark them off as you record them.

To mask jump cuts, you can also shoot with two cameras, especially if you’re recording an interview without a script. Camera A would be the traditional, straight-on shot. Camera B should be angled 30 to 45-degrees to the side and capture a distinctly different shot. The editor could then flip between these two views to make the cut appear natural.

Example of switching between interview angles

A note about shooting with two cameras: Your editor will need to sync the footage between the different views. To help them do this, clap your hands loudly in the view of both cameras right before you ask the first interview question … yes, just like an old fashion clapboard. Modern editing software has auto-sync features, but this loud clap will help you initially line up the clips.

Finally, mark your good clips. Even if you’re recording a scripted video, you might have to record each section 10 or more times. Once your subject nails the take, wave your hand in front of the lens. That way, the editor can scrub directly to this visual cue and save time on footage review.

Step Six: Organizing Footage

Yes, file organization is boring. But when video editing, it just might save your project.

Capturing video will force you to take a hard look at your computer and file organization habits. If you’re one of those people who work off a cluttered desktop — you know who you are — you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt.

First, video files are incredibly large, so it’s very unlikely you’ll want to store any of them on your internal hard drive. You’ll quickly run out of storage, and your computer’s processing speed will begin lagging under the weight.

Instead, invest in an external hard drive like one of the Lacie Rugged models. External hard drives come in a variety of sizes and port options (Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, etc.). Multimedia creators will use the phrase “working off of an external” to describe storing all of their project files on this hard drive. This method also makes it easier to collaborate with teammates because you can easily share the drive.

Second, video editing programs are very particular about where you keep your files. If you don’t stick with the original file structure, you may find yourself buried in error messages. (We’ll cover software options and best practices in the next section.)

On your external hard drive, you should create a separate top-level folder for each project. Within this folder, there should be a prescribed set of “buckets” to store your video footage, audio, design assets, and more. Create a template project folder that you can copy and paste for each project using the image below as a guide.

When you import your footage from your camera, place it in the “footage” folder on your hard drive.

For both the project folders and your editing files, follow a consistent naming structure. For example, you could start each name using YRMODA (year-month-date). So a video on Instagram Hacks might be named “180625_instagram_hacks” if it was started on June 25, 2018.

Even with a perfectly organized external hard drive, you’re not yet out of the weeds. You need to backup your files (and maybe even back up your backup files). It’s not uncommon to have an external hard drive for everyday work, another external for backups, and a third set of backups in the cloud via Dropbox or Google Drive.

Step Seven: Editing and Editing Tools

Okay, you’ve filmed your video footage. Congrats — you’re halfway there!

Now it’s time to talk about editing. We get it, video editing can be confusing. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at first, especially when you see software price tags! Luckily, there are many options for video editing based on your skill level, operating system, and budget. There are even free programs and mobile apps! Let’s go over a few options.

Intermediate: Apple iMovie

iMovie is Apple’s video editing software. Compatible with Macs and other iOS devices, iMovie is simple, user-friendly, and free on all Apple products. iMovie allows you to create and edit your videos by cutting together clips, adding titles, music, sound effects, basic color correction, filters, and special effects.

The program even provides helpful templates that simplify the editing process. The platform supports high-quality clips like 4K video footage and makes it easy to share your work directly to a video hosting platform. Limited access to advanced color correction and editing features mean it isn’t commonly used by professionals, but iMovie is still a great option if you’re just starting out.

Advanced: Adobe Premiere Pro

Adobe Premiere Pro is a leading video editing software program used by amateurs and professionals alike. With a customizable interface and numerous advanced editing tools, the platform is often called the industry standard for video editing and has been used to edit major Hollywood movies like Gone Girl and Deadpool.

Premiere makes it easy to collaborate with other editors, organize your material, and sync with other programs in the Adobe suite like After Effects and Photoshop. The platform supports high-quality footage (4K and higher) and includes advanced, built-in color correction and grading tools that set it apart from cheaper or free options like iMovie.

The only downside to Premiere is the cost. A year long subscription to the latest Premiere Pro CC comes in around $240. If you’re new to video editing, you may want to experiment with a cheaper option like iMovie or Adobe Premiere Elements before investing in the Premiere Pro. On the fence? Check out some Adobe Premiere Pro tutorials here.

Step Eight: Choosing Music

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about video? I’m guessing the actual video footage. While it’s important to concentrate on your video footage, don’t forget to factor music into your overall plan and budget.

Music is a powerful tool that can alter your video’s mood and tone — just watch the videos above! Choosing the right music often makes the difference between an amateur project and a professional piece of content. When used properly, it can help keep your viewer’s attention, evoke emotions, and define your overall editing style.

Before your start filming, set a music budget and research your local copyright laws. Copyright law can be very difficult to decipher, especially when you’re dealing with digital content. Bottom line: Most music isn’t free. If you use another artist’s music without permission or proper licensing, you risk video removal and legal action. In order to avoid copyright infringement, you’ll need to find royalty free tunes or pay a composer to create an original score. Royalty free songs aren’t free to use; they’re quality songs available for a single flat fee. This means you don’t have to worry about paying additional licensing fees or royalties in the future. YouTube, Pond5, and PremiumBeat are all great sites to find royalty free music.

Next, consider your audience and the overall mood for your production. Are you targeting a small audience that will appreciate the newest, underground hip-hop track, or do you need something that will appeal to many demographics? Are you creating a practical product tutorial or an upbeat event recap? Be sure to choose music that enhances the overall tone of your video.

In addition to considering your audience, be sure to contemplate the purpose of the music. Do you need background music or something with real impact? Will you be narrating or speaking in the video? If so, don’t let the music get in the way of your content. Sometimes the best music is the music you don’t remember at all.

After you’ve determined the type of music you need, it’s time to start analyzing potential songs. Consider the song’s pacing. Songs with a steady rhythm are easy to change to suit your video style. Hoping to include your favorite, Top 40 hit? Popular, radio songs are usually structured in 4-5 parts and can be difficult to transition. Try to choose simple songs that are easy to loop. If you’re looking for an instrumental song, be sure to find something that was recorded with real instruments. Songs made with digital samples can make your video feel unprofessional and out of date.

Finally, consider adding intro and outro music. Intro and outro music, or bookends, can serve as a theme for your content. These are a great choice if you don’t need music throughout your entire video. Bookend music can help set the tone for your video, naturally split your content into chapters, and leave your viewers feeling they had a complete experience.

While some videos feel unfinished without background music, others just need a few tunes to tie the project together. Pay attention to videos that have a similar style to see how others utilize music.

Step Eight: Recording Voice Over

You have your video footage and music — now it’s time to chat about voice overs. A voice over is the separate video narration that’s not spoken by the speaker on-camera. Voice overs are an effective tool that can help make your content more relatable, emotional, and fluid.

It’s important to remember that video audio is just as important as video visuals. The good news is that you don’t have to be the next Don LaFontaine or hire a professional to record a great voice over. Below are a few tips to capture audio on a budget.

  • Find a Location. Decide on a spot to record. If you can’t go to a professional studio, try to pick a quiet room away from distracting external sounds like sirens, opening and closing doors, and people talking on the phone. Read your script aloud, and pay attention to the room’s acoustics. Does your voice echo or sound muffled? If so, consider recording in a different space or adding furniture to fill in the room.
  • Prepare. Practice makes perfect! Before you record, read through your script a few times and take note of any difficult pauses, transitions, and words. On the big day, be sure to stay hydrated and avoid wearing noisy clothing or jewelry. Also, use a stand, laptop, or teleprompter while recording so you aren’t rustling through a printed script.
  • Test and Listen. Think you can record the perfect voice over in just one take? Think again! Invest in a good pair of headphones and keep an eye on your audio quality throughout the recording process. It’s easier to get a new take of audio than trying to fix it during the editing process. We recommend running through your script a few times, especially the first few paragraphs, to ensure that your voice is fully warmed up. If you hear popping or hissing sounds, try standing further away from the mic or invest in a pop filter.
  • Relax! Be sure to read slowly, pause, and take breaks while recording your voice over. Sometimes all you need is a sip of water to get back on track.

Step Nine: Hosting Your Video

Alright, you’re ready to publish your video. You shot the footage, edited it together, added music and a voice over, and exported it for the web. The next step is to get your video online so your audience can start viewing and sharing it. You have several options for hosting videos online, and in this section, we’ll talk about some of the best ones.

YouTube

When you ask your friends which online video platform they use, the answer you probably hear the most is YouTube. YouTube is the largest video hosting platform, the second largest search platform after Google, and the third most visited website in the world. Every single day, people watch over five billion videos on YouTube. It’s also free to upload your videos to YouTube and optimize them for search.

In addition to their massive audience, YouTube offers several other features that make the platform a good option for hosting your video. Because YouTube videos are hosted on individual channels, the platform allows you to build a dedicated audience of subscribers. Users who follow your channel are more likely to see additional videos you upload.

Within your channel itself, you can also organize videos into playlists, making it easy for your audience to search within your content. As a social platform, viewers can engage with your videos by liking and commenting on them, providing you another chance to interact with your audience. YouTube also offers a variety of advertising options for more sophisticated targeting.

Although YouTube offers the benefit of reaching a large audience with no cost to upload and host videos, there are several downsides to the platform. While video ads can be a great tool for promoting your own content, the amount of ads on the platform from other advertisers can detract from your viewer’s experience.

YouTube is also (surprise, surprise!) highly addicting. Once viewers are on the platform, they usually stick around to watch another video … or 20. This can make it difficult to drive traffic back to your site from the platform. Despite these barriers, YouTube is a great platform for hosting videos and growing your audience.

