Tuesday, November 21, 2017

No One Trusts Social Media, but They'll Keep Using It Anyway [New Data]

I'll just come right out and say it: The internet has a massive mess to clean up.

You may have heard about it. For instance, earlier this month, you may have followed the testimony from senior leaders at Facebook, Twitter, and Google that outlined, in detail, the quantity and nature of ads purchased and published on their platforms by operatives in Russia and other foreign states.

And yeah, of course -- we all have our take on it, and many of us are clamoring to share it.

But my colleague, HubSpot's own research boss Mimi An, had a better idea: Let's ask everyone else what they think.Click here to learn about using social media in every stage of the funnel.

And so, in light of these recent events, An's team ran a consumer study to gather sentiment data from 1,000 U.S. adults to find out just how they feel about this big, steaming internet mess. 

Here are the results.

A Few Notes on the Data

During the week of October 30, 2017,  three major online content-sharing and discovery platforms -- Facebook, Twitter, and Google -- testified before representatives of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Because those were the three companies present for the testimony, the questions asked of survey responses focused only on them, despite the possible involvement of other social media networks in ongoing election interference investigation.

When we distribute surveys, we describe in as much detail the exact issue that we want participates to respond to. The language used to phrase the survey questions describes what has taken place so far in a continuously developing situation as factually as possible within such constraints of online surveys as character limits and anonymity -- and, therefore, an inability to follow up with respondents.

1. Ads on Facebook, Twitter, and Google are viewed with distrust.

 

On average, close to half of all respondents would describe ads these platforms as "very untrustworthy," compared to an average of 5.5% who find them to be either somewhat or very trustworthy. Note that this is the sentiment around the ads appearing on these platforms, and not the platforms themselves.

2. Twitter's response generated the least satisfaction, but the sentiment is low across the board.

While respondents were generally unsatisfied with network responses to political ad purchases on their respective platforms, it seems as though they have the least faith in Twitter. (The score for "somewhat satisfied," for instance, was three percentage points lower than those for Facebook and Google.)

It's worth noting that Twitter first testified before U.S. Congress about this same issue prior to the November events were all three companies were present, when it told representatives that it roughly 200 Russian-linked accounts -- a figure that many found to be paltry and underestimated, including Senator Mark Warner, who called these initial efforts "frankly inadequate".

How much influence that initial testimony (and Congressional response) had on survey respondents is uncertain, but it is an important historical point in the context of the particularly low sentiment toward Twitter.

Although the rates of dissatisfaction are fairly equal across the board, this survey was administered prior to a Recode report that Facebook filed comments with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that indicated its support of rules that would require the network to provide greater visibility and transparency around the political ads used on its site.

However, that support is limited in nature, in that Facebook only indicated that it would agree to these terms around ads pertaining to specific candidates, and not issues -- and a significant portion of Russia-bought ads during the 2016 presidential election concerned such highly-contested and somewhat divisive issues as gun control and immigration.

Google, on the other hand, filed comments with the FEC that actively requested more detailed guidelines around issue-based ads, requesting further direction as to how those within its industry can and should better approach organizations attempting to promote propaganda.

Twitter, meanwhile, did file comments, but had little to say other than a request for the FEC to maintain awareness of the network's character limits when establishing rules.

3. Trust in social media networks has been eroded by the political ads controversy.

In addition to ad content appearing on content-sharing and discovery platforms, it would appear that trust has fallen in the platforms themselves. Facebook was particularly hard hit here, with just shy of half of respondents saying that they find this channel to be less trustworthy.

However, an even higher amount of respondents answered with "none of the above," signaling the possibility of no less trust in any of these channels. That data is once again reflected with our findings in other areas of the survey, including respondents' plans to decrease or stop their use of social media -- more on that in a bit.

4. 77% of Americans believe platforms need to vet the ads they sell and display.

Across the board, respondents stated a strong belief that it's the responsibility of the platforms themselves to vet ad content purchased and displayed on their channels. An average of 77% of survey participants agreed with this sentiment, regardless of age, indicating that most social media users expect to see proactive changes in ad policies and best practices.

5. Though Americans are angry about the ads controversy, few plan on using the affected platforms less.

However, despite the general sentiment that these platforms are untrustworthy -- as are the ads displayed on them -- and need to do better about vetting paid or promoted content, the same respondents have indicated that, for the most part, they don't plan to reduce their use of Facebook, Twitter, or Google.

In fact, despite being the least satisfied with Twitter's response to the political ad crisis, less than a quarter of respondents plan to use it less. That number is even lower for Google, and only slightly higher for Facebook.

6. ... and, even fewer Americans plan to stop using the platforms altogether.

Even if some intend to momentarily step away from social media, over 75% of survey respondents say they plan to leave these Facebook, Twitter, or Google altogether.

The last of the three is particularly difficult to give up entirely -- after all, it's commonly referred to as a "search giant" for a reason. But even so, a noticeably small number of survey participants would consider ceasing all use of Facebook and Twitter, as well.

But what does all of this information mean? What does it say about our online behavior and habits, and what are the implications for marketers?

The Takeaways

If nothing else, these numbers -- and where they almost seem to contradict each other -- illustrate a dependence on these contested channels.

Despite the overwhelming distrust in them, as well as the ad content published on them, survey respondents have no plans to curtail or cease using them -- perhaps because they need to use them for work (after all, we are marketers), or because they simply enjoy them too much to step away.

That speaks to the power and influence they hold over users day-to-day. We spend a significant amount of time on these channels -- about a third of Google's visitors are based in the U.S., and on average, we spend about 35 minutes each day on Facebook (for context, that's about 2.4% of the entire day). Thirty-five minutes may not seem like a ton of time, but when you think about how much time you spend on activities that are actually essential to your livelihood -- like eating, for example -- how does it compare?

