Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Why LinkedIn Groups Can Be Great for Businesses (and How to Create a Successful One)

LinkedIn Groups do not have a great reputation. Many of them are filled with self-promotion and spam rather than valuable discussions and meaningful interactions. Hence, it can be easy to turn down the idea of creating a one for your business. “It wouldn’t work.”

While it is true that there are few good LinkedIn Groups, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful for all businesses. With the shift in social media usage in the recent years, closed communities such as Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Groups might be the next best way to engage your audience.

In this post, we’ll explore why your business should have a LinkedIn Group and how to create and manage a successful group.

Read on to find out more.

Why LinkedIn Groups Are Great and How to Build a Successful One

Why LinkedIn Groups

If you’re still wondering if LinkedIn Groups are useful for your business, I hope the following reasons can convince you of its importance and power.

First, social media as we know it is changing. There’s a significant shift from simply broadcasting marketing messages to engaging fans. Instead of building huge public pages, more and more businesses are opting for niche closed communities. This shift is also encouraged by changes on major social media platforms such as Facebook, where meaningful content in groups is given priority over public content.

LinkedIn has also announced that they will be improving the LinkedIn Group experience, which is “at the heart of what makes LinkedIn a trusted place for professionals to help and support one another”1.

LinkedIn Groups changes

Second, LinkedIn usage is growing. While Facebook and Instagram had received the attention of most marketers (including ourselves) in 2017, LinkedIn has steadily grown its user base to more than 500 million members.

And unlike Facebook and Instagram, people on LinkedIn are there to further their professional network, build their personal brand, and increase their industry knowledge. This makes communities like LinkedIn Groups a great way for bringing your customers together, especially if you are a business-to-business (B2B) company.

LinkedIn Membership growth

Finally, LinkedIn Groups has powerful community management features that are not available on other social media platforms. For example, LinkedIn sends a daily or weekly digest of all activities in the group to your members to keep them updated and engaged. You can also send an admin announcement email to your members once a week — an email that’ll sit in their inbox, not a notification in the app.

LinkedIn Group announcement example

If these reasons are convincing enough for you, if you have the resources, and if you want to learn more about creating and managing a LinkedIn Group, let’s dive in further.

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How to create a successful LinkedIn Group

1. Pick a topic that your customers care about

A Group, however, should be focused around a topic that has a natural connection to your brand and less on directly promoting your brand or company. People should join the group because they are interested in the topic, not your company. Over time, the audience will create a natural connection with the topic and your brand, through an earned connection, which is much more valuable.

— Charlie Lowe at Social@Ogilvy

HubSpot’s LinkedIn Group is about inbound marketing; Content Marketing Institute’s LinkedIn Group is about content marketing. They focused not on their own brand but on topics that their customers care about.

Your customers might be interested in discussing your products with fellow customers. They are, however, likely to be more interested in the wider topic instead. For example, if we had a LinkedIn Group, members would likely be more keen to discuss how to improve their social media marketing than chat about how to use Buffer.

Having a topic that your customers care about will not only attract them to be part of your LinkedIn Group. It will also help keep the conversations in the group focused and make it easier for you and your team to manage the group.

Here are some questions to help you decide on your group topic:

  • What are your goals for the community?
  • What conversations would be useful to your customers?
  • What are some questions that your customers often ask you?
  • What are the common topics that your brand is related to?

2. Create your LinkedIn Group

Once you’ve decided on your topic, the next step is to create your group on LinkedIn.

Creating a LinkedIn group is as simple as filling out a form. Navigate to your LinkedIn Groups and click on “Create group”. Or you can use this direct link if you’re logged in:

Here are the fields to fill out:

  • Group title
  • Group logo
  • Description
  • Group rules (optional but highly recommended)
  • Group membership (standard or unlisted)

Create a LinkedIn Group

One aspect that I would recommend focusing on is the group rules. Your group rules will help your members understand what’s encouraged and what’s not. Having your groups rules stated explicitly will also make it easier for you to manage your group and moderate conversations.

Here’s an example by Content Marketing Institute LinkedIn Group:

Content Marketing Institute LinkedIn Group rules

It might sound harsh that they would “delete any discussion submission which includes a link to posts and articles or are a promotion of services” and “Members who repeatedly submit links will be removed from the group.” From my personal experience, having such rules and enforcing them seem to be the key difference between a LinkedIn Group with meaningful discussions and one that is filled with spam and links.


If you want to check out more group rules for reference, I thought Search Engine LandStep Into The Spotlight!, and Lean Startup Circle have pretty good group rules. (You’ll have to join the groups to see the rules.)

3. Set up message templates

One handy feature of LinkedIn Groups is its message templates. You can create custom messages that would be automatically sent to people interested in joining your LinkedIn Group. This is a great opportunity to let your brand tone shine. If you do not create a custom message, LinkedIn will send its default message accordingly.

Here are the various message templates:

  1. Request-to-join Message (to people who requested to join your group)
  2. Welcome Message (to people whom you have approved their membership in your group)
  3. Decline Message (to people whom you have declined their request to join your group)
  4. Decline and Block Message (to people whom you have declined their request and want to block any further requests)

To access this setting, click on “Manage” on your LinkedIn Group homepage and select “Templates” on the left. Then, click on “Create Template” for the ones you want to customize. Here’s how customizing the template looks like:

Customize message templates

Here’s an example of how a custom welcome message email looks like (the message is in the middle section while the other two sections are automatically generated, I believe):

LinkedIn Group custom welcome message

If you would like interested people to fill out an application form to join the group, you could include an application form in your request-to-join message, like HubSpot did:

LinkedIn Group application

This way, you can ensure that only people that fit your target persona or people who are really interested would join your LinkedIn Group.

4. Invite your connections and grow your group

To help ensure that your LinkedIn Group remains a trusted place for you and your members to gather, you can now invite only people whom you’re connected to on LinkedIn.