Vimeo

If your friends didn’t answer your earlier question with “YouTube” then they most likely responded with Vimeo, the second largest video hosting platform. Vimeo’s audience is significantly smaller (715 million monthly views) than YouTube’s, but there are still many benefits that make it a favorite for content creators and viewers alike.

Among these are a simpler, cleaner, user interface that makes it easier to navigate the platform. Unlike YouTube, Vimeo has very limited ads and commercials that would otherwise detract from your viewers’ experience. Videos on Vimeo also tend to be higher quality than on YouTube, and the audience on the platform is likely to be more professional.

Vimeo offers several different premium account options to better suit businesses. The premium accounts provide additional storage, advanced analytics, customer support, player customization, access to lead generation tools, and much more. In additional to premium accounts, Vimeo also partners with businesses to produce quality marketing content.

If you’re looking to showcase high quality, artistic content, Vimeo might be the platform for you. Its engaged audience and beautiful aesthetic make it a great place to host creative videos. However, if you’re focused on quantity over quality and increasing your reach, you may want to explore other platform options.

Vidyard

Vidyard is a video hosting platform built specifically for businesses. It’s not just another option to store and manage your videos; instead, it allows you to become a fully video-enabled business. Here’s what we mean.

These days, we know posting your video to YouTube isn’t enough. You need channel-specific video content for Facebook and Instagram, not to mention for your website. Enter: Vidyard. The platform allows you to publish and update to all of these places from a central location.

From this portal, you’ll find all sorts of viewer insights. Discover what types of video content your audience likes and how they watch their videos. Then, channel those insights directly into your marketing automation software or CRM. For example, if that prospect you’ve been monitoring views your latest case study video, you’ll be notified straightaway.

One of coolest features of Vidyard is the ability to personalize videos with the the viewer’s name or company directly in the video design. This is a creative addition as you begin working video into your bottom-of-the-funnel marketing and sales strategies.

How to Use Video Throughout the Funnel

Too often, companies jump at the opportunity to create their first video. They spend tons of money on an explainer video for their homepage, but as soon as the project is complete, all future video ambitions screech to a halt.

On the other hand, plenty of businesses churn out a slew of social videos. But since they’ve simply replicated fads they’ve seen, their videos hardly consider their audience’s challenges or habits.

Considering the time, money, and resources involved, video marketing can’t be an impulsive guessing game. Instead, you need to create a comprehensive video marketing strategy that s the length of your marketing and sales funnel. This means thinking in the context of the inbound methodology.

The inbound methodology is the marketing and sales approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful. Each video you create should acknowledge your audience’s challenges and provide a solution. Looking at the big picture, this content guides consumers through the journey of becoming aware of, evaluating, and purchasing your product or service.

In the following sections, we’ll cover the types of videos you should create for each stage. To start, plan to create at least two videos for each. Don’t forget to include call-to-actions to help lead your audience down the funnel. Over time, you can improve based on conversion rates and the content gaps you discover.

Attract

The first step of the inbound methodology is to attract — or turn strangers into visitors. Consumers at this stage are identifying their challenges and deciding whether or not they should seek out a solution. Therefore, the videos you create should empathize with their problems and introduce a possible solution in your product or service.

Ultimately, the goal of a top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) video is to expand reach and build trust. Because you are looking to garner shares for your video, it’ll likely be more entertaining and emotion-evoking than educational. But, you should should still provide enough information to associate yourself as an authority on the topic.

Examples of videos in the “attract” stage include snackable social videos that show off your brand’s personality, thought leadership videos that establish you as a source of industry news and insight, brand films the share your values and mission, or explainers and how-to videos that provide relevant tips for solving your audience’s pain point.

For any TOFU video, avoid speaking too much about your product. Instead, let your brand values and personality be your north star(s). Finally, because these videos can live on a variety of channels, keep in mind the strategies of each platform. For example, a Facebook video might have a square aspect ratio and text animations for soundless viewers. 

Convert

Now that you’ve attracted video viewers and website visitors, the next step is to convert these visitors into leads. With most inbound marketing content, this means collecting some sort of contact information via a form. Video can aid this process by visualizing a solution to the buyer’s problem, whether that’s before the form on a landing page or as the offer itself. Overall, the goal of a middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) video is to educate.

Convert videos may include a webinar filled with tactical advice, product demos sent via email, landing page promotional videos, case studies, or more in-depth explainer and how-to videos. For example, while a TOFU video might provide a quick tip for nailing a sales pitch, a MOFU video could be an animated explainer video that breaks down the inbound sales methodology.

Close

You’ve attracted a new audience with your videos and converted the right visitors into leads. Now’s the time to close these leads into customers. Yet, as important as this stage is, bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) videos are often the most overlooked by marketers and salespeople.

At this point, the consumer is weighing their options and deciding on the purchase. Therefore, the goal of a BOFU video is to make your audience visualize themselves using your product or service — and thriving. There’s a reason 4X as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. Videos are able to display functionality and leverage emotions in ways a product description never could.

Great BOFU videos include testimonials of customers with relatable stories, in-depth product demos, culture videos that sell viewers on your quality of service, or even personalized videos that explain exactly how your product could help their business

Delight

A purchase may have been made, but there’s still a lot video can do to leverage the post-conversion stage of your funnel. During the delight stage of the inbound methodology, your goal is to continue providing remarkable content to users in hopes that they’ll tell their connections about their experience or upsell themselves. Therefore, the goal of a “delight” video is encourage your customers to embrace your brand and become brand evangelists.

Your first opportunity to delight comes directly after the purchase. Consider sending a thank you video to welcome them into the community or an onboarding video to get them rolling with their new purchase. Then, build out a library of educational courses or product training videos to cater to consumers who prefer self-service or simply want to expand their expertise.

Defining Your Goals and Analyzing Results

At this point, you know how to create a video and where to host it. You’re ready to get started, right? Not quite. Before you dive in, you need to define your video goals and identify the best metrics for determining whether you’ve accomplished those goals.

Before launching any marketing campaign, it’s important to determine your primary video goal. This could be to increase brand awareness, engagement, or even conversions for a free trial. It’s crucial to pick out just one or two goals for each video. When you define more than that, your video will seem unfocused, making it difficult for viewers to determine what they should do next.

When thinking of your goals, be sure to keep your buyer persona and target audience in mind. How old are they? Where do they live? What are their interests? How do they typically consume media? What stage of the buyer’s journey are they in?

All of these questions can help determine what type of video you should make and where you should post it. For example, if your target audience is not familiar with your company, you probably want to make a video that focuses on brand awareness before producing an in-depth, product video. You’ll also want to host your video on a site that already has a large reach, like YouTube. 

Next, let’s talk about metrics. Understanding these will equip you to define and measure your success and set your goals. When you post a video, it’s easy to get obsessed with one metric — view count. While view count can be an important metric, there are many others that may be more relevant to your campaign.

Below are some popular metrics you’ll see when you publish and track video.

  • View count: View count is the number of times your video has been viewed — also referred to as reach. This metric is great to track if your goal is to increase brand awareness and have your content seen by as many people as possible. However, it’s important to remember that every video hosting platform measures a view differently. For example, a view on YouTube is 30 seconds while a view on Facebook is only 3 seconds. Be sure to read the fine print before reporting on your video view count.
  • Play rate: Play rate is the percentage of people who played your video divided by the number of impressions it received. This metric helps determine how relevant or appealing your video is to your audience. If thousands of people see your video, but only a handful of people play it, it’s probably time to optimize your content.
  • Social sharing and comments: If you’re on social media, you’re probably familiar with sharing and commenting. Social shares and comments are good indicators of how relevant your content is with your target audience. If a viewer watches your video and takes the time to share it with their network, you probably created a great piece of content. Social shares are also important because the more times your video is shared, the more it’ll be viewed. If your goal is to reach to reach a lot of people, social shares is good metric to track.
  • Video completions: If you took the time to make a video … you probably want people to watch the whole thing, right? A video completion is the number of times a video is played in its entirety. This metric can be more reliable than view count when trying to determine your video’s success.
  • Completion rate: Completion rate is the number of people who completed your video divided by the number of people who played it. Completion rate, and other engagement metrics, are a great way to gauge a viewer’s reaction to your video. Do you have a low completion rate? Are people all dropping off at a certain point? This might be a sign that your video content is not resonating with your target audience.
  • Click-through rate: Click-through rate (CTR) is the number of times your call-to-action (CTA) is clicked divided by the number of times it’s viewed. CTR is a great indicator of how effective your video is at encouraging people to take your desired action. If your CTR is low, consider revising the design or copy of your CTA.
  • Conversion rate: Conversion rate is the number of times visitors completed your desired action divided by the number of clicks on your CTA. If your goal is to have your viewers complete an action like signing up for a free trial, try adding a video to your landing page to see if your conversion rate increases.
  • Bounce rate and time-on-page: Are you thinking about adding a video to a web page? Take note of the page bounce rate and the amount of time people spent on the page before you add the video. Be sure to check the metrics after you place the video to see if changes the way people interact with your other content.

Conclusion

I’m guessing you’re feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Video editing and marketing can seem daunting at first, but with a little practice and patience, you can easily produce high-quality content that is unique to your brand.

With 71% of consumers watching more video online than they were a year ago, brands can no longer ignore its growing popularity. Thankfully, creating great content has never been easier!

Try turning a written blog into a video or create a product tutorial. Using video to showcase information in a new, interesting way is sure to interest and delight your audience. Pick up a camera, start filming, and watch your engagement levels increase. It’s time to make video a key part of your marketing strategy!