The point is, the people behind this political content were likely aware of how much time we spend using the platforms where it was displayed. It's no wonder that 126 million Americans were exposed to it -- there's a good amount of content to be consumed in a mere 35 minutes.

The main message to marketers, however, is this: These platforms are extremely useful and effective. In fact, that's why people are highly concerned over the presence of Russian ads -- there's a very good chance that, if the intent behind them was to influence the U.S. presidential election in a certain direction, they worked. That's why these representatives from these platforms are being summoned before a federal body. This level of effectiveness is a big deal.

By no means is this to say that marketers should cease using these channels to promote content and build brand awareness. As I said: It's extremely effective and should continue to be used for growth. But with that effectiveness comes great responsibility, and that growth must be built with a commitment to transparency and truth.

That's how I see it, anyway. 

As always, feel free to chime in. What's your take on this data? Let me know on Twitter, or weigh in with any questions you have about it.

Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

  How to Use Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel E

What is the GDPR? And What Does it Mean for the Marketing Industry?

Disclaimer: This blog post is not legal advice for your company to use in complying with EU data privacy laws like the GDPR. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand the GDPR. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy.

In a nutshell, you may not rely on this as legal advice, or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.

If you’re a marketer, we expect you’ve heard about the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) coming into force on 25 May 2018. The legislation will have a big impact on the way marketers approach their work and how organizations obtain, store, manage or process the personal data of EU citizens. This post will give some specific examples of what will change, how we’re thinking about it at HubSpot and the wider industry.

To start, we want to highlight research carried out by the HubSpot team, and unfortunately it’s not good news. Just 36% of marketers have heard of GDPR, while 15% of companies have done nothing, and are at risk of non-compliance. We would go as far to say there’s a worrying lack of action, and most companies are not ready for the GDPR. However, we’re optimistic this blog post will act as a conversation starter and inspire action within the industry.

There are two important parts of the Regulation that we want to highlight. First up, even if you’re based outside of the EU but you control or process the data of EU citizens, the GDPR will apply to you. Secondly, the potential penalties for falling foul of GDPR are going to be severe. Depending on the type of violation, companies will incur fines of up to €20 million or 4% of their global annual revenue (whichever is greater). These big penalties show that the regulators mean business and companies cannot afford to ignore the legislation.

On a more upbeat note, we think the legislation is a positive step. It’s an opportunity for good marketers to continue doing positive work in a way that puts people and their concerns at the forefront. It also means marketers will have to work harder to earn attention and gain the right to communicate with people on an ongoing basis.

But hard work won’t be enough: marketers will be forced to up their game and become more creative if they want to succeed. Again, we don’t see that as a bad outcome at all. Anything that gives more power to consumers and makes marketers get better is to be welcomed.

But those companies which have put their own needs ahead of consumers and indulged in shady or outbound tactics are in for a shock. Their world is going to change dramatically as the GDPR will hasten the demise of marketing tactics like buying lists, cold emailing and spam.

Not only are these tactics outdated, they provide a poor experience for the recipient and they’re becoming less and less effective by the day. Inbound marketing has always been the antithesis to these tactics -- it puts the consumer first and attracts them with valuable content. But now, via regulation, others are going to have to adapt their marketing playbook.

Are you GDPR ready? Check out our GDPR checklist.

What impact will the GDPR have on my marketing activities?

You may be asking yourself, “where should I start with GDPR?”. There’s a lot to digest when it comes to the new Regulation so, to help you out, we’ve created a dedicated GDPR web page with a tonne of information about the GDPR, including what it is, why it came about, a glossary of terms and the most important of the changes the GDPR brings to EU data privacy legislation.

With that covered, we're now going to work our way through the inbound marketing methodology and look at the GDPR principles you should consider at the various stages of the inbound marketing methodology:

 

 

Stage 1 - Data Collection

Transparency

The GDPR was designed to ensure that there will be more transparency between the organizations who collect and control the data (the ‘Data Controllers’) and the individuals whose personal data is being collected (the ‘Data Subjects’). This means that any organization which attracts people to its website and wants to collect data via a form must communicate clearly to that person what the data is going to be used for. The individual will need to give their consent to that use and the consent needs to be clear, in plain English and "informed, specific, unambiguous, and revocable". Data subjects also need to be told about their right to withdraw consent.

Example: Meet Amy Meyer. She lives in Germany, has a passion for interior design, and we’re going to use her as an example throughout this post. If Amy downloads an ebook from The Paint Company to research what colours she can combine for the decoration of her new house, The Paint Company will need to make sure that they explain to Amy how they’re going to use her data.

For instance, if The Paint Company is planning to track Amy’s usage of its website, wants to send her more information via email, or is planning to share it with their affiliates outside the EU, they need to communicate that clearly and Amy needs to consent to that use. It won’t be sufficient for The Paint Company to pre-tick the box on a form to send information to Amy by email, as ‘opt-out consent’ will no longer be permitted under the GDPR.

Importantly, if The Paint Company decides they want to use Amy’s data for a new purpose at any point during the relationship, they’ll need consent from Amy to use the data for that new purpose. So while it’s clearly important to be transparent at the time of collection, it’s important that organizations remain open and transparent throughout the marketing process, and in terms of how it manages personal data after the relationship has ended.

Data Minimisation

When an organization is collecting data from an individual in order to convert a website visitor into a lead, they must remember that, under the GDPR, they are only permitted to collect data that is adequate, relevant, and limited to what is necessary for the intended purpose of collection. Data collected by the organization which is deemed unnecessary or excessive will constitute a breach of the GDPR.