To invite your connections, click on “Manage” on your LinkedIn Group homepage and select “Invited Users” on the left.

Invite your connections

If you have other marketing channels, such as other social media profiles, email, or a blog, you could use them to promote your new LinkedIn Group. Alternatively, you could also share your LinkedIn Group on your personal LinkedIn profile and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

Here are a few more ideas from LinkedIn on promoting your group:

  1. Optimize and edit your group information to include keywords that prospective members are likely to search for.
  2. Encourage group members to invite people.
  3. Advertise your group with LinkedIn Ads by clicking the Advertising link at the bottom of any LinkedIn page.

It might be tempting to think that the bigger your group is, the better it would be. Before you go about growing your group, here’s a thought to consider: many of the largest LinkedIn Groups have over a million members and are often filled with just links. It’s often the smaller groups with proper moderation that have meaningful discussions. (LinkedIn has now limited the number of members in a group to 20,0002.)

5. Start discussions and be active

This step and the next are the most crucial ones, which will influence how well your LinkedIn Group becomes. You ready?

Once you’ve created your LinkedIn Group and invited your connections, your group would likely still feel very empty. Members might not post anything if there aren’t any posts in the group (or they might just start sharing links 🙈).

I would recommend creating a “Welcome post” as the group’s first post, where you welcome new members, share what the group is about, and gently remind members to check the group rules.

Then, feature that post so that it stays at the top of the group feed for all new members to read. You can feature a post by clicking on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the post and selecting “Feature”. Here’s an example of how a featured post looks like:

LinkedIn Group featured post

The next thing to do is to start some discussions in the group. This serves two purposes:

  1. It helps get conversations going in the group, and
  2. It signals to your group members the type of posts that are appropriate and encouraged.

The question-and-answer format seems to be the best way to start valuable conversations in LinkedIn Groups. According to Inc., James McDonald, who started a successful industrial water treatment LinkedIn Group several years back, posted a question every day and let his members respond to it3.

Besides starting discussions, you’ll also want to participate in relevant discussions by commenting or liking. This will encourage your members to post more and, again, let them know the type of discussions that are recommended the group.

Starting discussions and participating in them can be quite time-consuming. But your effort will pay off once you have created a culture of having meaningful discussions. New members tend to follow the actions of existing members. If they see only quality conversations and no self-promotional posts, they’ll more likely contribute to the discussions than promote their own things in the group.

6. Moderate all posts and remove spam

This next step is just as important as the previous. Once your members become active (yay!), it’ll be crucial to moderate the posts in your LinkedIn Group. My hunch is that most LinkedIn Groups fail because of a lack of moderation.

According to LinkedIn, “Spam is the top reason people leave groups” and, if I may add, the top reason people become inactive in groups4. Spam in LinkedIn Groups is usually in the form of links. So I would recommend being quite sensitive to members sharing links in your LinkedIn Group, and deleting the post or removing the member.

To remove a post or comment in your LinkedIn Group, click on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the post or by the comment and select “Delete”.

Delete LinkedIn post

To help you reduce spam, LinkedIn also has an auto-moderation system that would flag promotional content. You could also encourage your members (or group managers) to flag posts that are not appropriate for the group. Then you can head to your group management page to moderate the posts under the sections, “Moderation Queue” and “Classifier Queue”.

LinkedIn Group manage content

Here’s a little heads up: building an engaged community can take some time and effort. You’ll likely have to repeat step five and six for quite some time so don’t be disheartened if your group isn’t very active after the first month or two.

If you would like to learn more best practices for managing LinkedIn Groups, there are a few good answers in this Quora thread (especially the answers of Alice Fuller, Andy Foote, and Jeff Martens).

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Who’s doing it well? A few great examples

In case it’s helpful to take a peek at what great LinkedIn Groups are doing, here are a few of my favorites (from my very limited research). Approval is required before one joins a group so I have not been able to check out many. If you know of any other great examples, would you kindly share them below? Thank you!

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land is a LinkedIn Group for SEO, filled with many great question-and-answer discussions. They are very strict about not sharing links in the group, except for links from Search Engine Land’s websites. (The assumption is that as it is a Search Engine Land’s group, people who join are interested in getting news directly from the company.)

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing claims to be the largest and most active social media marketing LinkedIn Group as of May 2017. There are many great discussions in the group, such as the one in the screenshot. At the same time, as it is such a big group, moderation can take some time so you’ll often see self-promotion posts in the group.

Step Into The Spotlight!

Step Into The Spotlight

Step Into The Spotlight! is a business and marketing LinkedIn Group by Tsufit, author of Step Into The Spotlight. Tsufit regularly starts discussions and moderates the posts to keep the group free of spam. While self-promotion in the group is generally not encouraged, there’s a post where members can showcase their work in the comments of the post.

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Over to you: Which are your favorite LinkedIn Groups?

LinkedIn is the best platform to reach professionals who are interested in connecting with other professionals. This makes it a great place to build your professional community. While LinkedIn Groups might not have a great reputation (now), the few well-run groups are good indications that it’s possible to create a successful one.

That’s all from me. I would love to hear about your favorite LinkedIn Groups and why you think they are great!

The awesome featured image above is by NASA and taken from Unsplash.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

This Simple Diagram Will Help You Tell Better Brand Stories

Tell someone to write a poem, and chances are, they'll freeze up. Tell someone to write a haiku, however, and we bet they'll bang one out in less than 10 minutes.

The reason: constraints unleash our creativity. But how can you translate that to the complex world of content marketing? The below diagram will help you do just that.

The Story Funnel-Matrix

The funnel-matrix has two dimensions. The first maps loosely to the stages of a typical marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, and acquisition.

What stories you tell will depend on your current relationship with your audience --where you are as a couple, to use the obligatory marketing-dating analogy.