Cryptocurrency Mining Explained: A 2-Minute Rundown

Since cryptocurrency isn’t a physical commodity like gold or oil, it might be hard to understand how people mine it. It’s a currency, so the fact that people “mine it” could boggle your mind. It’s also entirely digital — you can’t just dig up some bitcoins with a pickaxe — so how and why do people mine cryptocurrency? Let’s read on to find out.

Cryptocurrency Mining Explained

To truly understand how cryptocurrency mining works, you first need to know the basics of Blockchain, which is the underlying technology for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum.

Blockchain is like a digital ledger that records each transaction of a cryptocurrency, copies itself, and sends the copies to every computer, or node, in its network.

To make sure the ledger’s true state is verified and updated, each node in the network references and communicates with each other to see if all the copies are the same. This decentralizes, secures, and publicizes every single transaction of the cryptocurrency.

If one of the copies isn’t the same, due to a manipulation of a transaction’s record after the fact, the network rejects the transaction. This security protocol halts people from altering the ledger to spend the cryptocurrency more than once or send someone else’s digital funds to themselves.

To update a blockchain with new transactions, a new block, which is a bundle of these transactions, needs to be created and added to it. But to create and add the block, its transactions needs to be validated by the answer to an incredibly intricate math problem. So individuals, groups, or businesses use mining rigs, which consists of mining hardware and software, to try and solve it. These validators are called miners, and the first miners to solve the problem will be rewarded with a payout of the cryptocurrency. 

Once a miner figures out the correct answer to the math problem, which is verified by each node in the network, the new block is created and added to the blockchain and the winners earn a block reward. For Bitcoin miners, the block reward for validating one megabyte worth of Bitcoin transactions is 12.5 tokens. And since the value of one token currently hovers at around $6,450, a successful miner could rake in approximately $80,625 today.

Validation methods like cryptocurrency mining are called proof-of-work or PoW, and it’s one of the reasons why cryptocurrency and blockchain are considered so innovative.

Incentivizing miners with payouts of a certain cryptocurrency to validate its transactions makes the cryptocurrency safe, secure, and trustworthy to use. Mining also mints and releases the cryptocurrency into circulation, which increases the odds that consumers and merchants will be more willing to adopt and accept it, boosting the currency’s value.

But even though cryptocurrency mining is economically beneficial to miners, consumers, merchants, and the cryptocurrency itself, digging for crypto can actually harm the environment.

As more people mine more cryptocurrency, it gets extremely difficult to solve the math problems that validate the cryptocurrency’s transactions. You need massive amounts of electricity to power your mining rigs and solve these complex problems, especially for cryptocurrencies with a limited supply, like Bitcoin. In fact, by the end of this year, Bitcoin miners are predicted to consume more electricity than all of Argentina.

But whether or not you’re willing to contribute to the massive energy use of cryptocurrency mining, you can definitely earn a profit mining, if you live in low-cost power regions.

If you want to mine cryptocurrency in a more environmentally-friendly way, you can mine lesser-known cryptocurrency that require less energy and effort to dig up. There’s even some cryptocurrency that you can mine with your own personal computer.

To find the best fit cryptocurrency for your specific situation, check out CoinMarketCap, a website that lists all the active cryptocurrencies today.

4 Ways to Reduce Customer Acquisition Costs With Facebook Ads

Looking for ways to optimize your Facebook ads to acquire more customers? Wondering how to scale campaigns that are working well? In this article, you’ll discover four ways to reduce your customer acquisition costs when scaling your campaigns. Set Up Your Ads Manager Dashboard to Assess Customer Acquisition Costs If you’re new to Facebook advertising, […]

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The Ultimate Guide to IGTV

In recent years, we’ve seen the power of video on the internet — Facebook alone gets eight billion average daily views, and YouTube’s video platform has enabled young teens to become national superstars (Justin Bieber, anyone?).

It’s no surprise to hear people often prefer video over other types of online content. In fact, a Cisco report predicts internet video traffic will account for 80% of total Internet traffic by 2019.

You’ve probably already heard of a few options when it comes to publishing and promoting long-form video content — like YouTube, or Facebook Live.

Now, there’s another option: IGTV. In June 2018, Instagram released its own long-form video feature. While Instagram Stories only allows users to publish short, 30-second clips, IGTV allows users to publish vertical, long-form videos, either within the Instagram app or in the new IGTV app.

There are a few benefits to IGTV over other video platforms like YouTube — for instance, IGTV doesn’t have ads (yet). In a press conference after the launch, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said, “Right now we’re focused on building engagement.” This could incentivize users to choose IGTV over other video platforms for consuming content.

Additionally, IGTV is primarily meant for smartphones. The videos are vertical so users don’t need to rotate their phones to watch. Vertical video is also easier to record and upload straight from a phone, but editing professional videos could get more difficult.

If you’re interested in testing out the app for your own business, or simply want to know which brands to watch, you’re in luck — here, we’ve compiled all the tips and information you need to get started with IGTV.

IGTV Video Length

Anyone with an Instagram account can upload an IGTV video. Most videos must be between 15 seconds and 10 minutes long.

However, Instagram has said larger accounts and verified accounts can upload videos that are up to an hour long. If you’re publishing an hour-long video, you must upload it to IGTV from a computer.

Editing IGTV Video Titles and Descriptions

To upload and edit your IGTV video title and description, follow these steps:

1. Open the IGTV app and click on the icon of your profile. Then, click “Upload Video”.

2. Allow IGTV access to your videos, and then click on one.

3. Click “Next” in the top right.

4. Here, you’re able to type a “Title” and “Description”. You can also edit the cover photo.

5. When you’re done, click “Post” to publish your video. 

IGTV Analytics

Once you’ve published a video to IGTV, it’s easy to find analytics on your video. IGTV provides in-app insights including how many views, likes, and comments it has received, audience retention, and at which points of the video most people stopped watching.

To get these insights, open your IGTV app and click on one of your published videos. Then, follow these steps:

1. Open your video, and then click the “…” icon at the bottom.

2. Select “View Insights”.

3. Here are your insights, including engagement metrics and audience retention metrics.

Watching Videos on IGTV

As soon as you open the IGTV app, a video will immediately start playing — presumably with the hope that users will become immersed in the content.

To watch a video, you simply click on it. If you’re not interested in watching it anymore, you can scroll up to see other options.

There are four video categories: “For You” “Following” “Popular” and “Continue Watching”.

Underneath each category, there’s a carousel of videos. Scroll left and right to see your options, and click one you want to watch.

There’s also a search bar, if you are interested in watching a specific channel. Additionally, if you’re in the Instagram app and looking at someone’s page, you might see an IGTV circle beside their Story Highlights. If you click on the IGTV circle, you’ll be redirected to that user’s IGTV page.

Best IGTV Channels and Brands to Follow

There are a few brands and channels that create particularly impressive and unique content on IGTV. If your business is starting from scratch on IGTV, here are a few channels and brands you’ll want to add to your must-watch list for inspiration:

  • Netflix
  • Spotify
  • Vistaprint
  • Airbnb
  • Tastemade
  • Buzzfeed
  • National Geographic
  • BBC News
  • The Daily Show
  • Nike Football
  • CBSThisMorning
  • MTV
  • Food Network

Top Influencers on IGTV

While IGTV doesn’t have nearly the same audience reach as Instagram or YouTube, it can offer unique benefits for its early adopter influencers. For instance, IGTV allows influencers to create long-form content, compared to Instagram Stories. Additionally, IGTV caters to a younger demographic who are interested in watching less-edited, more candid videos on their smartphones.

A few influencers in particular are worth checking out on IGTV. These content creators are using IGTV as a platform to create original content and appeal to a specific audience. If you’re looking for influencer inspiration, take a look at videos from these creators:

  • Lele Pons
  • Zoella Beauty
  • Chiara Ferragni
  • Hannah Stocking
  • Anwar Jibawi
  • Huda Kattan
  • King Bach
  • Murad Osmann
  • Nash Grier
  • King Keraun

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether IGTV offers worthwhile benefits for your business. It’s critical you consider your audience’s preferences when making a decision — would they prefer to watch your brand on IGTV, or are they consuming content elsewhere?

If you feel your brand does well in relatively unmarked territory, perhaps you want to give IGTV a try. Get out your camera, record some unedited behind-the-scenes looks at your company, and press “Post”. Your audience insights will tell you soon enough whether it’s an avenue worth pursuing.

19 of the Best Personal Websites to Inspire Your Own

Some refer to it as a full-time job in itself. Others compare it to dating. And several cats over at BuzzFeed think it just plain stinks.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When you’re applying for a job, you’re typically asked to submit a resume and cover letter, or maybe your LinkedIn profile. But there are better ways to stand out from your competition, and building a personal website is one of them.

Bio-Templates-Interactive-1-1

Why You Need a Personal Website

Here’s the thing about resumes and cover letters: No matter how unique you try to make your own, for the most part, they tend to read dry. And there’s a good reason for it: It’s supposed to be a single, no-frills page that documents your work experience. And while being concise is good, there’s very little opportunity to convey your uniqueness, or for your personality to shine through at all for that matter.

While a resume is a sole, largely unchanging document, a personal website can be customized and updated according to what you’re working on, or what you want to emphasize. It’s both fluid and current.

Overall, a personal website can serve different goals, but perhaps what it does best is provide you with an opportunity to tell your story. And with 53% of employers reporting that the resume alone did not provide enough information to determine if the candidate would be a good fit, that storytelling element can really help to improve your odds.

If you’re thinking about creating a personal website of your very own, check out the examples below that hit the nail on the head.