Example: The Paint Company created a landing page for prospects like Amy to download an ebook on living room colour schemes. Before Amy can download the ebook, she will need to complete the fields created by The Paint Company. It’s reasonable that they might want to collect her name, email address and even details about the project Amy is about to undertake. However, if they were to attempt to collect information about Amy’s family (for example, if she is married or how many children she has) or her health, this would be excessive as that data should not be required by a painting and decorating company.

Stage 2 - Data Storage and Processing

Purpose and Usage Limitation

organizations can only use the data collected and stored by them for specified, explicit, and legitimate purposes. They’re not allowed to use it in any way that would be incompatible with the intended purpose for which it was collected. Also, if they plan to transfer or share the data with another company, they need to ensure they have consent from the person to do so.

Example: After Amy Meyer has downloaded the ebook from The Paint Company, Amy decides that she wants to enroll in an online course to learn more about painting and decorating. If the online course is being run by a third party training company on behalf of The Paint Company, they, The Paint Company will need to ensure that the training company have Amy’s consent to use the data. In addition, the training company will not be able to use the data for any other purpose other than the purposes Amy consented to.

Security

Once data is collected, the organization needs to ensure it is stored in a secure manner and in accordance with the Security provisions of the GDPR. This means they must use “appropriate technical and organizational security measures” to protect personal data against unauthorised processing and accidental loss, disclosure, access, destruction, or alteration. Depending on the type of data collected and the ways it is being used, companies may need to consider encrypting the data, using pseudonymization or anonymization methods to protect it or segregating the data from other data in their systems.

Example: Now that Amy Meyer’s data is stored in The Paint Company’s systems, it is the responsibility of The Paint Company to ensure it is kept safe and secure. Before collecting the data, The Paint Company should have assessed the types of data they planned to collect and work with their security team to ensure that it meets the standards of the GDPR.

These standards will differ depending on the kinds of data collected (for instance, security standards will be higher for sensitive data, biometric data or data about children) and how they’ll use that data. Only employees who need to access that data for the intended purpose have access to it and contracts with any vendors touching that data contain the relevant security protections.

Accuracy

People will now be able to ask organizations at any time to correct or update their data if the information is no longer accurate.

Example: Amy Meyer has bought some paint from The Paint Company and has also signed up to their loyalty program to receive discounts and new design ideas via email. Amy has moved to a new email service provider and wants The Paint Company to update her data so she receives emails to her new email address.

Accountability

The organization is responsible for ensuring they comply with their obligations under the GDPR. Not only will they need to keep records to prove compliance (for instance, records of consent for all of the data collected), they’ll also need to ensure they have policies in place governing the collection and use of that data.

They may need to appoint a data protection officer (DPO) and they’ll also need to ensure they implement a ‘Privacy by Design/Default’ policy, to ensure they’re systematically considering the potential impact that a project or initiative might have on the privacy of individuals. Controllers will have to ensure their vendor contracts are updated so that they include the necessary provisions to protect the data being processed by those vendors on their behalf.

Example: The Paint Company decides to run a marketing campaign targeting people like Amy, offering a place at an interior design webinar run by a third party training company. Before running the campaign, The Paint Company will need to ensure their system has the capability to not only obtain Amy’s and the other participant’s consent to all uses of their data (including sharing it with the third party), but also to record that consent. They will also need policies about how they will use that data, and ensure the contract with the training company includes the necessary provisions required in Processor contracts under Article 28 of the GDPR.

Want to find out more about GDPR? Check out our GDPR guide here.

Stage 3 - End of the Relationship

Retention

organizations may only hold on to personal data for as long as is necessary to fulfill the intended purpose of collection. So if the relationship is terminated for any reason, they need to ensure they have a data retention policy in place which outlines how long they will retain that individual’s data for and the business justification for holding on to the data for that specified period.

In drafting their retention policies, organizations will need to consider whether there is any law or regulation which obliges them to hold on to some of that data for specified periods. For example, they may need to retain some financial data for auditing purposes by law. While this is permitted, it should be outlined clearly in their retention policy and made clear to Amy. Again, the principle of transparency is important, even at this stage in the relationship.

Example: After ordering supplies from The Paint Company and decorating her home, Amy no longer requires the services of The Paint Company and closes her account with them. The Paint Company will need to ensure they comply with their own data retention policy if they want to hold on to any of Amy’s data after her account is closed.

Deletion

If the individual requests at any time that their data should be deleted, the data controller has to comply with that request and confirm the deletion, not only from their own systems but from any downward vendors’ systems who were processing that data on behalf of the organization.

Example: After ordering supplies from The Paint Company, Amy has now found out about a competitor that is offering better products and wants her data to be deleted from The Paint Company’s database. She sends an email to request the deletion and the company follows up quickly with the confirmation of her deletion. The company should ensure that Amy’s data is also removed from it’s vendor’s databases.

Why Marketers Should Welcome the GDPR

There’s lots that organizations must do to ensure they comply with the GDPR, but we welcome it. In fact, we see three big changes coming that will boost the marketing industry:

1) People’s attention will be treated with the respect it deserves.

For marketers to succeed when the GDPR comes into force, they’re going to have to focus on providing even more value to customers. This means the job of a marketer is going to get more difficult. They will have to work hard (really hard) to attract consumers and earn the right to speak with people. But they should -- attention is a valuable commodity, and in truth it’s been abused by marketers over the years.

2) Greater transparency between people and the companies that hold their data.

If the GDPR is successful it will provide greater transparency and control to EU citizens over how their data is being used by organizations. Transparency is key. Today, few people see the benefits of sharing data, but they often do because they want to use a service or product. Forcing companies that collect data to become transparent means they will need to communicate and provide value to the person. We expect greater communication and transparency around data collection will lead to better understanding about why people should share data.

3) A higher bar for marketers has been set.