When you first meet someone, your conversations tend to be around things that you have in common -- your shared interests and values. This is why so many people make small talk about the weather. It affects everyone, so it's something we all have in common.

You probably won't dive into your health problems the first time you meet someone. You probably won't share intimate details about the people in your life.

But after you meet, you might start sharing some of those things, especially if the first date goes well. You might start to paint a picture of your dream life: where you want to live, your ideal career, where you want to travel. Though you shouldn't hit them with a marriage proposal at this point, you'll start to share more about yourself -- what you care about and what you want.

By the third or fourth date, you'll naturally be sharing more personal stories than before. This is the way a relationship progresses. (Notice how storytelling is such a big part of what we do when we're dating. It's good for more than just marketing and publishing!)

This brings us back to our storytelling funnel-matrix. In the beginning of a relationship, you should tell stories about shared interests and values. As things progress, you can tell stories about the people in your life (like your customers or employees). Finally, as things start getting more serious, you tell stories about your products and services themselves.

The second dimension of the funnel-matrix adds an extra bit of planning help to your content creation strategy. This comes straight from the playbook of newsrooms.

The idea is to divide the stories you tell into three more categories based on time: timely stories that are pertinent based on news or current events; seasonal stories that are relevant because of the time of year; and evergreen stories that will be valuable no matter when the audience sees or hears them.

Take our client American Express, for example. Amex's OPEN line of credit cards wants small business owners to know that they care about them. Building that trust is a key element of their B2B branding, so they tell stories in various places, most notably on OPEN Forum, a content hub and newsletter that attracts millions of small business owners each month. They're mostly interested in staying top of mind, not driving conversions or talking about Amex's products.

Instead, they tell stories about how small business owners handle challenges like hiring and growth. These are examples of evergreen stories.

Sometimes Amex OPEN Forum spots something relevant that happens in the news and writes stories about how it affects small business owners, like new overtime laws and tax policies. These are timely + top-funnel stories.

And one day a year, American Express sponsors a holiday called Small Business Saturday, where it encourages consumers to shop at local businesses instead of big ones. To promote the upcoming holiday, Amex creates videos about small businesses around the country that are making a difference in their communities. These are seasonal stories.

Shinola's stories of its factory workers and their mission to transform Detroit are about both values (saving American jobs) and its company/people. So they are evergreen + top/mid- funnel.

GE Reports, which tells stories of how GE invents really cool products (but doesn't try to get you to buy those products), are mid-funnel and often timely—as the company reports on new innovations—but also evergreen because many of the stories are still interesting after the news is over.

The Groupon stories we talked about fit into the category of timely + bottom-funnel. They're stories about product deals Groupon wants you to buy on one specific day.

Zady's stories about the Indigo Skinny Jeans are evergreen + bottom-funnel. They'll be around whenever you are ready for them.

The smartest brand storytellers are constantly on the lookout for data to tell them what their audiences are interested in during each stage of the funnel and each segment of the Bullseye. They obsess over it. And that's because they know it's their secret advantage.

This is an excerpt from the Amazon #1 New Release, The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming Into the Void, and Make People Love You” by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, available today.


Monday, February 19, 2018

How to Create Infographics in Under an Hour [15 Free Infographic Templates]

Wouldn't it be great if creating infographics was as simple as writing regular ol' text-based blog posts? Unfortunately, the reality is that making visual content like this usually takes a lot more time, effort, and let's face it -- skill -- than the written word. Usually.

But considering the popularity and effectiveness of visual content in marketing today, you can't just afford to throw in the towel.

That's why we decided to take all the pain and suffering out of infographic creation. Seriously -- don't give up just yet. You, too, can create infographics that are totally free, professional-looking, high-quality, and completed in under an hour. I'm going to prove it. First things first:

Download our 15 free infographic templates here.

Then, all you have to do is provide the content to use inside them. Easy as that! In fact, I'm going to show you just how easy it is by taking one of our 15 infographic templates in PowerPoint (pictured above) and creating my own, customized infographic with it. Then, I'll explain exactly what I did so you get a sense of how easy it really is. 

Would you rather watch this tutorial instead of read it? Check out the video below:

Click here to download your free infographic templates.

How to Create Infographics for Free in Under an Hour

Step 1: Collect Your Data/Content, and Choose Your Desired Template

Your first step is to collect the data/content you'll be using to populate your infographic, and choose an infographic template appropriate for representing that data. The important thing is to choose a template that specifically works for the type of data set/content you want to present. As you saw pictured above, you can download our 15 infographic templates in PowerPoint and choose whichever template you'd like. Some of your template options here include a timeline, flowchart, side-by-side comparison, and a data-driven infographic.

You can either collect third-party data or use your own original data. If you use third-party data, just be sure you properly cite your sources -- just like in any other good piece of content.

To keep your infographic uncluttered by a ton of different source URLs, a great way to cite your sources is to include a simple URL at the bottom of your infographic that links to a page on your site. It can also list the individual stats used in your infographic, and their sources -- such as the landing page to the full offer on which you're basing this free infographic.

That way, your infographic looks clean and professional, yet people will still be able to access the sources no matter where the infographic gets shared or embedded. It may also even drive visitors back to your site.

For the sake of time (remember, our mission is to create an infographic in under an hour), I'm going to create an infographic based on a compilation of steps and best practices we've put together in our new guide, How to Run an Inbound Marketing Campaign in 2018. For this, I'm going to pick the "World's Greatest Timeline" infographic template from our collection of infographic templates, which is helpful for my data set since it outlines each step of the campaign creation process in order.

