9 of the Best Free Video Editing Software to Try

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you already know you should incorporate more video content into your marketing.

But like most new strategies, you might need to prove its ROI before you get budget. And that can be tricky, because to make a great video, you need a few things — like a camera and editing software.

You might already have a high-quality camera built into your smartphone, but to edit your raw footage to prepare it for publication and distribution, you may need to hop on the computer.

Click here to learn how to create and utilize video in your marketing to increase engagement and conversion rates.

There’s a good chance you already have video editing software installed on your computer. For Windows, that’s Windows Movie Maker, and for Macs, it’s iMovie. But depending on your particular skill set and what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your videos, you may find that these options aren’t packed with enough features.

The good news: There are several free video editing solutions you can download that run the gamut from super simple to Hollywood-level powerful. Use these to start making videos today.

9 Easy Video Editing Software to Use Today

1) Machete Video Editor Lite (Windows)

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Source: Softonic

At the simple end of the spectrum is Machete Video Editor Lite, which allows you to cut, copy, and paste different sections of video. As the Machete website puts it, Video Editor Lite was “designed for quick and simple ‘slicing’ of your video files.”

The program’s intuitive interface means you won’t have to waste time shuffling through technical support documents. And because Video Editor Lite doesn’t re-encode your video files when you slice them, you don’t have to worry about losing video quality.

The main downsides to the program? It only supports the AVI and WMV video formats, and it doesn’t allow for audio editing. Still, if you have zero video editing experience and only need to make simple edits, it’s a great option.

2) Avidemux (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: Softonic

Like Machete Video Editor Lite, Avidemux allows you to do basic video editing (no audio editing) without having to worry about loss of video quality. But Avidemux also has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

For starters, the program supports multiple video formats, including AVI, DVD, MPEG, QuickTime, and MP4. What’s more, Avidemux comes with several filters that allow you to perform a host of different functions, from flipping and rotating clips, to adding subtitles, to adjusting colors and brightness levels.

And while the learning curve for Avidemux is slightly steeper compared to Machete Video Editor Lite, the upside is that there’s an extensive Avidemux wiki that covers everything you need to know.

3) WeVideo (Cloud-based)

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Source: WeVideo

Cloud-based video editing software (i.e., software that you access via a browser instead of downloading directly to your hard drive) is growing more and more popular. And one of the programs leading the charge is WeVideo.

Compared to the first two programs on this list, WeVideo definitely offers some more advanced features and functionality, including audio editing capabilities, a library of commercially licensed music, and the ability to share videos in 4K resolution. However, the free version of WeVideo isn’t without its limitations.

One major downside is that you’re only given 10GB of cloud storage. If you’re making a one-off video, this is fine. But if you’re planning to edit multiple videos, you’ll definitely need more space. The free version also puts a WeVideo watermark on your videos, which isn’t ideal.

For a complete breakdown of the differences between WeVideo’s free and paid options, check out its pricing page.

4) VSDC Free Video Editor (Windows)

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Source: Softonic

In experienced hands, the VSDC Free Video Editor can produce some seriously professional-looking video. In addition to supporting nearly every major video format, the program offers advanced video effects, including object transformation and color correction, as well as advanced audio effects like volume correction and sound normalization. And unlike WeVideo, the VSDC Free Video Editor is truly free. You can use the program’s full feature set without having to deal with pesky watermarks.

Unfortunately, there is one catch. If you want technical support, you need to pay. (And because there is a bit of a learning curve, there’s a good chance you’ll need to.) Support for the VSDC Free Video Editor costs $9.99 for one month and $14.99 for one year.

5) Wondershare Filmora (Windows/Mac)

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Source: Wondershare

Wondershare Filmora (formerly Wondershare Video Editor) is the perfect option if you want to start out with basic video editing functionality while also having the opportunity to get more advanced as you go.

The program’s “Easy Mode” strips away the complexity so you can drag and drop video clips, choose a pre-designed theme, add some music, and produce a finished video in a matter of minutes. Go into “Full Feature Mode,” however, and you’ll be able to do much, much more — from adding transitions, filters, and overlays, to playing video clips in reverse, to using split-screen effects.

Sound too good to be true? Well, you’re right: The free version of Wondershare Filmora adds a watermark to your videos that you can only remove through upgrading to their paid service.

6) Blender (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: Blender

The open source program Blender is more than just a video editor: It’s a full-blown 3D animation suite, which allows for modeling, rendering, motion tracking, and more.

On the video editing side, there are a ton of features, including transitions, speed control, filters, adjustment layers, and more. There are also 32 slots available for adding video clips, audio clips, images, and effects, which means you can produce some incredibly complex video.

For the amateur video editor, all the functionality that’s available can be a bit overwhelming. But if you’re looking to produce truly professional-quality video — without having to deal with watermarks — Blender is a solid option. The best part: “You are free to use Blender for any purpose, including commercially or for education,” according to its website. For the fine print, check out its licensing info.

7) Lightworks (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: ZDNet

Like Blender, Lightworks is definitely on the more advanced (and powerful) end of the video editing software spectrum. In fact, it’s a program that’s been used to edit some well-known and award-winning films, including Pulp Fiction, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The King’s Speech.

There are two different licenses you can choose from with Lightworks: “Free” and “Pro.” (The latter of which, as you might have guessed, requires that you cough up some cash.)  The main difference between the two licenses is that the Pro version offers more features, including stereoscopic output and advanced project sharing. But the free version is still quite powerful, providing 100+ effects and supporting multicam editing.