Let’s not fool ourselves -- the GDPR is going to (forcibly) raise the bar for marketers. Tactics which don’t have GDPR-compliant consent mechanisms built in will be consigned to the history books. This means marketers will need fresh thinking and have to innovate. The end result is that to succeed in this new reality and comply with the GDPR, we’re going to see better, more creative and thoughtful marketing.

We see the GDPR as a watershed moment for the marketing industry. It’s rightly causing many organizations to rethink how they approach marketing, but it’s also a huge opportunity for businesses to articulate the importance of people sharing their data and how it leads to greater personalization, better products and services, and a more efficient data economy. For too long businesses have remained silent on this issue. A discussion is long overdue and we’re excited to help shape it.

Want to find out more about GDPR? Check out our GDPR website here.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The 20 Best Websites for Wasting Time on the Internet in 2018

There's a lot of content out there about productivity -- everything from hacks to shortcuts to tips and tricks for how to get more done in less time. It's all about the sprint, the checking things off the lists as quickly as possible, and the downloading of software that'll block out any and all distractions.

But what about those times when you just want to surf the internet aimlessly? Hey, no one can be totally productive all the time. In fact, studies have shown that taking deliberate breaks after periods of work is better for productivity.Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your productivity at work.

The question is, how do you spend those breaks? You could check your email, but that still counts as working. You could check Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but there's something so mundane about haphazardly scrolling through your peripheral friends' photos.

We have a few better ideas. Here's a shortlist of the most wonderfully entertaining places to waste time on the internet outside of email and social media. Get ready to bookmark your favorites.

The 20 Best Websites For Wasting Time on the Internet

1) WaitButWhy

WaitButWhy is one of my favorite places to spend time on the internet. Every week or so, a guy named Tim Urban churns out one, really long, really awesome article. (Seriously, they're canonical. You can kill a lot of time reading just one of them.)

His articles are always fascinating, in-depth, and really well written. His writing style is the perfect mix of informative and humorous -- making topics like the Fermi Paradox (the what?) approachable for someone like me who'd never heard of it before in my entire life. He writes about relationships, religion, outer space ... pretty much everything.

My favorite posts of his include "Everything You Don't Know About Tipping," "The Great Perils of Social Interaction,"  and "Your Life in Weeks" (which has some awesome graphics in it, by the way). He even wrote a great post on why procrastinators procrastinate, which anyone reading this article might want to check out.

2) Mental Floss

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Mental Floss is a super addicting online magazine with articles covering a really wide range of topics. Their articles are really well written, really well researched, and usually on topics that don't get a lot of airtime.

For example, in their "Big Questions" section, they tackle weirdly intriguing questions like why shells sound like the ocean and why yawns are contagious. Readers can even submit their own big questions.

3) xkcd

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If you're into nerdy humor even the littlest, tiniest bit, there's a lot to love about xkcd. Each post features a short, stick-figure comic strip on humor about technology, science, mathematics, and relationships. The guy behind it is Randall Munroe, who worked on robots at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia before starting this blog.

Below is an example of one of his comic strips. (He always includes a joke in the comic strip image's alt text, so if you look at the strips on the xkcd website, be sure to hover your mouse over the image to catch those jokes.)

Source: xkcd

4) The Oatmeal

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The Oatmeal is another one of my absolute favorite places to spend time online. It's a huge library of awesome content -- some comprised entirely of graphics. Even if you've read everything already, it's the kind of stuff you can read over and over again.

Some of my favorite posts include "Why Working From Home is Both Awesome and Horrible," "How the Male Angler Fish Got Completely Screwed" (I think I legitimately cried laughing when I first read that one), and a whole manner of grammar-related posts like "Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling" and "You're Not Going to Believe What I'm About to Tell You."

5) Supercook

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If you want to surf the internet in a semi-productive way -- but not so productive that you actually have to leave the house -- then check out Supercook.

Here's how it works: You tell it which ingredients you have in stock in your home, and it'll give you a big list of recipes you can make using just those ingredients. It's a fun way to stay thrifty, clean out the fridge, and make sure food doesn't go to waste.

6) Imgur

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Imgur collects the most viral images of the week and collects them all in one place for your mindless scrolling and enjoyment. What I like about Imgur is it's usually more timely than Twitter or Instagram -- more popular sharing networks where funny pictures and memes might appear a week or two later. Use Imgur to waste time and introduce your friends to the funniest stuff on the internet first.wx1

7) BuzzFeed "Comments" Sections

You already know BuzzFeed is a great place to waste time on the internet, but we're looking beyond the actual article here. Scroll down to the "comments" section of pretty much any article for a hilarious showcase of the crazy (I mean crazy) stuff people are saying. I find it especially entertaining to read the comments on benign topics that shouldn't make people irate, but do anyway.

8) The Toast

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If you're into great (and hilarious) fiction writing, then you'll definitely want to bookmark this site. Every day, writers Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg publish a post on "everything from literary characters that never were to female pickpockets of Gold Rush-era San Francisco," reads their About page.

To get an idea of whether it's up your alley, start with their post, "A Day in the Life of Seth MacFarlane, Human Male (Definitely Not a Swarm of Hyper-Alert Bees and a Metal Jaw.)" It's just so good.

9) Animal Planet Kitten and Puppy Cams

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Puppies and kittens. What could be better? I have this website bookmarked for whenever I need a pick-me-up. You can check out a live stream from animal shelters in the U.S. to see some of the adoptable cuties in action.

10) Zillow

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It's fun to check out real estate in areas you might want to live -- and it's just as fun to check it out in places you'll probably never live, but would love to in a dream world. Go ahead and explore what's out there. You can set up saved searches (some more realistic than others) to relive your discoveries later.