This template is pictured below, and full of opportunities to customize:


Step 2: Customize Your Infographic

Obviously, this is the most time-consuming part -- but it's also the most fun! Simply come up with a catchy title, plug in your data/content, and adjust your font sizes and formatting. Feel free to switch up the graphics and colors, too, so they're relevant to your brand and the data you're providing. For other templates, you can use the simple graphs and charts provided by PowerPoint to create things like the bar graph or the pie chart. (Note: Download our free infographic templates for a cheat sheet for using PowerPoint's various features and tools.)

To customize the look of the infographic even more, you might add or change up the colors or font styles.

Finally, I included a link to my source (which can be found here), as well as the HubSpot logo so people know who created the infographic if it gets shared in social media or embedded on other websites -- which is definitely something you want, since one of the main benefits of creating infographics is their shareability.

That's it! This whole thing took me under an hour to put together -- much shorter than it would've taken me if I'd started from scratch (not to mention more professional looking ... and less expensive than hiring a designer). Here it is:


Share This Image On Your Site

<p><strong>Please include attribution to with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href=''><img src='' alt='free-infographic-template-custom' width='660' border='0' /></a></p>

Step 3: Add an Embed Code and Pinterest Button, and Publish It

The only thing left to do is to publish and promote your awesome new infographic. As I mentioned earlier, we recommend using your blog to publish it (including your list of sources), including a Pinterest button for visitors to easily "pin" your infographic on Pinterest, and create and add an embed code for visitors to share it on their own websites and blogs, as we did above.

download 15 free infographic templates

We Read 9 Self-Help Books So You Don’t Have To

This summer, I decided to really give the whole “be-present-in-the-moment” thing a shot.

I wanted to take this seriously, so I decided to check out a couple self-help books dedicated to the idea of “living in the now.”

And here’s the thing: some of the ideas, I could really, really get behind. But others didn't resonate with me as deeply. And that's okay.

Self-help books aren’t meant to be mindlessly devoured and followed diligently, like a cookbook recipe for happiness. You can cherry pick the lessons that fit your life.

Which is why we’ve gone ahead and done the hard work for you. Here, we’ve curated a list of nine self-help books to help you achieve professional and personal growth -- along with our biggest takeaways from each.

1. 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier Youby Brett Blumenthal (2012)

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to be healthy.

Originally, this meant a complete lifestyle overhaul: replacing meals with kale juices, waking up at 5 a.m. for runs, avoiding all contact with sugar, becoming so proficient at SoulCycle that the instructor would ask if I’ve ever considered teaching on the side …

As the month progressed, being aggressively healthy became more about moderation. Occasionally choosing the salad instead of the burger. Drinking more water. Cycling exactly twice a week -- in the back of the class, dripping and (usually) pretty defeated.

My quest for big changes became a search for small ones.

This is the main premise of Blumenthal’s book, which points out that all big changes start with small ones. Becoming a healthier person doesn't come from making one big change. It comes from small changes, like choosing salads instead of burgers, eating a little less sugar, and downsizing your portions.

In her book, Blumenthal challenges you to make one small change each week, targeted at improving your nutrition, fitness, mental well-being, or green living. At the end of each week, she gives you a weekly changes checklist, so you know how to integrate these changes into your lifestyle.

Even though many of Blumenthal’s changes seem small (e.g. take a multivitamin, enjoy time alone), Blumenthal promises that at the end of the year, you will have fully transformed your life: you will be happier, healthier, more confident, more productive, and more positive.

Her book encourages holistic changes -- improving your mental, physical, and spiritual lifestyle, one small, attainable step at a time.

The Big Takeaway: Slow and steady still wins the race. Tackle your health and lifestyle goals one small change at a time. If your New Year's resolution seems overwhelming and unattainable, encourage yourself to focus on one little change per week: get more sleep, practice five-minutes of meditation each morning, or take a daily multivitamin. Then, all you have to do is repeat for 51 more weeks -- easy, right?

2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (2012)

When you woke up this morning, did you do anything remotely different? Did you decide you’d start your morning with a glass of lemon water, even though you usually drink coffee first? Did you sit down to watch an episode of Game of Thrones, even though you always watch Fox News? Did you tie your shoes differently, just for fun?

I’m betting you didn’t do any of these things -- you were probably on autopilot, going through your normal routine without taking the time to weigh your options or consciously make any decisions.

What you do in the morning, what you do throughout the day -- it’s mostly just habit.

In this compelling book, Charles Duhigg examines why habits form, and how we can break them. He examines a range of different scenarios where big decisions were made, from MLK and the American civil rights movement, to the creation of Starbucks, drawing upon scientific research to bolster his claims.

Ultimately, Duhigg explains that our goals can only be met if we change our underlying habits, and we can only change our habits if we understand why they form in the first place.

The Big Takeaway: Your life rests on a firm foundation of habit. If you’re unhappy with any aspect of your life, your biggest opportunity to create lasting change lies in your ability to change your habits. For example, Duhigg wrote about one woman who decided to quit smoking. By breaking this one keystone habit, a chain of events occurred: first, she began jogging more, which eventually changed her eating habits, her sleeping habits, and even her spending habits.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with your big aspirations, start by changing one habit that inhibits you from reaching that goal, and let new habits drive you from there.

3. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life ... And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven (2017)

In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven gave a Commencement speech to the University of Texas at Austin. He talked about the ten lessons he learned during six months of Navy Seal training, and how anyone can use those same lessons to change the world. The video of his speech went viral, encouraging McRaven to write a book based on those same principles, as well as additional stories from his naval career. According to McRaven, here are a few ways to change the world:

  1. Make your bed first thing in the morning, which reminds you little things in life matter.
  2. Admit you can't do it alone, and learn to ask for help.
  3. Don’t be afraid of failure or setbacks.
  4. Be your best in the darkest moment, like a SEAL is taught to be his best when he’s under the keel, at the darkest moment of his mission.