Resumes

Whether you create a single-page site or a larger portfolio, the web resume serves as a more personalized option for sharing information and demonstrating your technological skills — and it can be used by all types of job seekers.

Even if you have very little work experience, you can leverage a website to build a better picture of your capabilities and yourself as a candidate, while leaning on your traditional resume to provide the basic background information.

1. Gary Sheng

Personal website of Gary Sheng with a picture of him on the homepage followed by details of his resume

Unlike a standard resume document, Sheng’s website makes it easy for him to include logos and clickable links that allow his software engineering and web development skills to shine.

We love that visitors can choose to scroll down his page to view all of the website’s categories (“About Me,” “My Passion,” etc.), or jump to a specific page using the top navigation.

The “My System” section reads like a company mission statement, and this personal touch helps humanize his work and make him more memorable.

2. Raf Derolez

Personal website of Raf Derolez with black background and large white font creatively outlining his resume

Derolez’s web resume is modern, cool, and informative. It shows off his personality, branding, and developing skills in a way that’s still very simple and clear. Not to mention, his use of unique fonts and geometric overlays ascribes personality to his name in an eye-catching way.

Want to get in touch with Derolez? Simply click the CTA located at the bottom of the page to open up an email that’s pre-addressed directly to him. Or select one of the social media links to connect with him on platforms like Twitter — where the look and feel of the visual assets happens to seamlessly align with the branding of his website. Well played, Derolez.

Twitter profile of Raf Derolez

3. Brandon Johnson

Personal website of Brandon Johnson with black and white resume and space theme

Johnson’s incredible resume must be seen to be believed. Beautiful images of planets help to complement his planetary science background, and animations make his resume more of an experience than a document.

In terms of design, the textured, multi-layered background adds greater depth to the two-dimensional page in a way that evokes feelings of space and the planetary systems, which Johnson’s work focuses on.

4. Quinton Harris

Personal website of Quinton Harris with resume details including personal photography and storytelling

Harris’ resume uses photos to tell his personal story — and it reads kind of like a cool, digital scrapbook. It covers all the bases of a resume — and then some — by discussing his educational background, work experience, and skills in a highly visual way.

Not to mention, the copy is fantastic. It’s clear that Harris took the time to carefully choose the right words to describe each step of his personal and professional journey. For example, the section on storytelling reads:

NYC, my new home, is filled with the necessary secrets to not only propel my craft forward, but my identity as an artist. With every lens snapped and every pixel laid, I am becoming me.

Finally, at the final navigational point (note the scrolling circles on the left-hand side of the page), users are redirected to quintonharris.com, where he goes on to tell his story in more detail.

Website homepage of Quinton Harris that says 'Griot in Training' across the front

5. Sean Halpin

Personal website of web designer Sean Halpin with soft white and green colors and personal avatar

Halpin’s resume is short, sweet, and to the point, which is authentic to his voice and personal branding outlined on the site. The white space allows his designs and copy to pop and command the reader’s attention, which helps to improve readability — especially on mobile devices:

Sean_Halpin_Mobile.pngSean_Halpin_Mobile_Site.png

Best Practices for Resume Websites

  1. Code your resume so it can be crawled by search engines.
  2. Offer a button to download your resume in PDF so the hiring manager can add it to your file.
  3. Keep branding consistent between the website and document versions: Use similar fonts, colors, and images so you’re easy to recognize.
  4. Be creative and authentic to yourself. Think about the colors, images, and media you want to be a part of your story that you couldn’t include in a document resume.

Portfolios

Building an online portfolio is a highly useful personal branding and marketing tool if your work experience and skill set call for content creation. In fact, photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, writers, and content marketers can all use web portfolios to show off their skills in a more user-friendly way than a resume or hard copy portfolio.

6. Tony D’Orio

Personal portfolio website of Tony D'Orio showing portraits of people

It’s important to keep the design of your visual portfolio simple to let images capture visitors’ attention, and D’Orio accomplishes this by featuring bold photographs front-and-center on his website. His logo and navigation menu are clear and don’t distract from his work. And he makes it easy for potential customers to download his work free of charge.

Want to give it a try? Click on the hamburger menu in the top left corner, then select + Create a PDF to select as many images as you’d like to download.

Link to create a PDF from Tony D'Orio's personal online portfolio, featuring tiled images of his photography

Once you open the PDF, you’ll notice that it comes fully equipped with D’Orio’s business card as the cover … just in case you need it.

Screen_Shot_2016-09-06_at_4.22.29_PM.png

7. Gari Cruze

Personal website portfolio of Gari Cruze with tiled images of his photography and links to his work

Cruze is a copywriter. But by turning his website into a portfolio featuring images from different campaigns he’s worked on, he makes visitors want to keep clicking to learn more about him. Also, there’s a great CTA at the top of the page that leads visitors to his latest blog post.

His site’s humorous copy — specifically in the “17 Random Things” and “Oh Yes, They’re Talking” sections — serves to show off his skills, while making himself more memorable as well. These pages also include his contact information on the right-hand side, making it easy to reach out and connect at any point:

Gary_Cruze.png

8. Melanie Daveid

Personal website portfolio of Melanie Daveid with script font and simple illustration theme

Daveid’s website is a great example of “less is more.”

This developer’s portfolio features clear, well-branded imagery of campaigns and apps that Daveid worked on, and she shows off her coding skills when you click through to see the specifics of her work.

While it might seem overly minimal to only include three examples of her work, Daveid did her portfolio a service by including her best, most noteworthy campaigns. At the end of the day, it’s better to have fewer examples of excellence in your portfolio than many examples of mediocrity.

9. The Beast Is Back

Personal website portfolio of The Beast Is Back, also known as Christopher Lee, with tiled images of colorful design work

Christopher Lee’s portfolio is busy and colorful in a way that works. When you read more about Lee on his easily navigable site, you realize that such a fun and vibrant homepage is perfect for an illustrator and toy designer.

Known by his brand name, “The Beast Is Back,” Lee’s web portfolio highlights eye-catching designs with recognizable brands, such as Target and Mario, along with links to purchase his work. This is another gallery-style portfolio with pops of color that make it fun and give it personality, thus making it more memorable.

10. Daniel Grindrod

This freelance videographer is another example of a simple but sleek portfolio, organizing the many types of media Daniel’s done into the categories by which his potential clients would likely want to browse. The opening video spot on the homepage — labeled “Daniel Grindrod 2018,” as shown on the still image — also ensures his site visitors that he’s actively creating beautiful work.

daniel-grindrod-portfolio

Best Practices for Portfolio Websites

  1. Use mainly visuals. Even if you’re showcasing your written work, using logos or other branding is more eye-catching for your visitors.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Your personality, style, and sense of humor could be what sets you apart from other sites!
  3. Organization is key. If your portfolio is full of photos, logos, and other images, make sure it’s easy for visitors to navigate to where they can contact you.
  4. Brand yourself. Choose a logo or icon to make your information easily identifiable.

Blogs

Consistently publishing on a blog is a great way to attract attention on social media and search engines — and drive traffic to your site. Blogging is a smart way to give your work a personality, chronicle your experiences, and stretch your writing muscles. You might write a personal blog if you’re a writer by trade, but virtually anyone can benefit from adding a blog to their site and providing useful content for their audience.

11. Everywhereist

Personal blog of Everywhereist with green and red homepage

This blog looks a bit busier, but its consistent branding helps visitors easily navigate the site. The travel blog uses globe iconography to move visitors around the site, making it easy to explore sections beyond the blog.

It also features a “Best Of” section that allows new visitors to learn about what the blog covers to get acclimated. The color scheme is warm, neutral, and free of excess clutter that could distract from the content.

12. fifty coffees

Fifty_Coffees_Blog.png

The website fifty coffees chronicles the author’s series of coffee meetings in search of her next job opportunity, and it does a great job of using photography and visuals to assist in the telling of her lengthy stories.

The best part? Each post ends with numbered takeaways from her meetings for ease of reading comprehension. The high-quality photography used to complement the stories is like icing on the cake.

13. Minimalist Baker

Personal food blog of Minimalist Baker with yellow and white website theme

I’m not highlighting Dana’s food blog just because the food looks delicious and I’m hungry. Her blog uses a simple white background to let her food photography pop, unique branding to make her memorable, and mini-bio to personalize her website.

14. Kendra Schaefer

Personal blog of Kendra Schaefer

Kendra’s blog is chock-full of information about her life, background, and professional experience, but she avoids overwhelming visitors by using a light background and organizing her blog’s modules to minimize clutter. She also shares links to additional writing samples, which bolsters her writing authority and credibility.

15. Mr. Money Mustache

Personal finance blog of Mr. Money Mustache with wood themed background and illustrated logo

Mr. Money Mustache might take on an old-school, Gangs of New York-style facade, but his blog design — and the advice the blog offers — couldn’t be more fresh (he also doesn’t really look like that).

This financial blog is a funny, browsable website that offers sound insight into money management for the layperson. While his personal stories help support the legitimacy of his advice, the navigation links surrounding his logo make it easy to jump right into his content without any prior context around his brand.

Best Practices for Blogs

  1. Keep your site simple and clutter-free to avoid additional distractions beyond blog posts.
  2. Publish often. Company blogs that publish more than 16 posts per months get nearly 3.5X the web traffic of blogs that published less than four posts per month.
  3. Experiment with different blog styles, such as lists, interviews, graphics, and bullets.
  4. Employ visuals to break up text and add context to your discussion.

Demos

Another cool way to promote yourself and your skills is to create a personal website that doubles as a demonstration of your coding, design, illustration, or developer skills. These sites can be interactive and animated in a way that provides information about you and also shows hiring managers why they should work with you. This is a great website option for technical and artistic content creators such as developers, animators, UX designers, website content managers, and illustrators.