11) Google Maps Street View

In the same vein as Zillow, it's wildly entertaining to go to Google Maps and zoom in on the street view in random places around the world. It's so strange and thrilling to see what life was like at a random moment in time, on a random street somewhere you may never visit in your lifetime.

I recommend the Palace of Versailles in France, Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal, the Swiss Alps, and the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. (Yes, they have underwater cameras.)

12) HowStuffWorks

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This website is dedicated entirely to -- you guessed it -- how things work. And by "things," they mean everything: from airbags to regenerative medicine to velocipede carousels. They've covered so much on this website, it'll be hard to run out of things to read about. 

Plus, they have a whole bunch of really cool podcasts that have branched off the main site over the years and are worth checking out. My favorites are "Stuff You Should Know," "BrainStuff," and "Stuff Mom Never Told You."

13) The Onion

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If you haven't spent some quality time reading the online satirical newspaper The Onion, then you're seriously missing out on a good laugh. (And you've kind of been living under a rock.) But seriously, I sometimes forget how consistently hysterical the articles are.

The publication started in 1988 and they've managed to successfully maintain a high standard for humor and writing ever since. Their headlines are laugh-out-loud funny in and of themselves -- from "Free-Thinking Cat Sh**s Outside the Box" to "Archaeological Dig Uncovers Ancient Race of Skeleton People" to "Buyer Of $450 Million Da Vinci Painting Sort Of Assumed It Would Come With Frame."

Of course, their headlines being hilarious makes sense, seeing as the headline is where each story begins. This awesome episode of NPR's This American Life gives you a really cool peek into The Onion's editorial process. 

(Bonus: ClickHole, their sister website that makes fun of Upworthy-style viral content on the internet, is another great place to waste some time.)

14) Wikipedia

You didn't think I'd write a post on where to waste time on the internet without including Wikipedia, did you? Of course not. You've gotta love spiraling into the proverbial Wikipedia black hole: Look up one thing, and then check out something that's interlinked to it. Before you know it, you'll have charted the entire Russian Revolution. (Read: This is an actual glimpse into my colleague Corey's Sunday morning.)

If you want to get more involved while wasting time online, remember Wikipedia is based on a model of openly editable content -- as in, anyone can edit any unprotected page. So if you're into editing and updating content in your free time, it's yours to edit. (As long as you follow their guidelines.)

15) OCEARCH Shark Tracker

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Tracking sharks as they swim around the ocean may not be the most conventional way to waste time on the internet ... but it might be the coolest.

The Track Sharker tool by Marine Research Group OCEARCH lets you track tagged sharks -- who all have names, by the way -- as they travel all over the world. You can even zoom in on a specific location to see which sharks are hanging out there and where they've been swimming and traveling for the past year. Go, Hilton, go!

16) Giphy

When you need to find the perfect GIF, you can't just stop at the first result you get for "dancing" or "awkward" or "animals being jerks." I could spend (... and have spent) hours on Giphy looking for juuust the right GIF. How long do you think it took Ellie here to come up with all ten of the ones in this post? Totally worth it.

17) Wayback Machine

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Feeling nostalgic? Check out what websites have looked like over the years via Internet Archive's famous Wayback Machine. It lets you pick a date and see exactly what any website looked like at that time. (For a real trip, compare how Facebook looked back in the 2000s to today. Remember the wall-to-wall?)

If you just want to take a quick peek, check out this roundup of what nine famous websites used to look like. All the images in that post were taken from the Wayback Machine.

18) Apartment Therapy

If you're even a little bit of a fan of home decor or DIY projects, this is a website you might find yourself spending hours and hours on. There's a ton of awesome visual and written content on here. My favorites include their "before and after" series, their "small spaces" series, and the tours of people's actual apartments and homes.

Plus, they have a whole lot of helpful articles giving tips on everything from how to redo your stairs to ideas for using that awkward space above your fridge. There's no shortage of useful and fun information on here, making it prime for endless browsing.

One of our own was recently featured on ApartmentTherapy too -- check out INBOUND Elijah's adorable spot here.

19) Lifehacker

Lifehacker is a hub of productivity tips, tricks, and downloads. It's basically an archive of all the information it would be incredibly useful to know, but nobody ever really teaches you. Aside from productivity, they also cover topics such as money-saving tips, clever uses for household items, and so on.

For example, did you know you can buy alcoholic beverages at Costco without a membership? Or that you can peel a mango in under 10 seconds? Or that there are four lengths of naps that'll benefit you in different, very specific ways? Along with the fun articles, they have some pretty awesome, in-depth articles, like this one on how to plant ideas in someone's mind, as well as helpful listicles like the top ten obscure Google Search tricks.

There's so much content on there that it can be hard to find posts on specific topics. Use the Lifehacker Index for an introduction to their top-performing posts and tips on how to find posts on any topic on the website.

20) The Oregon Trail

Here's a little gift for those of you who made it to the end of this post: Internet Archive -- yes, the same one responsible for the Wayback Machine -- made it possible for people to PLAY THE COMPUTER GAME "OREGON TRAIL" AGAIN. I can practically hear all the Gen X'ers out there screaming with joy.

If "Oregon Trail" isn't your cup of tea, the other games made available by Internet Archive include "Duke Nukem," "Street Fighter," "Burger Blaster," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," "The Lion King," and "Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer." Check out the full library here.

Productivity Guide

How Content Marketing Drives Sales

I work with a lot of content marketers in a lot of different organizations. While the businesses and messages are different, they all want to know the same thing: what is content marketing’s impact on sales?

My answer is that content marketing’s influence permeates all aspects of the sales process, though it may not always be obvious.

With so much information available online, buyers are spending more time researching and becoming more informed before any conversation with a salesperson. Experts disagree on how much of the buying process occurs before a sales touch (some studies estimate between 50% and 70%), but they do agree that interactions with sales are still a hugely important influencer during the buying process.