The Big Takeaway: The reason many people think they can’t “change the world” is because that sounds unrealistic and grandiose. But McRaven argues that you can change a life -- your own, and other people’s -- through small gestures, little accomplishments, and a sincere inclination to hang onto hope at all costs.

4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey (1989)

Not only has Stephen Covey’s book sold more than 25 million copies, but Time also listed it as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books.” Bill Clinton even invited Covey to counsel him on the book's principles during his presidency.

25 years after publication, the wisdom behind the seven habits Covey presents still holds true.

While I won’t spoil all these habits, I will say that Covey separates his seven habits into three categories:

  1. Private victory: learning to prioritize your goals, visualize your dreams, and act proactively rather than reactively.
  2. Public victory: learning how to collaborate and compromise, empathize with others, and become a team player and a leader.
  3. Renewal: learning how to use spirituality, meditation, and even service to maintain these lessons over your lifetime.

Covey provides you with the tools to adapt to change, and the power to reach your best professional and personal self.

The Big Takeaway: Covey came up with two terms in his book: “abundance mentality,” which applies to someone who is not competitive when it comes to success and believes success is more attainable with others' involvement; and “scarcity mentality,” which applies to people who think success is only possible if they do it alone.

Covey posits that the most successful people are the “abundance mentality” people: those who are able to celebrate the success of other people, and even share recognition and responsibility for their own successes. So if you want to be successful, don’t be competitive. Instead, learn to use the people around you as resources, delegate responsibility, and work as a team player.

5. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence - and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk (2018)

If nothing else, this book offers some pretty unique arguments next time your dad asks why you don’t have a corporate (read: full-time) job yet.

But honestly, in 2018 the arguments for pursuing a less conventional, more entrepreneurial career are valid: many people have found success by creating their own alternative paths.

But since these paths don’t follow any blueprints, it can be tricky (and scary) to figure out where and how to start.

In his book, four-time New York Times bestselling author Vaynerchuk outlines exactly how to become a successful person without following a corporate path. His book provides useful and tangible advice on how to excel on social media platforms to establish and sustain a powerful personal brand -- no matter who you are. Whether you’re interested in becoming the next YouTube superstar, Instagram influencer, iTunes podcaster, or Spotify musician, his book offers strategic advice drawn from other successful influencers’ real experiences.

The Big Takeaway: This book isn’t a “get-rich-quick” scheme. Instead, it’s a guide that shows you how other people have become successful doing what they love, and how you can, too. It encourages you to dream bigger: whether you’re a plumber (in which case, “your pillar should be Facebook,” writes Vaynerchuk) or a podcaster (like John Lee Dumas, who followed Vaynerchuk’s advice and is now the creator of one of the top-ranked business podcasts on iTunes, which grosses around $200,000 per month). Ultimately, there's a social media platform and strategy for everyone: you just have to find it and put it into action.

6. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)

I bet you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of this book. It’s one of the best-selling books of all time, and was named number 19 on Time’s list of 100 most influential books.

To be honest, if this was written in 2018 and preached things like, “fundamental techniques in handling people,” “six ways to make people like you,” “how to win people to your way of thinking,” and, “how to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment,” I’d think it was a bunch of nonsense.

But, this book was published in 1936. And it’s still listed under Amazon’s best-sellers, 82 years later. So I’m thinking author Dale Carnegie is probably onto something.

Some of the advice is simple: smile, say someone else’s name when talking to her -- and some is more complex, like, “let the other person feel your idea is his or hers,” which might take some practice.

The Big Takeaway: Here’s the gist of why Carnegie’s advice endures -- people like to talk about themselves. Everyone wants to feel special, understood, and appreciated. If you make people feel this way, they like you better. So whether you’re the leader of a big marketing firm or in your first full-time position, learn to listen to the people around you, ask them meaningful questions about themselves, praise them for their good ideas, empathize with their point of view even during an argument, and remain humble. If you make people feel special, they’ll live up to the great reputation you’ve created for them.

7. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown (2017)

To me, the title itself sounded like a contradiction: find a way to belong, and find a way to stand alone? How do those two things fit together?

Brown argues that you can’t have one without the other: you can’t learn how to belong anywhere until you learn who you are and how you should fit. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone … true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity.”

In other words, how can you authentically fit in to a group or community if you’re not being your true self? And how can you be your true self if you don’t learn who you are without the pressures or expectations of your community?

Our culture today doesn’t make “belonging” easy. Brown says that we often strive to be perfect, pleasing, non-confrontational, and, as a result, quiet. We are terrified of braving what she calls “the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism.”

While being quiet might make for less complicated relationships, it also makes for less authentic ones.

The Big Takeaway: The first important lesson is that all of us have an innate need to connect with others (something Brown found in her research). But making connections is hard. Brown suggests reaching out and finding connections with those who are different from you. She also advises searching for truth in these relationships, within yourself and in others. If that sounds a bit too much like yoga-guru-jargon, it really just means being honest about who you are even at the risk of confrontation, and encouraging other people to be honest with you. She recommends learning how to truly listen, ask deeper-level questions, and always be “more curious than defensive.”

8. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson (2016)

Have you ever heard someone say something overly positive -- “It’ll all work out, never give up on your dreams, you are a superstar!” -- and thought to yourself, Sometimes, it doesn’t all just work out … sometimes, life isn’t fair, and I wish we’d all just be honest about that.

You would probably get along pretty well with superstar blogger and author Mark Manson.

I’ll admit, at first, his advice can seem a bit jarring. Growing up in a society in which positivity and having big dreams are encouraged, it was weird to read, “F**k positivity. Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it."

But his book has sold over two million copies, and this rare and unflinching honesty is probably why.

Manson provides research-backed arguments to say we can improve our lives if we learn to accept our limitations, our flaws, and the inherent unfairness of life. We can’t all be superstars. He writes that we will be happier, healthier, and more authentic, if we learn to accept when we’ve failed and re-direct our dreams, rather than inappropriately believing that we should be a winner just because we try.