16. Albino Tonnina

Personal demo of web developer Albino Tonnina with animated homepage showing his work

Tonnina is showcasing advanced and complicated web development skills, but the images and icons he uses are still clear and easy to understand. He also offers a simple option to view his resume at the beginning of his site, for those who don’t want to scroll through the animation.

17. Robby Leonardi

robby_leonardi.gif

Leonardi’s incredible demo website uses animation and web development skills to turn his portfolio and resume into a video game for site visitors. The whimsical branding and unique way of sharing information ensure that his site is memorable to visitors.

18. Samuel Reed

Personal demo of Samuel Reed with plain code themed homepage

Reed uses his page as a start-to-finish demo of how to code a website. His website starts as a blank white page and ends as a fully interactive site that visitors can watch him code themselves. The cool factor makes this website memorable, and it makes his skills extremely marketable.

19. Devon Stank

Personal demo of Devon Stank with black homepage and 'Let's Build Something Amazing Together' written across the front

Stank’s demo site does a great job of showing that he has the web design chops and it takes it a step further by telling visitors all about him, his agency, and his passions. It’s the perfect balance of a demo and a mini-resume.

Plus, we love the video summary. It’s a consumable summary that at once captures Stank’s personality and credentials.

Best Practices for Demo Websites

  1. Brand yourself and use consistent logos and colors to identify your name and your skills amongst the bevy of visuals.
  2. Don’t overwhelm your visitors with too many visuals at once — especially if your demo is animated. Be sure to keep imagery easy to understand so visitors aren’t bombarded when they visit your site.

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Facebook Ads Updates and New Instagram Features

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Social Media Marketing Talk Show, a news show for marketers who want to stay on the leading edge of social media. On this week’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show, we explore new Instagram features and Facebook ads updates. Our special guests include Peg Fitzpatrick and Amanda Bond. Watch […]

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68% of Americans Still Get Their News on Social Media, Even If They Don’t Trust It

A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that over two thirds of U.S. adults (68%) get their news on social media, even if rarely.

Out of that population, just under half say that they get their news from Facebook. 

PJ_2018.09.10_social-media-news_0-03

Source: Pew Research Center

Facebook has been working through something of a fake news crisis over the past two years, since it was revealed that the network was weaponized by government-backed Russian in a coordinated misinformation campaign, with the hopes of influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

Since then, the company has implemented a number of changes to curb the creation of fake accounts that often distribute this inauthentic information, and has uncovered at least two similar misinformation campaigns.

It poses the question: With fake news continuing to be a problem on social media, why do so many people continue to rely on it as a source of information on current events?

The answer, it seems, is two-fold.

First, the same survey conducted by Pew also found that even though so many people continue to primarily consume news via social media, they don’t always trust it. Over half (57%) expect the news they find on social media to be inaccurate.

PJ_2018.09.10_social-media-news_0-01

Source: Pew Research Center

So despite this mistrust, what’s to explain for the continued consumption? HubSpot VP of Marketing Jon Dick believes it comes down to our established news-reading routines.

“Ultimately,” he says, “I think people have an existing habit that’s hard to break.”

It makes sense — Pew also found, in separate research, that 74% of people visit Facebook at least once a day, reinforcing their consumption behavior during time spent on the site.

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Source: Pew Research Center

That said, Facebook Page engagement has dropped about 50% since a January News Feed algorithm change that shifted priority to content from users’ immediate connections over that from Pages.

Which is why, Dick says, there could be other explanations for users continuing to turn to social media for news discovery.

For example, there’s the 42% of people who trust that the news they see on social media is likely accurate.

“People don’t think it’ll happen to them,” Dick explains, referring to falling victim to misinformation.

But given the amount of time that, collectively, we spend on social media, our news consumption through those channels might not dissipate in the near future.

“Heck, I still get my news from social media,” Dick admits. “But for some irrational reason, I assume the news I see on social media isn’t fake.”

How to Become Instagram Famous (From 14 People Who Did)

Instagram is no longer just about connecting with friends — in 2018, it has become an incredibly powerful platform for finding your voice and creating a business. In fact, Instagram’s estimated mobile advertising revenue is expected to reach 6.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, compared to 1.8 billion two years ago.

Nowadays, Instagram is capable of turning stay-at-home moms into successful hat designers, or a woman working in corporate wealth management into a world traveler. So it’s no surprise you want to become an Instagram influencer, and reach a large audience with your own personal brand.Click here to access a month's worth of Instagram tips & free templates.

Since I myself am not an Instagram influencer (I think an average 60 likes per post falls a little short of most brands’ minimum for sponsorship opportunities), I set out to interview some real Instagram influencers in the industry, so you can get the full scoop.

emmahoareau

Throughout my conversations with these influencers, one thing became abundantly clear — the term “famous” makes most of them uncomfortable. Apparently, “famous” denotes something less substantial than what most of these people are chasing. As Emma Hoareau (@emmahoareau), a beauty and travel influencer who boasts nearly 40k followers, tells me, “Don’t set out to be Instagram famous! Create beautiful work and use the app as a source of inspiration … not a numbers competition.”

If you think about it, “fame” and “influence” are two drastically different measures of success. While fame is measured by a certain number, influence is measured by something a little less quantitative — a deep, authentic connection with your audience.

Here, we’ve compiled some critical tips from fourteen Instagram influencers, so you can get one step closer to sharing your brand with the world and influencing your own audience.

1. Make sure your content is genuine and authentic.

Across the board, all the influencers in this list insisted on one tried-and-true practice — authentic content.

Emily Roberts (@thelipstickfever) a fashion and beauty influencer with over 57k followers, told me, “Focus on quality over quantity when it comes to your content. It’s better to post top notch images less frequently, than to post something subpar very frequently.”

To me, this makes sense — the same is true for any type of content creation. An audience would rather read one high-quality Facebook status than a hundred less interesting ones. At HubSpot, we’d prefer to publish a few exceptional pieces of content per day, rather than laboring away to produce hundreds of barely average pieces.

Emma Hoareau (@emmahoareau) concurred: “Make sure the content you’re sharing is true to yourself, and try not to compare yourself to others.”

Of course, authenticity is easier said than done, particularly when you’re following other accounts and feeling envious of their posts or their brand image. You might, at times, doubt your ability to remain honest about your life when it’s tempting to portray something a little shinier.

Nic and Nat (@sneakymommies), two women who create kid-friendly, healthy recipes on their Instagram account and have over 6,000 followers, say you should “stay authentic and always be you. This means being truthful and honest about who you are both online and offline and staying true to your personal brand.”

sneakymommies

Morgan Raphael (@bun_undone) a health, wellness, and inspiration influencer with nearly 15k followers, offers some advice when it comes to whether or not you need to find a niche. “I heard a lot of advice to find your niche and what makes you stand out, but truthfully, if you share your real self, people will relate and therefore respond by continuing to follow you and engage with your content.”

Finally, Chelsea Martin (@passporttofriday), a travel blogger and influencer with over 17k followers, says commitment to your brand is critical — “don’t take just any collaboration offer that comes through the door. Stay loyal to your personal brand and your followers will stay loyal to you.”

While it can be tempting to take the first sponsorship offer you receive, long-term growth is about remaining committed to partnering with brands that can offer meaningful value to your audience, as well.

2. Remain flexible and authentic as your brand shifts.

When you follow Instagram influencers, you might feel like they joined the app with an inherent and instant understanding of their brand — at least, that’s how I’ve always felt. To verify this, I asked Nicole Loher (@nicoleloher), a health and fitness influencer with over 14k followers, whether she knew what she wanted her brand to be when she first created her Instagram account.

Nicole told me, “I’ve always had a really pure goal to share a super authentic glimpse into my life — no matter if it’s good or bad — because I ultimately moved to New York not knowing anyone … And ‘making it’ here was never and still is not easy. I think as my following began to amass, I realized I had a real platform to be an advocate for projects, communities and brands, I’m passionate about — the most notable one being the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. That said, about three years ago, my brand started to shift. I went from being a girl who worked in fashion and beauty, to a competitive triathlete. It wasn’t something I set out to do — it just shifted as my life shifted!”

It seems a key factor in remaining authentic and true to your audience is, ironically, allowing yourself to change direction. If your audience believes they’re getting a glimpse into the real you, and if they feel connected to you, they’ll ideally want to grow and change with you as you move throughout stages of your Instagram, and real life, journey.

3. Focus on your audience.

We’ve discussed remaining authentic and flexible as you create a brand identity on Instagram. Now, let’s consider why this is important — audience loyalty.

An influencer doesn’t become an influencer without creating a strong community, and developing a connection, to her audience. Emily Roberts (@thelipstickfever) says, “Always make sure you’re focused on driving value to your audience, and hone in on what makes you truly unique.”

lipstickfever

Ultimately, becoming an Instagram influencer is a professional role like anything else, so it’s important you consider what you can offer your audience. Lauren Caruso (@laurencaruso_), a fashion influencer who boasts nearly 35k followers, advises, “Step one is definitely finding your niche, then figure out how to offer some sort of a service to the audience. It can be anything from outfit ideas, creative direction ideas, or helping them discover new brands — just make sure you stay true to your aesthetic, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.”

Finally, Nic & Nat (@sneakymommies) told me, “People will want to connect with you if they view you as being relatable (human!), so being honest and sharing the good and the bad is what they want to see.”

There’s a reason the hashtag #nofilter has been used over 235 million times, compared to #sponsorship, which barely passes the 400,000 mark. Ultimately, Instagram is a platform meant to connect real people with true experiences. Make your audience feel like they’re getting a glimpse into your challenges, and they’re more likely to cheer on your successes.