This means that before a lead ever speaks to a sales rep, he or she has likely engaged with content on one of your channels. Your prospect has likely taken a visit to your website, read an email, seen your posts on social media, heard a presentation at an event, or experienced any number of your available channels.

Sometimes a lead will discover and access content on their own; other times sales will direct a lead’s attention to relevant content. Content marketing and sales shouldn’t operate as completely separate spheres. They work in tandem to attract relevant leads and helps those leads arrive at a purchasing decision.

To help attract, convert, and retain customers at every stage of the sales funnel, you should align your content strategy to the buyer’s journey, from discovery and consideration through evaluation and decision – and beyond.

Content Marketing Buyers’ Journey: Discovery

Content Marketing: Discovery Stage

The companies that utilize content marketing the most are high-consideration products or services with longer sales cycles. Discovery to purchase isn’t meant to take place within a few minutes or even a few days. But providing great content opportunities where the prospect can engage more deeply sets the stage for a consultative sales process.

Let’s start where your prospect starts – with discovery. If a prospect’s first interaction is with your website, it is likely that they got there via search. And if they started via search, they are beginning with a specific intention, such as looking for a solution to a problem or more information about a specific issue. The intent at this stage is informational and is often self-directed, that is, without the intervention of the demand gen or sales teams.

The company blog is often the first digital touchpoint for search traffic. Therefore, content on this dynamic area of your website should be highly targeted, relevant, and timely. A blog should primarily seek to educate, inspire, and help. Essentially, it’s a relationship building channel and its purpose is to lay the groundwork for future conversations that will lead to revenue.

A heavy-handed approach (read: lots of self-serving sales messages, aggressive retargeting, or too many annoying popups) can be counterproductive on your blog. A prospect can be easily turned-off because they feel “pushed” to take action instead of “pulled.”

Additionally, social media content is also a prevalent discovery channel. More specifically, amplification by macro or micro peers and influencers can be a very effective first line of interest. The “discovery” of your brand comes with the context or even the endorsement of someone they know.

Content Marketing Buyers’ Journey: Consideration

Content Marketing: Consideration Stage

Once a prospect understands who you are and what you’re about, they’ll begin to explore how you might help them solve a problem. For example, when reading Curata’s blog, any visitor would instantly know that we play in the content marketing space because we cover topics related to those issues and opportunities. But to get more specific about what we do, we’d have to lead them to content that communicates how we help our customers.

At this point, prospects are typically engaging with content (not sales) to understand the basics of what your company can do for them. Once your prospect has consumed this content, sales can more readily have next-level conversations when they get leads on the phone. Used this way, content marketing is helping to create a more efficient sales funnel. However, that comes with a big if; success at this step can only come if the content effectively communicates who the company is, why they exist, and what they have to offer.

Most B2B companies have a “Solutions” area of their website. But often this messaging can be overly complex or not differentiated enough for a prospect to get a clear understanding of what a company actually does. If sales has to spend a precious call clarifying basic concepts and clearing up misconceptions, that’s wasted time and goodwill that could have been spent guiding a lead further down the buyer’s journey.

Great consideration content doesn’t begin and end with your “solutions” section, however. Having strong “leave behind” sales enablement content that a sales team can utilize in their follow-ups reinforces the key messages that a sales rep may introduce during a discovery call or a demo. This kind of content helps your company frame the sales discussion even if no one from your team is in the room. Imagine that content–be it a link, video, or even a guide–being shared by a potential customer with his or her boss and peers.  

Content Marketing Buyers’ Journey: Evaluation

Content Marketing: Evaluation

The line between consideration content and evaluation content can sometimes be a bit fuzzy. My rule of thumb is that during the consideration phase, a lead or opportunity is seeking to understand what your company does and which problems you solve. During the evaluation stage, they are seeking to understand how well your solution might work for them.

There’s a lot of variation amongst B2B companies in terms of how much evaluation content they should make publicly available, i.e., what can be published on their website versus what is exclusively in sales enablement materials. Some companies don’t like to make too much publicly available because of competitive or intellectual property issues. Regardless of where this information lives, evaluation content is crucial not just for making the sale, but in setting expectations for your post-sale relationship.

Evaluation content needs to be specific and clear to avoid misconceptions. Though these materials should be well-designed and well-written (like everything else you do), substance over style rules the day in this instance. Some examples of evaluation content might be descriptions of integrations, competitive comparisons, and case studies.

A note about case studies: often companies think of case studies and testimonials interchangeably. I think there are some important differences. A testimonial is essentially an endorsement of your company by someone in a specific role at a specific company. Often testimonials are on your website where someone in the consideration stage can see a person like them having success with your product. Testimonials are short and sweet.

A case study, by contrast, should be much, much more specific. Good case studies detail what the company did, how they did it, the role your solution played, and what the outcomes were. True case studies are intended for the evaluation and/or decision making stages.

Third Party Content

Third Party Content

When it comes to evaluation stage, another opportunity to consider is where the prospect is sourcing their information. A company website may be a primary source, but it’s certainly not the only one. Review sites, long part of the ecommerce world, have begun to make a big impact in B2B. G2Crowd, TrustRadius, and GetApp are just a few examples of peer-to-peer review sites that your prospects may check to get the unvarnished truth. And, of course, expert review sources such as Forrester’s Wave Report or Gartner’s Magic Quadrant can help buyers verify any preconceptions or claims.

Being proactive about the content that appears on those sites is a great way to build positive consensus on your product. Asking successful customers to leave reviews and addressing negative ones can help you manage your company’s reputation. Developing relationships with the big consulting houses is certainly a long-term strategy, but can one that can certainly payoff.