Although it sounds rather grim, maybe it’s not. Maybe the person who hasn’t become the next Justin Bieber after ten years of effort should reach for a new dream, because likely, the only alternative to that is resentment and frustration, and there’s nothing positive about that.

The Big Takeway: Manson explains -- in his own very elegant way -- that there are only so many things we can “give a f**k about,” and we need to try our best to limit that list. We spread ourselves too thin, which does us a disservice. It makes us miss out on the important things. For instance, I bet you care about having a job you love, and becoming rich. But what if I asked you to choose? Manson says you should choose -- if you want to do something you love, focus all your time, energy, and effort only on that.

9. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero (2013)

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and thought, Is this really the best I can do, and is this really the best life I can lead? If you have, you’ll appreciate Sincero’s journey, which started that same way.

Her book is all about learning how to create the life you desire -- a meaningful, happy, purposeful life, however that looks to you.

As Sincero writes, “You may have heard stories about people who had these major breakthroughs … they found a lump or got their electricity turned off … when suddenly they woke up, transformed. But you don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom to start crawling out of your hole. All you have to do is make the decision.”

If you’re unhappy, Sincero will inspire you to change your life. Plus, she won’t allow for any of your usual excuses, like not having the time (to which Sincero would reply, “you always have the time.”)

Besides delving into how to change your life, Sincero discusses where we learn these excuses (childhood, society), and why we’re sometimes more afraid to go after what we want than just accept failure from the start.

The Big Takeaway: Enough with the excuses. Enough with the “maybe next year” or “that’s for someone else” or “I’m not meant for that kind of (job, relationship, life).” Sincero explains that you have more time than you think, and you need to give yourself that push (“your life depends on it,” Sincero urges). So get started -- not just with the effort, but with the attitude. As many of her readers have praised, Sincero’s book led them to their “destiny” because it created a voice in their heads that told them they deserved to go after that job, that soulmate, or that hobby. And it reminded them how massively important it is to live your most fulfilling and meaningful life -- now.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Why Every Public Speaker Should be Using Messenger Bots

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk at the Multifamily Social Media Summit in Napa, CA. It was my second consecutive year attending the event, and I wanted to give the audience something fresh  --  my talk was going to be about Facebook Messenger.

A few days before the talk, a member of the HubSpot Academy team asked me if I would be using Messenger to educate the audience on Messenger (very meta -- I know). I surprisingly hadn’t thought much about it, but since our Academy team is full of smart people who know a thing or two about teaching, I decided they were probably onto something.

So, on the six hour plane ride from Boston to San Francisco, I built a Messenger bot to use during my presentation

Setting Goals: Why Do I Need a Bot During My Presentation?

I started by setting a few goals to ensure my bot would truly serve the objectives of my presentation. Here's the list of things I decided my bot needed to accomplish:

  • Teach the audience about Messenger: The core purpose of my presentation was to educate the audience about Messenger. If my bot wasn't going to help reach this goal, then there was no reason it create it.
  • Engage the audience during the presentation: The bot couldn't make the presentation more complicated or challenging to follow. It had to contribute to a better audience experience overall.
  • Collect NPS after the event: The bot needed to enable audience members to share feedback on the presentation in a fast, friendly, and ultimately simple way.
  • Share slides with attendees after the event: Tracking down a speaker to get their slides after a presentation sucks. The bot had to make this experience easier for everyone involved.
  • Drive traffic to my personal pages to connect with the audience after the event: The bot had to encourage users to continue the conversation with me.

Once I had the goals and function of the bot firmly established,  it was time to build.

Creating and Unleashing the Bot

The first thing I did was build a temporary Facebook page to connect Messenger for the event.

Then, I developed a custom QR code with the event logo for audience members to enter the bot experience.


This is no longer active, FYI.

This QR code was tied to a sequence designed specifically to accomplish my goals for the event.

The first message in the sequence welcomed users into the bot and allowed me to understand the audience’s familiarity with the subject before my presentation.

This gave me a good idea of how I'd need to adapt my presentation to meet my audience's expertise level and expectations.


About 20 minutes into my talk, I sent another quick message asking for audience questions. Instead of waiting for a prompt at the end of the session when time was running short, the bot enabled audience members to ask questions without needing the floor. It also helped me plan the rest of my talk accordingly.

Once the talk ended, it was time for NPS. I set the bot up to send this 20 minutes after my scheduled talk.  The results were great:


Two days after the event ended, I sent the slides to everyone who opted in to my Messenger bot.

And finally, for some icing on the cake, I set up a persistent menu that would allow the audience to connect with me on Twitter and Medium. Oh, I also linked them to get a free HubSpot CRM, too.


Did People Actually Use the Bot?

The results of this mini experiment were great. Here are some quick hits:

  • 70 people opted in to the bot, ~50% of the audience members in attendance
  • 51% of people responded to the NPS
  • 100% of NPS respondents were promoters (woo!)
  • Messages sent during the event had open rates of 
    98.5%, 96.9%, 93.8%, and 93.9% (not too shabby)
  • 85% of attendees opened the broadcast message 2 days after the event which included slides from the event
  • 25 people clicked to follow me on Twitter, 11 on Medium, and 5 clicked to get their free HubSpot CRM

As you can see, the numbers really speak for themselves.

By using Messenger before, during, and after my talk , I was able to effectively engage the audience and create a lasting, personal connection. Additionally, due to the topic itself being Messenger, I was able to educate the audience on the channel’s capabilities with tangible examples.

If you’re a public speaker, I honestly cannot imagine a reason not to be using Messenger before, during, and after your talks -- even if you aren't discussing Messenger.