4. Find micro-brands to work with.

Once you’ve created a brand and grown a loyal following, you might feel ready to reach out and get endorsed by certain brands. But direct messaging Nike or L’Oréal might not be your best initial strategy.

Instead, Puno (@punodostres), a micro-influencer and business founder with over 14k followers, emphasizes the importance of micro-brands: “Micro-brands on Instagram are awesome, mostly because they are small businesses that are open to trade. Similar to you, they’re looking to build their following. If you’re an influencer with under 10k followers, product for trade is a great place to start creating content you want to get paid for, especially if you can find brands you love and are in the same boat (socially). Plus, they are more likely to mention and regram you.”

To find micro-brands, Puno suggests you use PeopleMap.co, a micro-influencer tool she created (the tool is used by clients like Refinery29 and Etsy). You can also find micro-brands by searching for hashtags related to your expertise. For instance, #healthyeating might connect you with brands, or other influencers, in a similar industry. Once you find brands you’re interested in working with, you can either direct message or email them.

brothers-buoyAdditionally, Jackson and Graham Buoy (@thebrothersbuoy), two food influencers with over 11k followers, told me, “One of our absolute favorite things to do is work with smaller brands or new restaurants who are still finding their voice and help them tell their story visually. We only promote things on our feed that we genuinely care about or use … We just don’t see the point behind content that is so obviously paid for and doesn’t align with someone’s personal brand, as it really defeats the whole idea of ‘influencing.'” 

For more information on sponsorships, check out, “How to Get Sponsored on Instagram (Even if You Currently Have 0 Followers)“.

5. Refine your photography skills.

Oftentimes, it’s easy to feel like your iPhone and Instagram filters are enough — and, sometimes, they are. But to set yourself apart as an influencer, versus just an Instagram user, it might be worthwhile to invest in better photography and editing equipment.

passportfriday

Chelsea Martin (@passporttofriday) says, “A professional camera and a great lens could make the difference between a good photo and an amazing photo — which has more potential of being reposted by other accounts, therefore growing your audience.”

To set yourself apart, consider going the extra mile. Invest in equipment or a photography course to improve your skills. 

Jackson and Graham Buoy (@thebrothersbuoy), advise, “Investing in equipment is a great idea, but if you don’t know how to use it, it won’t get you anywhere. We would recommend spending money on sites like Skillshare, or even investing time in YouTube tutorials about photography and editing basics. Once you feel comfortable with that stuff and know you can take a good photo, then graduate to some higher quality equipment.”

Ultimately, you want to provide your audience with something valuable. Like any service, using the proper tools and taking online courses could lead to a bigger pay-off in the long run.

6. Be persistent.

As with any profession, one of the most critical components to becoming successful on Instagram is persistence.

Morgan Raphael (@bun_undone) says, “I preach patience and self-love. Don’t give up, continue to write or post consistently and in time it will flourish. The comparison game can easily get in your head if you’re focused on numbers, so instead, focus on the meaningful content you’re sharing, remain proud of your work and keep going.”

Becoming an influencer isn’t easy, and while it can be incredibly rewarding, it’s only possible if you’re willing to put in the time. Being passionate about your content will help you push through the challenging times.

Christina, Jeannie & Eli (@fitcityblonde), three fitness influencers with over 8,000 followers, advise, “Post content that you’re passionate about, build genuine and authentic connections, and GRIND. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people to build your network, especially in person. Instagrammers often hide behind their pages, so it’s unique when you’re willing to establish actual human connections. All in all, keep it real, and work your tail off.”

I think we can all agree, whether it’s influence or fame you’re after, worthwhile endeavors are never easy — but, hopefully, these influencer tips make your experience a little easier.

fitcityblonde

30 days of instagram

 
30 days of insta

Pinterest Strategy: How to Get More Traffic From Pinterest

Want more visitors to your website? Wondering how Pinterest can help? To explore how to drive more traffic to your website with Pinterest, I interview Jennifer Priest. More About This Show The Social Media Marketing podcast is designed to help busy marketers, business owners, and creators discover what works with social media marketing. In this […]

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10 Augmented Reality Apps That Are Better Than Pokemon Go

During the summer of 2016, Pokemon Go revived countless amounts of people’s inner Ash Ketchum, making street corners, parks, and backyards look like an arcade from the 80’s. Over 100 million people lived their childhood fantasies of catching, training, and battling Pokemon in (augmented) real life that summer, and the app’s enourmous popularity stimulated public interest in augmented reality technology as a whole. In fact, since Pokemon Go’s release, the number of AR app downloads has exploded by 366%.

If you want to see what all the augmented reality hype is about, but don’t want to download and test out the more than 2,000 AR apps on the App Store right now, we’ve got you covered.

We curated a list of the mobile AR apps that are better than the app that popularized augmented reality, helping you grasp and enjoy the technology’s current capabilities.

1. MondlyAR

App Rating: 4.7/5.0

Available On: IOS & Android

Price: Free

Even though my parents are native speakers of Mandarin and I took a year-long Chinese course in college, I’m still terrified to speak the language. My American accent and lack of fluency is personally too embarrassing, so I just don’t speak Mandarin — ever.

But one of my goals in life is to become fluent in the language, and the only way to accomplish this is by constantly conversing with native speakers. I can’t seem to muster enough courage to reveal my weak speaking abilities to them, though.

If you’re in similar situation, you might feel like you’re trapped in a vicious cycle, where your embarrassment leads to inaction, which leads to decline and, ultimately, more embarrassment.

Luckily, Mondly, a language learning platform, created an AR app to help you practice your speaking abilities with your very own virtual language assistant.

Your digital assistant can converse with you in seven different languages — Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, British English, and American English — and with MondlyAR’s advanced features like speech recognition, chatbot technology, and artificial intelligence, she can also give you feedback on your pronunciation and make your lessons as engaging as possible by summoning virtual animals, instruments, and other objects to your room.

2. Inkhunter

App Rating: 4.7/5.0

Available On: IOS & Android

Price: Free

Getting a tattoo can be one of the most stressful decisions of your life. If you get the wrong one, it’ll stay with you forever — until you opt for laser tattoo removal.

Fortunately, though, Inkhunter leverages augmented reality to take the guesswork out of getting a tattoo. After you upload your own art to the app or choose designs from Inkhunter’s gallery, all you have to do is mark the potential area for your tattoo and hover your phone over the mark to see how it’d look on your body, letting you think before you ink.

3. Star Chart

App Rating: 4.5/5.0

Available On: IOS & Android

Price: Free

Stargazing has been a pastime for thousands of years. Who doesn’t love admiring a bright, dusty sky full of stars and learning about the wonders above? Unfortunately, if you didn’t study astronomy, the heavens can be quite challenging to understand. 

With Star Chart, though, you can identify any star, constellation, meteor shower, comet, and planet in our solar system. All you have to do is point your phone to the night sky, and the app will automatically follow your movements, chart the sky, and teach you some cool tidbits about space.

4. Housecraft

App Rating: 4.5/5.0

Available On: IOS

Price: Free

Designing a room is just like getting a tattoo. If you buy the wrong furniture, it could ruin the room’s entire aesthetic. And you’d have to deal with the embarrassment of living in an eye-sore — unless, of course, you shell out more money on some new furniture. But even if you buy the most expensive furniture, it still might not fit your room’s look. The same thing could happen all over again.

To avoid this regretful situation, consider downloading Housecraft before you buy any new furniture. The app uses augmented reality to place fully rendered 3D models of a variety of furniture in your home. And all the furniture is resizable to fit your room’s dimensions, observable from any angle and in any light, and you can even save specific room designs for future reference.

You can also use Housecraft just for your own amusement. With the app’s video recording feature, you can document your dream home or something utterly absurd, like a room filled with potted plants, and send them to your friends and family.

5. ROAR Augmented Reality

App Rating: 4.3/5.0

Available On: IOS & Android

Price: Free

ROAR is like Shazam, but for food and beverages. The app lets you can scan over 10,000 different products to learn about their prices, nutrition facts, ingredients, reviews, and relevant promotions.

You can also compare any product’s price in ROAR’s database by retailer, buy select items within the app, and even scan movie posters to buy tickets for the next show at certain theaters.

With all this valuable information at your fingertips, ROAR is like your personal shopping advisor.

6. GIPHY World

App Rating: 4.6/5.0

Available On: IOS

Price: Free

GIFs are already one of the most popular and lovable ways to communicate through messaging and social media, but Giphy didn’t want to end their empire there. After the viral success of Snapchat’s dancing AR hot dog, they developed an AR app called GIPHY World, which arguably makes AR communication just as fun and engaging as Snapchat does. The app lets you record AR GIFs and stickers directly into your videos, post them to the internet, and share them with your friends who also use the app.

Nowadays, not a lot of people complain about the amount of GIFs they receive — they usually rave about them. And since AR GIFs are novel, unique, and hilarious, their popularity will most likely soar.

7. Holo

App Rating: 4.4/5.0

Available On: IOS & Android

Price: Free

Similar to GIPHY World, Holo lets you place AR visuals into your photos and videos. But the main difference between the two apps is that Holo’s AR visuals, or holograms, are of celebrities and famous fictional characters. Taking a selfie with Spider-Man is entirely possible on Holo, and regardless if your friends believe you’re tight with Peter Parker or not, the AR app is still an incredibly unique and fun way to interact with people.

8. Just a Line

App Rating: 4.6/5.0

Available On: IOS & Android

Price: Free

As one of Google’s flagship AR apps, Just a Line is surprisingly simple — the only thing you can do on the app is make simple drawings.