Content Marketing Buyers’ Journey: Decision

Content Marketing: Evaluation Stage

In the decision stage, victory is close, but it is far from certain. The buyer is now seeking to understand if the cost of your product or service is worth the price. They need to have a reasonable expectation of what their gain will be and what is included in their costs. The price of the product is just one factor. They also need to understand their internal costs for launching, integrating, and maintaining your product.

A healthy relationship with your customer success organization can help you create content that answers these questions and supports the decision phase. This content helps the buyer understand what resources they will have access to and what they can expect post-sale.

For example, resources that describe training and adoption plans, educational tools, peer-to-peer networks, and even technical implementation will give the buyer confidence that this isn’t your company’s first rodeo. Planning templates that outline the steps your primary buyer will have to take can be especially helpful.

Content Marketing Buyers’ Journey: Retention

Content Marketing: Customer Retention

After the sale closes, many marketers forget about customer retention. But content marketing can play a big role in supporting customer retention, too. If your company continues to provide information and resources that speak deeply to the needs and interests of your customers, it will keep that relationship strong and support the value they get out of your product or service. Building trust isn’t a one-time activity; it is continuous.

Though the focus tends to be at the top of the funnel, content marketing is influential at every stage of the customer relationship. Your content is more than what you put on your website; it’s present in every interaction your company has with your customers.

How to Make Instagram Stories Like a Pro

These days, social media is all about documentation.

Where you go, what you eat and drink, who you see, and what's most memorable: These are the typical fodder of Instagram Stories -- seconds-long glimpses of people's lives, shared on Instagram for only 24 hours.

You might know the basics of sharing Instagram Stories, but there are hidden tools within the app that can make the photos and videos you share more creative and more engaging. So we've created this guide to how to share Instagram Stories, and how to make those Stories are compelling and cool as possible. In this post, we'll cover:

Why Share Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories can drive a ton of engagement and value -- whether you're sharing a Story from a brand account or your own personal profile.

Since launching back in August 2016, a total of 250 million Instagram users have started sharing disappearing content on Instagram Stories -- contributing to the huge jump in time spent in-app every day from 24 minutes to 32.

What's more, a lot of brands have already seen success publishing content to this platform. Instagram Stories have fueled the growth of brands like Teen Vogue, Insider, and Bustle. Whether publishers are trying to grow brand awareness, grow traffic to videos or newsletter outside of Instagram, or share sponsored content, publishers are flocking to Instagram to publish fun disappearing content that infuses brand voice and personality without taking up too much of the average techie's dwindling attention span.

What's more, Instagram Stories are credited with fueling the massive growth of Instagram Direct -- private one-to-one messaging between users within the app. Instagram Direct has grown into one of the most popular messaging apps in the world with a staggering 375 million users. Even more impressive, TechCrunch reports that one in five Instagram Stories shared by a brand receives a Direct reply -- giving brands a direct line to connect with their audience and learn more about them.

How to Make Stories on Instagram

You can make Instagram Stories this successful too -- but it requires a few more hacks and tips to make them look like the Stories big brands and influencers share. (Some of my favorite Instagram Stories are shared by chef Chloe Coscarelli, actress Busy Phillips, mattress brand Casper, and interior design app Hutch -- and don't forget to check out HubSpot's Instagram Stories, either.)

But first, let's review the basics of how to share an Instagram Story:

1) Open Instagram, and tap the camera icon in the upper left-hand corner of your phone.

Leela-1-1.png

2) Share a photo or video you've already captured by swiping up on your screen to browse your gallery.

Disclosure: Yes, I did a photoshoot featuring my cats. Can you blame me though?

Leela-2.png

3) Or, choose a camera lens to capture a photo or video in-app.

Leela-3.png

You have a few different options to choose from:

1) Live

If you toggle your screen to the "Live" option, you'll start filming and broadcasting live on Instagram. Like Facebook Live, friends can follow along and leave comments, and when you're done with the broadcast, you'll have the option to let the video disappear, save it, or share it Instagram Stories for an additional 24 hours.

2) Normal

It means what it says: Tapping once will capture a photo, and holding down will record a video. Instagram Stories can be 15 seconds in length, so if you want to share a video that's longer, film in 15-second stints, or use CutStory to split your longer clip into 15-second installments.

3) Boomerang

Boomerang mode films looping GIFs up to three seconds in length. 

4) Superzoom

Superzoom is, on the surface, a video recording lens that zooms in closer and closer on your subject. But turn up the volume, and you can use Superzoom to create a dramatic soundtrack to accompany your video.

As my friend Marissa put it, "It's like it's BUILT for cats."

5) Rewind

Use the rewind lens to film a video in reverse.

6) Stop Motion

Use this lens to film cool stop-motion videos: several different still images woven together in one seamless video. Think of it like the video version of a flip book (like this example below):

7) Hands-Free

Use hands-free mode if you want to set up your camera to film a video for you. Make sure you prop it somewhere stable before you call "Action."

4) Once you've edited your photo or video (more on that below), tap "Your Story," or tap "Next" to share it to your Story and to other friends at the same time.

You can also save your edited photo or video to your gallery by tapping "Save" in the lower left-hand corner.

Leela-4.png

Now that you know the basics, let's run through tips and hacks for producing high-quality, clickable Instagram Stories.

7 Pro Tips and Hacks for Instagram Stories

1) Use stickers.

Once you've captured a great photo or video, it's time to jazz it up with some fun stickers. You can access these by tapping the smiling sticker icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen once you've captured a photo or video -- or swipe up from the bottom of your screen.

swipe up.png

Change the size of your stickers.

You can pinch the sticker once you've added to your story to increase or decrease its size. You can also tap and drag it around the frame to change its position.

bigger sticker.png

Check stickers every day for new and unique ones.