The potential of the channel is unmatched. And, if you’re a speaker talking about Messenger, you can’t afford to miss this opportunity!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

15 of the Best Lifestyle Mobile Apps You Need in Your Pocket

Want to track your packages with the swipe of your finger? Now you can. Need to split a complicated dinner bill? It's no longer a 10-minute math problem.

Lifestyle apps constanly appear in the Apple App Store and Google Marketplace and at least attempt to make our lives easier. Not only have some of our favorites gone through redesigns and similar changes, but a ton of new apps have been created since we last looked.

Here are some of the best lifestyle apps that have made a difference in my life, whether through better organization, helpful tips, or teaching me something new.

15 of the Best Lifestyle Mobile Apps You Need in Your Pocket

1. Get The Flight Out

Category: Travel

Whether you need to fly home for a family emergency or you're just plain spontaneous, you've probably needed to book a last-minute flight at some point in your life. Affectionately nicknamed "GTFO" (which usually means something, well, a bit more aggressive), Get the Flight Out allows you to type in an airport name and see the available upcoming flights to destinations all over the world. It's a way to quickly see and assess all your options in one place.

Here's what the it looks like once you've plugged in your home airport:

Get the flight out mobile app home screen

And here's what a list of available flights to different cities looks like:

Get the flight out mobile app list of flights

(Download GTFO for iOS, or its parent company's app, Hopper, for Android.)


Category: Productivity

Ever wished you could tell your computer or mobile device to do something really, really specific? Like email you when there's a new file in your Dropbox, or text you the local weather forecast every morning at 6:00 a.m.?

Good news, folks: You can do almost any command of this nature you can think of using an app called IFTTT, or "If This, Then That." In a nutshell, IFTTT lets you set up triggers for different events. For example, instead of spending all of your time manually going through the news or your social media accounts, you can get alerted by the things that are really important to you.

The crazy thing about this app is how easy it is to set up. The main screen walks you through the setup by letting you choose the first part of your "if" statement, and then allowing you to choose the "then" statement -- a.k.a. what happens after a trigger is set off.

Here's the "if" statement:

IFTTT mobile app

And the "then" statement:


(Download IFTTT for iOS or download IFTTT for Android.)

3. Yahoo! Weather

Category: Weather

There are dozens of weather apps out there; iPhones even have a default weather app. So why take the extra time to download Yahoo! Weather?

Yahoo! Weather is one of the most beautifully designed and easy-to-use apps I've ever, ever seen. It provides more information than your typical weather app, but understands the order in which the information will be the most valuable to the user.

The app shows off a gorgeous picture of the area (pulled in from Flickr) and displays hourly weather, the forecast for the week, a map, the chance of precipitation, wind and pressure rates, the sunrise and sunset times, and more. You can easily add more locations and then swipe from location to location. This is one of those apps that anyone can use without instruction.

Yahoo! weather app home screen

(Download Yahoo Weather for iOS or download Yahoo Weather for Android.)

4. Swarm

Category: Travel

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm all about checking in to different places on my phone. When Foursquare split into Swarm & Foursquare back in 2014, I was pretty torn at first -- until I realized both of these apps significantly improved my experience of checking in (Swarm) and exploring new places (Foursquare).

Swarm is a "lifelogging" app that allows you to connect with friends and family and log the places you routinely visit. Whereas Foursquare focuses on checking in to certain locations you and your friends like, Swarm gives you opportunities to check in to the types of places your friends like.

For example, if I find my friends have checked into the gym more times than I have, Swarm might tally checkins to any fitness facility. It'll give me the same information for restaurants and bars in general, rather than specific restaurants and bars we always go to. (Warning: May increase FOMO.)

Swarm recently launched Swarm 5.0, showing us they're always improving on how much we can know about our friends' typical routines. Here, I'm adding a status update and tagging my friends:

Swarm mobile app

And here, I can see a friend's profile with a map of total checkins and trends based on the types of places he commonly visits:

Swarm 5.0 app profile page

Image by Mark Krynsky

( Download Swarm for iOS or download Swarm for Android.)

5. Foursquare City Guide

Category: Food & Drink

Foursquare is no longer used to check in and share your location with friends. The newest version of Foursquare is meant to help you explore new places in your current location.

Foursquare City Guide provides recommendations for new places to try out based on other people you follow or topics you've said you're interested in. For example, if you specify that you like Thai food, Foursquare always lets you know when there is a Thai food restaurant nearby.

And if you want to check in to one of the locations you've just learned about through Foursquare, it will bring you into Swarm -- making the experience between the two apps seamless.

Foursquare city guide mobile app
Image via Beebom

(Download Foursquare for iOS or download Foursquare for Android.)

6. Divvy

Category: Food & Drink

We've all been there: You're enjoying a delicious meal with a great group of friends. Then the bill arrives. The conversation comes to a screetching halt as everyone scrambles to figure out how much they owe. Maybe you have an accountant friend who splits the bill for you, or maybe you have Divvy.

Divvy allows you to split a check based on its picture. You read that right: Snap a photo of the check with your phone, and Divvy itemizes it for you. Did five of your friends share an appetizer? No problem -- you can easily split courses by dragging orders from the check to each person you pull from your phone's contact list. You can even include tax and tip.

Here's what the app looks like as it processes the picture you take:


Once you drag each order to its respective person, your final result will look something like this:


Image via iMore

(Download Divvy for iOS.)

7. Slice

Category: Shopping

Whenever I order something online, I obsess over the tracking number to see when I will receive the package. If you've ever ordered a new phone online, you know what I'm talking about. Slice makes this so much easier.

Slice, an app by Rakuten, will search through your emails for any order confirmations or tracking codes. It will then populate with information on when you should expect your packages, when they are out for delivery, and when they have been delivered. No need to type in long tracking numbers -- all you have to do is connect your emails, and you're set.

Here's what your list of pending orders looks like:


And the details of an individual order:


(Download Slice for iOS or download Slice for Android.)