But Just a Line can actually be just as fun and engaging as a more sophisticated AR app, if you’re creative. To draw things in the app, all you have to do is doodle on your phone’s screen. Then, you can press record to document your AR masterpiece.

Just a Line can also sync your phone with your friend’s phone, letting you both share the same drawing space and potentially play the most engaging Tic-tac-toe game of your life.

9. Splitter Critters

App Rating: 4.8/5.0

Available On: IOS & Android

Price: $2.99

Splitter Critters is an AR game that projects aliens who are lost in a forest onto a white box the game’s developer sends to you. By slicing the forest with your finger, your goal is to lead the aliens back home to their UFO. Splitter Critters might seem simple and straightforward at first, but there are a whopping 57 levels, so it’s definitely a challenge to beat the entire game.

10. Euclidean Lands

App Rating: 4.7/5.0

Available On: IOS

Price: $3.99

Euclidean Lands is like the 3D version of the popular mobile phone game 2048. To win, you need to hone your spatial awareness, geometry skills, and perspective taking. Thankfully, you can play the game in any wide-open space, making it easier to devise a strategy that will help you beat each level.

11 Examples of Experiential Marketing Campaigns That’ll Give You Serious Event Envy

Work events are really hit or miss. Let’s be honest: How many times have you found yourself anxiously fidgeting with a paper napkin in the corner of a stuffy networking happy hour?

Here’s the thing: It’s not the event itself that prevents you from coming back the following year. It’s the experience you remember having. In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the best experiences brands have ever offered their customers.

I have a big problem with generic trade shows and industry conferences. That’s why I was not only relieved, but surprised and delighted, when I attended a holiday party that featured a live, interactive version of an arcade game.

An entire room had been curated to look like a video game setting, and people were dressed up as characters from it. There was a giant, real-life scoreboard, boppy electronic music, and best of all, there was no tedious small talk.

Click here to download our curated collection of interactive content examples.

It wasn’t just another tired work event … it was an experience. And in our line of work, that sort of thing has a name: experiential marketing.

While a surprising number of people haven’t heard of the concept, it’s kind of a big deal — there’s an entire three-day summit dedicated to it, and 65% of brands that use it say that it positively correlates with sales.

But what is it, exactly? And how has it been used effectively? We found 11 of the coolest experiential marketing campaigns that really break down how it works, and how you can apply those lessons to grow your business.

Experiential marketing might sound a bit like event marketing, which makes sense — experiential campaigns do tend to be event-centric. But there are also times when they have nothing to do with a specific event, as you’ll see from the examples we picked.

When an engagement marketing campaign is event-centric, it’s dedicated less to the type of event — like a concert, festival, conference, etc. — and more to interactions between the brand and the customer. (If you already have an event in the works, check out this guide to adding experiential elements to it.)

These campaigns can take an integrated approach. The primary purpose is to experience a brand in a tangible, offline way, but you’ll still want an online dialogue around it. When you consider that 49% of folks create mobile video at branded events39% of which is shared on Twitter — it makes sense to incorporate a digital element. A branded hashtag, for example, can get people talking about the experience.

11 of the Coolest Experiential Marketing Examples We’ve Ever Seen

1. Refinery29: 29Rooms

For about three years now, lifestyle brand Refinery29 has hosted the 29Rooms event: What it calls “an interactive funhouse of style, culture, & technology.” As the name suggests, it consists of 29 individually branded and curated rooms — and attendees can experience something different in each one. The rooms are designed and created with brand partners, who range from personalities like artists and musicians, to consumer-facing companies like Dunkin’ Donuts, Dyson, and Cadillac.

Each year, 29Rooms has a different theme, with this year’s being “Turn It Into Art.” Attendees, it seems, are encouraged to enter each room and use the surroundings to create something — one room, for instance, invites participants to put on punching gloves and hit punching bags that each produce a different sound when contacted to create a symphony of sorts. A truly hands-on experience, indeed.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Go nuts, but keep it on-brand. An experience should be memorable, but relevant to the people attending.
  • Partner with creators like artists and musicians to create experiences, especially if they are recognizable within the region where you’re trying to build or augment an audience.

2. Red Bull: Stratos

If you were online October 14, 2012, you probably came across a live stream of the “Stratos” jump.

Red Bull has been at the forefront of extreme sports coverage for almost as long as the brand has existed. But in 2012, the company brought its content marketing to new heights — a world-record height, actually.

Affectionately named Stratos, Red Bull’s superterrestrial marketing campaign featured Felix Baumgartner, a skydiver from Austria who partnered with Red Bull to set the world record for highest skydive.

That record: 128,000 feet, about 24 miles above Earth’s surface. Gulp.

To pull off this amazing stunt, Red Bull housed Felix in a small communication capsule and sent him up to the stratosphere using a large helium-filled balloon. And what’s truly remarkable is that his ascent and preparation to jump, alone, allowed him to break another record before landing safely back on Earth (spoiler alert): Red Bull streamed the entire event online, and saw the highest viewing traffic of any live stream ever broadcast on YouTube — at just over 8 million viewers.

Want to see that experience again? Check out Red Bull’s recap video below. I won’t lie, I indulged in a rewatching as I wrote this article.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Don’t underestimate the power of suspense when hosting an event your audience can own a piece of themselves. Being able to witness something new, and maybe a little scary, is such a personal experience. And the better the result, the longer your audience will remember and reminisce over it.
  • Oh, and if you can put your brand in the record books while you’re at it, that’s pretty cool too.

3. Lean Cuisine: #WeighThis

It’s disconcerting how many commercials today tell women to change something about themselves. Sitting on the couch and watching TV for just two minutes, I had already lost count of the number of times that message came up.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see brands like Lean Cuisine, whose marketing used to center solely on weight loss, stray from diet-centric messaging. And its #WeighThis campaign is a great example of just that.

As part of the campaign, Lean Cuisine curated a gallery of “scales” in New York’s Grand Central Station, and invited women to “weigh in.” But here’s the catch: The scales were actually small boards where women could write down how they really wanted to be weighed. And rather than focusing on their weight in pounds — or anything pertaining to body image — the women opted to be measured by things like being back in college at 55, caring for 200 homeless children each day, or being the sole provider to four sons.

What’s particularly cool about this experience is that none of the participants actually interact with a Lean Cuisine product. No one was interrupted, asked to sample something, or stopped to answer questions. In fact, no one was really asked to do anything — the display itself was enough to make people stop, observe, and then voluntarily interact.

Lean Cuisine figured out what message it wanted to send: “Sure, we make stuff that fits into a healthy lifestyle. But don’t forget about your accomplishments. That matters more than the number on the scale.” But instead of blatantly advertising that, it created an interactive experience around the message.

Still, the experience was clearly branded, to make sure people associated it with Lean Cuisine. The company’s Twitter handle and a branded hashtag were featured on the display in large text, which made it easy for people to share the experience on social media. And that definitely paid off — the entire #WeighThis campaign led to over 204 million total impressions.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Don’t interrupt — especially if you’re trying to grab someone’s attention in New York City, like Lean Cuisine was. If you create an experience that provides value to the people who pass by it, they’re more likely to participate.
  • Figure out the message you really want to your brand to send — that may or may not be directly tied to an actual product, and it might be something that your brand hasn’t said before. Then, build an experience around it.

4. Volkwagon: Piano Staircase

Smile, you’re on piano camera!

In 2009, Volkswagen caught people at their most musical by turning a subway staircase in Stockholm, Sweden into a giant piano when nobody was looking. The next day, each step produced the sound of a different piano key as people climbed up and down the stairs. The campaign was a part of “The Fun Theory,” which suggests people are more likely to do something if it looks fun (I happen to agree).

For Volkswagen, however, the message of fun goes a bit further than just catching people discovering a musical staircase on their way to work.

As the automotive industry started to take big leaps into environmentally friendly products, Volkswagen wanted to help make people’s personal habits healthier to go along with it. According to Volkswagen — and its partner, DDB Stockholm, an ad agency — “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.”

According to the video below, 66% more people chose the stairs over the escalator at that particular subway terminal, as a result of Volkswagen’s piano staircase.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • With every marketing campaign you launch, find the “fun” factor. It’s easy to get caught up in how much your brand helps solve your customer’s problem. But what about them, as people, would also bring them enjoyment?
  • Once you find your campaign’s “fun” factor, find the “good” factor. Hosting an experience is your chance to make an impact on your community, not just the users of your product.

5. Google: “Building a Better Bay Area”

Corporate philanthropy is definitely on the rise. Between 2012-2014, 56% of companies increased charitable giving, and Google is no exception. But when the search engine giant gave away $5.5 million to Bay Area nonprofits, it let the public decide where that money would go — in an unconventional, interactive way.

Google allowed people to cast their votes online, but they also wanted to involve the Bay Area community in a tangible way. So they installed large, interactive posters — in places like bus shelters, food trucks, and restaurants — that locals could use to vote for a cause.

Women touching an interactive poster by Google, as part of the company's experiential marketing campaign, Building a Better Bay Area

Source: Google

In the video below, the narrator notes that this experience reaches “people when they had the time to make a difference.” That’s a big thing about experiential marketing: It allows people to interact with a brand when they have the time. Maybe that’s why 72% percent of consumers say they positively view brands that provide great experiences.