Instagram releases unique Story stickers often -- whether it's Monday, a holiday, or a season. Check this section every day for new and timely stickers to add to your Story.

thanksgiving sticker.png

Add location, hashtag, and poll stickers.

Boost the engagement on your Instagram Story by opening it up to other people doing the same things you are. Open up the stickers section, and tap any of these buttons to customize your story:

locationhashtaguser.png

Location

Start typing in wherever you are, and you'll be able to pull in a geographically-specific sticker to show where you are.

location1.png

When people view your Story, they'll be able to tap the location sticker and see other photos and Stories happening around the same place.location.jpg

Hashtag

Same concept here: If you add this sticker and type in a hashtag, your Story will appear in searches for that hashtag, and viewers will be able to click it and see who else is using it. #MotivationMonday, amirite?

hashtagsticker.png

Poll

You can add a two-option poll to your Instagram Story, and you can even customize the possible answers so they're more unique than "Yes" or "No." Use a poll sticker to gauge if people are really engaging with your content.

instagrampoll.png

Turn a face into a sticker.

Open up the Stickers menu, and tap on the camera icon.

selfiesticker.png

Then, take a selfie -- or take a picture of anyone else's face (that will work too). Then, you can use that face to decorate your Instagram Story. Somewhat creepy, but very memorable and funny, too.

catsticker.png

2) Let viewers share your Stories.

Increase engagement and views of your Instagram Story by letting viewers share them with their friends -- as Direct Messages. 

Go to your profile, tap the gear icon, and navigate to "Story Settings."

storysettings1-2.png

Toggle on "Allow Sharing" so viewers can DM your Story to friends to increase your audience reach. Voila!

storysettings2.png

3) Use the pen.

Use the pen to add embellishment, symbols, or more text to your Story. If you tap the pen icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen once you've captured a photo or video, you'll open up your options.

penoptions1.png

From there, you can adjust the thickness of your pen stroke or change the color you're writing with (more on that later).

I like using the highlighter pen (the third option) to add emphasis to words -- or even the highlight of my photo or video.

penoptions2.png

4) Add a background color.

If you want to share a Story with a background color -- like the images I've shared above -- you can actually select it from the color palette.

Take a picture (it doesn't have to be a picture of anything in particular), and then tap the pen icon to open up the color palette. (Here's Leela again -- my unwitting cat model.)

colors1.png

You can choose one of the colors from the three available menus, or if you want a specific shade of one of those colors, you can open up the full color spectrum by pressing and holding one of the colors.

colors2.png

Then, scribble anywhere on the screen, and hold your finger down until you get the background color you want to appear.

  colors3.png  colors4.png

If you want to get really crazy, you could use the eraser tool (the fourth option) to create new words or shapes from the background, too.

colors5.png

5) Make your text funkier.

The text on Instagram Stories is pretty basic -- jazz it up with these tricks.

Customize your colors.

If you're unsatisfied with the color palette Instagram offers, create your own from one of the colors in the photo or video you've captured.

Open up the text icon, and tap the eyedropper icon in the lower left-hand corner of your screen.

dropper1.png

Use the dropper to sample a color from somewhere in the image you've captured, and use it when typing out text or using the pen tool.

dropper2.png

Add shading.

If you want to add some extra drama to your text, add highlighting or shadowing by retyping or rewriting your text in a different color. I recommend choosing black or white to add emphasis to a bright color you've picked. Then, move the text above or underneath the brighter text to add some drama to your words.

   shading1.png   shading2.png

Turn your words into a rainbow.

This one's tricky, but you can actually turn your text into a gradient rainbow.

Tap the text icon, and type out your message to add to your Story. Then, highlight your text.

rainbow1.png

This is where it gets tricky: Turn your phone to the side so you can hold one finger down on the right side of your text, and with another finger, tap on a color and hold until the color wheel pops up.

rainbow2.png

Then, slowly drag both fingers across both the text and the color wheel from right to left to create rainbow text. Go slowly, letter by letter until you've created a rainbow. (This one took me several tries before I nailed it, and I succeeded using both thumbs to highlight the text and the color wheel.)

Gradually add text to a Story.

Sometimes, you might want to add text or stickers to an image to build on it -- perhaps to promote a content offer or event, or to encourage viewers to swipe up to read a link you've shared (this is only available to verified accounts).

Start editing the photo you want to share, post it, and save it to your camera roll. Then, swipe up on your screen to add the screenshot to the next installment of your Story -- adding new text or stickers on top of the first photo. Keep doing this for as long as you want the Story to last -- just make sure to keep taking screenshots of your latest photo so you can add to it.

  gradual1.png gradual2.png gradual3.png

6) Center your text and stickers.

When you're moving around text and stickers on your story, you'll see blue lines appear vertically or horizontally in the frame. These are guiding lines you can use to make sure you're keeping everything centered.

 centered1.png  centered2.png

Don't put your text too high or too low on the screen.

That said, make sure you don't add anything to your Story too high or too low in the frame -- or it will be cut off when viewers scroll through your Story, when Instagram adds things like your name and how long ago your story was posted that could block out your carefully-crafted text.

7) Add music to a Story.

This one's easy: Turn on music using your phone's native streaming app, and record a video Story. Once you get ready to edit and share, make sure the sound icon isn't muted so your viewers can jam with you.

Alternatively, if you'd rather your video be muted, tap the sound icon so an "X" appears over it.

 unmuted1.png unmuted2.png

We hope these tips help you post killer Instagram Stories your audience won't be able to stop following. There are lots of hidden ways to take your Stories to the next level -- some we may not even have covered here -- so our best advice? Keep clicking around and see what you can do with the latest updates from the app. Happy 'gramming!