8. Moovit

Category: Navigation

Let's be honest, public transportation may be an easy alternative to driving and parking, but it's no picnic. Disabled trains, schedule changes, and that one bus line that's always late can make your morning commute the last thing you want to do when you wake up.

This is why we Moovit.

Moovit pulls together all of the train, bus, and subway schedules near you, and shows you where they are and where they're going -- even if there are delays on a particular route. It'll also show you where they are on a map, how far away they are (in minutes), and how many stops it would take to reach a set destination.

Is there a faster way to get somewhere? Moovit can suggest it and show you where to go. The app adapts to whichever city you're in, and is only getting better at it: It syncs with a new city around the world every 15 hours.

Here's what a commuter in Boston might see when following a set of directions:


Here's what they'd see when simply checking on a station's schedule:


(Download Moovit for iOS or download Moovit for Android.)

9. Outlook

Category: Productivity

I know, this likely isn't a lifestyle app you expected me to include. But when Microsoft acquired a small calendar app called Sunrise in 2015, it slowly merged everything it loved about this tool with its own mail and calendar tool. The result? A new and definitely improved Outlook.

Outlook is a mobile app by Microsoft that combines an inbox with a beautifully designed calendar that helps you craft your schedule based on the mail you send and receive. From the main calendar view, you can see when all of your meetings are, whom they're with (with nice, handy headshots of the people you're meeting with), where the meeting is located, and even who's accepted the meeting.

It also offers icons that match keywords you'd normally use to describe the type of event you're setting -- making it easier than ever to know what your week looks like at a literal glance.


Image by Casey Newton

(Download Outlook for iOS or download Outlook for Android.)

10. SwiftKey

Category: Utilities / Productivity

By now, you might have seen touchscreen keyboards where you drag your finger to each key to form each word, rather than tap the letters you want individually. Combine that with a dose of artificial intelligence (AI), and you get SwiftKey.

SwiftKey offers both tap- and swipe-based keyboards that actually learn how you talk and suggest your next word. Believe it or not, it helps you type way less. You'd be amazed by what the app learns: If you often type "Karla" and "Sophia," for example, it would eventually reveal the word "Sophia" after you simply type "Karla and."


Image by Allyson Kazmucha

(Download SwiftKey for iOS or download SwiftKey for Android.)

11. Snapguide

Category: Lifestyle

Snapguide is kind of like Pinterest, except it includes how-to steps with each item. Basically, it lets you explore anything you may want to learn how to do yourself. This could be a new recipe, decorations for your house, an arts and crafts project, or even new games and tricks.


Once you click into a category, the mobile app brings you to how-to guides for that particular category. You can choose to learn anything you want, while swiping through step-by-step instructions with large images on how to complete the project.


(Download Snapguide for iOS.)

12. Splitwise

Category: Finance

Do you share expenses with someone? Maybe a roommate, or a few friends you went away with for a weekend? It can be complicated to keep track of who paid for what and who owes whom. Enter Splitwise.

Splitwise lets you keep track of all of your expenses that you share with others. All you have to do is enter the name of your expense, the dollar amount, how much you paid versus your friends, and then categorize the expenses. Splitwise will automatically calculate who owes whom what after each person logs their expense.

Here's what your home page might look like:


And here is a history or "feed" of what you and another individual have paid and owed each other:


(Download Splitwise for iOS or download Splitwise for Android.)

13. Edison Assistant

Category: Productivity

Similar to the new Outlook, Edison Assistant is a task-management app that makes it easier to book meetings, check your schedule, and even get directions to meetings in your calendar. You might know it by its original name, EasilyDo.

One of the great features of this app is that it will alert you if you have duplicate contacts on your phone and help you de-dupe to ensure you have the most up-to-date information. It will even pull in information from your email about package deliveries and flight itineraries.

The best part about this app is how it intelligently pulls in important information from other apps on your device to make sure you're as organized as possible.


(Download Edison for iOS or download EasilyDo (soon to be Edison) for Android.)

14. AnyList

Category: Productivity

AnyList is the dream app for anyone who cooks a lot and likes to coordinate grocery lists with other people. You can share grocery lists with other people who are using the app to help communicate what you've picked up at the store for your household.

In the app, you can store your favorite recipes including a picture of the dish, ingredients you need to make the dish, and any notes you want to remember. But the best part is you can quickly add the ingredients from any recipe to your grocery list with literally the tap of a button. So once you add a recipe into your app, adding the ingredients is easy peasy.

But wait ... it gets better. (Can you tell I like this one?) Once you're on the main grocery list part of the app, AnyList will actually organize the items you need to purchase into categories based on where items are around the grocery store. The categories include bakery, beverages, dairy, deli, frozen foods, grains, pasta and sides, household and cleaning, produce, snacks, and more.

This makes it easy for you to navigate the grocery store, check items off your list, and see in real time what you versus your roommates are purchasing.


Image via TechSolvers

(Download AnyList for iOS.)

15. Venmo

Category: Finance

One time, I was at a restaurant with a friend who had never heard of Venmo. When it came time to split the bill and she had no cash, she said, "I wish there was a way to text people money!" Well, that's in essence what Venmo does.

Venmo allows you to transfer money to friends quickly, easily, and securely. Simply connect your bank account to the app or transfer money into a Venmo account, and you will be able to send money back and forth with your friends with only a few clicks.

You may be thinking: Doesn't PayPal do that? Yes, you're right -- there are definitely other similar apps out there, but Venmo's popularity has grown because of how easy it is to use and how easy it is to keep track of your expenses on the main screen.


(Download Venmo for iOS or download Venmo for Android.)

P.S. -- Try out the HubSpot app on any Apple device or Android device to stay up to date with everything going on in your HubSpot account, from your social media accounts, to your analytics, to everything you need to know about your contacts and leads.

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