And that concept works in this experience because it takes advantage of a “you’re-already-there” mentality. In San Francisco, finding people waiting for the bus or going to food trucks is pretty much a given. So while they were “already there,” Google set up a few opportunities:

  1. To learn about and vote for local nonprofits
  2. To interact with the brand in a way that doesn’t require using its products
  3. To indirectly learn about Google’s community outreach

With the help of the online voting integration — and a branded hashtag: #GoogleImpactChallenge — the campaign ended up generating 400,000 votes over the course of about three and a half weeks.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Create a branded hashtag that participants can use to share the experience on social media. Then, make sure you’ve integrated an online element that allows people to participate when they learn about it this way.
  • Keep it local! It’s always nice when a large corporation gives some love to its community — in fact, 72% of folks say they would tell friends and family about a business’s efforts like these.
  • Remember the “you’re already there” approach. Find out where your audience is already hanging out and engage them there, instead of trying to get them to take action where they don’t usually spend their time.

6. Misereor: Charity Donation Billboard

When was the last time you used cash to pay for something?

Tough to remember, right? We’re kind of a species of “mindless swipers” — globally, an estimated 357 billion non-cash transactions are made each year. And knowing how often we whip out our cards, German relief NGO Misereor decided to put our bad habit to good use with its charitable giving billboard.

It was what they called SocialSwipe. Set up in airports, these digital posters would display images of some problems that Misereor works to resolve — hunger was depicted with a loaf of bread, for example.

But the screen was equipped with a card reader, and when someone went to swipe a card — for a small fee of 2€ — the image moved to make it look like the card was cutting a slice of bread.

Even cooler? On the user’s bank statement, there would be a thank-you note from Misereor, with a link to turn their one-time 2€ donation into a monthly one.

Needless to say, this experience required a lot of coordination — with banks, airports, and a mobile payment platform. Because of that, the experience couldn’t just be a one-time occurrence. The people who interacted with it were later reminded of it during a pretty common occurrence: receiving a bank statement.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Visually represent the impact of participating in the experience. People interacting with this display were shown exactly where their money was going — like slicing bread for a hungry family. (Infographics work nicely here, too — check out our templates.)
  • Partner with another brand to create an even better experience. In this instance, Misereor worked with Stripe.com for the payment technology, and with financial institutions to get a branded message on users’ bank statements. (And stay tuned — we’ll talk more about the value of co-branding here later.)
  • Don’t be afraid to nurture your leads. Even if you don’t use something like a branded hashtag to integrate the experience with an online element, find a way to remind someone that they participated.

7. Guinness: Guinness Class

One of my favorite types of marketing is the “aspirational” kind — or as the Harvard Business Review defines it, marketing for brands that “fall into the upper-right quadrant.” Think: luxury cars, haute couture, and private jets. Things we aspire to own.

It’s that last one — private jets — that set apart the Guinness Class experience. For a few weeks, ambassadors dressed in Guinness-branded flight attendant uniforms entered bars across the U.K., where they surprised unsuspecting customers with a chance to win all kinds of prizes.

In order to participate, bar-goers had to order a pint of Guinness. After doing that, they would shake a prize-generating mobile tablet that displayed what they won. They could win everything from passport cases to keychains, but one player per night would get the ultimate prize: A free trip to Dublin — via private jet, of course — with four mates.

What we like about this experience was its ability to associate Guinness with something aspirational, like traveling by private jet. And according to Nick Britton, marketing manager for Guinness Western Europe, that held the brand up as one that doesn’t “settle for the ordinary.

That’s important — and can be tricky — for a brand that’s nearly 257 years old: to maintain its authenticity, while also adapting to a changing landscape and audience. But Guinness didn’t have to change anything about its actual products in this case. Instead, it created an experience that addressed changing consumer preferences — for example, the fact that 78% of millennials would rather spend money on a memorable experience or event than buy desirable things.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Think about the things your target audience might aspire to, and that you’d like to associate with your brand. Then, build an experience around that.
  • If you do require a product purchase in order to participate in the experience, make it convenient. In this case, people had to buy a pint of Guinness to win a prize, but they were already in a bar that served it.

8. GE: Healthymagination

Think experiential marketing is just for B2C brands? Think again — 67% of B2B marketers say that events make for one of the most effective strategies they use.

That’s why it made sense for GE to invite industry professionals to experience its Healthymagination initiative. The point of the campaign was to promote global healthcare solutions, especially in developing parts of the world.

GEHealthymagination

Source: agencyEA

To help people see the impact of this initiative, GE worked with agencyEA to create “movie sets” that represented different healthcare environments where Healthymagination work took place: a rural African clinic, an urban clinic, and an emergency room. The idea was that doctors would share their stories — live, in front of 700 attendees — that illustrated how GE’s healthcare technology played a major role in each setting.

When people measure the success of experiential marketing, one thing they measure is how much of a dialogue it prompted. And that makes sense — 71% of participants share these experiences. In GE’s case, the point ofHealthymagination was to get people talking about a pretty important, but uncomfortable issue: Access to healthcare in impoverished parts of the world.

But when you create a way for people to become physically immersed in the issue, it also allows them to acknowledge a topic that isn’t always easy to talk about. And that can have quite an impact — this particular campaign, in fact, won a Business Marketing Association Tower Award.

But fear not: That concept also works for not-so-serious, but equally uncomfortable discussion topics. Just look at how well it worked for Charmin.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Experiential marketing does work for B2B brands. Think about who you’re selling to, and create an engagement that would not only attract that audience, but also present an opportunity for them to experience your product or service first-hand.
  • Get uncomfortable. If your business centers around something that’s difficult or “taboo” to talk about, creating an experience around it can prompt a conversation. But make sure you keep it respectful — don’t make people so uncomfortable that they have nothing good to say about your brand.

9. Facebook: Facebook IQ Live

Facebook — who also owns Instagram — has always understood how much data it has on how people use these platforms. For that reason, it created the Facebook IQ Live experience.

For this experience, that data was used to curate live scenes that depicted the data. Among them was the IQ Mart: A “retail” setting that represented the online shopper’s conversion path when using social media for buying decisions. There was also a quintessential Instagram cafe, chock full of millennial-esque photo opportunities and people snapping them — latte art and all.

The campaign wasn’t just memorable. It also proved to be really helpful — 93% of attendees (and there were over 1500 of them) said that the experience provided them with valuable insights on how to use Facebook for business.

But what makes those insights so valuable? Momentum Worldwide, the agency behind Facebook IQ Live, puts it perfectly: “When we understand what matters to people … we can be what matters to them.” In other words, we can shape our messaging around the things that are important to our target audiences.

And by creating this experience, Facebook was able to accomplish that for its own brand. In creating this experience, it also created a positive brand perception for a few audiences — including, for example, the people who might have been unsure of how to use the platform for business.

Takeaways for Marketers

10. Zappos: “Google Cupcake Ambush”

To help promote its new photo app, Google took to the streets of Austin, Texas, with a cupcake truck in tow. But people didn’t pay for the cupcakes with dollars — instead, the only accepted currency was a photo taken with said app.

And really, what’s better than a free-ish cupcake? We’ll tell you what: A free-ish watch or pair of shoes.

That was the answer from Zappos, anyway. That’s why the brand playfully “ambushed” Google’s food truck experience with one of its own: A box-on-feet — strategically placed right next to Google’s setup, of course — that, when fed a cupcake, would dispense a container with one of the aforementioned goodies.

In order to reap the rewards of the Zappos box, people had to have a cupcake. So while only one brand came away from the experience with an epic sugar high, both got plenty of exposure. And since 74% of consumers say a branded experience makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted, Google and Zappos both stood to gain new customers from this crowd.

But what we really like about this example is how much it shows the value of experiential co-branding. Because Google and Zappos pursue two different lines of business, they weren’t sabotaging each other, but rather they were promoting each other (which is what happens when you pick the right co-marketer).

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Use experiential marketing as a co-branding opportunity.
    • Pick a partner with an audience that would be interested in your brand, but might otherwise be difficult to reach.
    • Make sure your partner would benefit from your audience, too — you want the experience to be a win-win-win: for you, your co-brand, and the consumer.
  • When you do pick a marketing partner, build an experience that requires an “exchange” of each brand’s product or service. That way, the audience is more likely to interact with both of you.

11. Docker: Docker Dash

Docker is a software platform that allows developers to make and run apps on different operating systems — a technology known as “containerization.” By some standards, it’s not the sexiest product you can buy. By an enterprise’s standards, it’s not even the easiest product to understand. Enter: Docker Dash.

In partnership with Jack Morton, Docker used its developer conference, DockerCon 2017, to nurture its core enterprise market with a unique product demo called Docker Dash. What made it so unique? It wasn’t a demo — it was a game. And conference guests weren’t guests — they were players.

Docker Dash was a live video game-style simulation of Docker’s application platform, and it recruited 5,000 of its enterprise attendees to create an app together by solving a series of fun challenges inside the game. Each challenge presented in Docker Dash allowed the “players” to engage a feature of Docker’s product and ultimately complete their app. It was a fun, collaborative way to show enterprise software developers why Docker is invested in the containerization market and the value these people can get from Docker’s product.

Docker Dash got the attention of more than 3.6 million people — those who watched and posted about the event from social media, in addition to those who attended DockerCon in person.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • Conference hosts thrive on attendees who network with one another. By creating opportunities for your attendees to collaborate and play together, you allow them to share their ideas — making for more educated customers as a result.
  • “Gamify” your brand. Give people the ability to play and compete for something, and you’ll instill in them a sense of accomplishment that makes them more passionate about your industry.

Clearly, taking some very calculated risks worked out pretty well for these companies. So when it comes to creating an experience with your brand, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box — and don’t be afraid to work together on it with someone else.

Invest some time into thinking about the ways people could interact with you, even if it seems a little nutty. If it’s aligned with what you do and executed thoughtfully, people will be talking — in the best way possible.

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