8) Shotcut (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: Shotcut

Shotcut is another open source video software — and it’s completely free. It’s possible to use Shotcut to create professional-looking videos, but the interface is tricky to use. Perhaps that’s because it was originally developed for the Linux platform, which looks and feels a lot different from the typical Windows or Mac UX.

With dedication — and time spent in the Shotcut frequently asked questions and how-to guide sections — it’s possible to use this software to create and export high-quality videos, completely for free.

9) HitFilm (Windows/Mac)

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Source: HitFilm

HitFilm Express is a free video editing and visual effects software — which means you can use it to add more than 180 special effects to your videos, including 3D editing.

Possibly the coolest HitFilm feature is its wealth of tutorial videos — users can practice applying special visual effects in movie tutorials based on Star Wars, Westworld, and more.

Of course, upgrading to HitFilm Pro grants access to more visual effects, better high resolution and 3D rendering, and better audio syncing between audio and video files. It costs $349 for use on three computers, but if you’re not ready to fully invest, HitFilm Express users can purchase lower-cost expansions to use more tools in their software.

Too see the complete list of differences between Lightworks Free and Pro, check out their “Compare Versions” page.

Free Guide Use Video in Buyer's Journey

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Instagram or Snapchat: Which is the Best Fit For Your Business?

Should our business be on Instagram or Snapchat? Or both?

With Instagram and Snapchat becoming increasingly similar, many social media managers find themselves asking these questions.

To help you figure out which platform — Instagram or Snapchat — is more suitable for your business, we decided to analyze the differences between the two platforms. We compared six key aspects of the two platforms:

  1. Users
  2. Content types
  3. Discoverability
  4. Engagement rates
  5. Analytics
  6. Ad

What we found is this (and you might know it already) is that it greatly depends on your business. Snapchat is great for some business and Instagram for others…and for some, both is the best solution.

But which is the best fit for your business?

Read on to find out…


Instagram vs Snapchat: Which Should You Use for Your Business?

6 questions to consider

Here’s a list of criteria you could consider when comparing Instagram and Snapchat:

  1. Are your target audience and customers on the platform?
  2. Which content type (e.g. stories, images, or videos) suits your business best?
  3. Do you prefer having a public profile that is easily discoverable and to interact with your followers in public? Or do you prefer a private profile and build close one-to-one relationships with your followers?
  4. Is your target audience more engaged on Instagram or Snapchat?
  5. Do you want analytics to measure your performance?
  6. Do you want to boost existing posts or run ads on the platform?

Instagram vs Snapchat infographic

At Buffer, we choose Instagram over Snapchat (but that’s not necessarily the best more for you).

Here’s how we came to the decision, according to Brian Peters, our Digital Marketing Strategist:

For a long time we were on posting unique content to both Snapchat and Instagram at Buffer.

What we found over time is that the quality of conversations we were having on Instagram with our target audience (marketers and social media managers) was much higher than on Snapchat.

Since we are a small team with limited resources, we decided to post exclusively to Instagram so that we could continue to focus on developing meaningful relationships and creating quality content. Since the decision, we’ve grown our Instagram account by more than 20,000 followers and increased engagement by nearly 300%.

Furthermore, the ability to get in-depth analytics on how our content is performing across our feed, Stories, and Live is a major value-add.

Not to mention the platform is approaching a billion monthly active users!

If you would like to learn more about our comparison of Instagram and Snapchat for businesses, we’ve unpacked our analysis below.

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1. Users

The Instagram user base is larger and slightly older.

Size

Let’s first look at the size of the user base of the two platforms¹.

In terms of active users, more than 400 million people use Instagram daily (and more than 700 million use it monthly). In comparison, 173 million people use Snapchat every day.

In terms of Stories, over 250 million people use Instagram Stories daily. That far exceeds the 173 million people who use Snapchat every day.

This chart by Recode shows the rise of Instagram Stories and the slow growth of Snapchat:

Instagram stories vs Snapchat chart

In terms of user growth rate, Instagram has been growing steadily while Snapchat’s growth seems to have slowed down. Here’s how the user growth of the two platforms look like (with the data from Statista):

Instagram vs Snapchat growth charts

Note: The graph for Instagram shows monthly active users while the graph for Snapchat shows daily active users. Even though they are different metrics, I believe the number of monthly active users and the number of daily active users correlate with each other.

Demographics

In 2016, Pew Research Center did a study of the demographics of American users on the most popular social media platforms.

Here are some highlights of their study for Instagram:

  • A bigger percentage of women (38 percent) than men (26 percent) in the U.S. use Instagram.
  • Instagram is most popular among online Americans between the age of 18 and 29.
  • A third of online Americans between the age of 30 and 49 use Instagram.

Instagram demographics

It seems that Instagram is more popular among women than men and among online Americans below the age of 49 than those above.

On the other hand, Snapchat has a much younger user base.

  • Almost 60 percent of the users are under the age of 25.
  • People between the age of 18 and 24 forms the bulk of Snapchat’s user base (36 percent).
  • Only 15 percent of the users are above the age of 35.

Snapchat demographics

Note: For Instagram, the percentages show the percentage of people in each category that uses Instagram. For example, 59 percent of online American between the age of 18 and 29 use Instagram. For Snapchat, the percentages show the percentage of Snapchat users in each category. For example, 22 percent of Snapchat users are between the age of 13 and 17.

Others

Here are some other interesting insights about Instagram’s and Snapchat’s user bases.

Instagram

  • The most popular topics among young adults on Instagram are fashion/beauty, food, TV/films, hobbies, and music, according to a Facebook survey.
  • Instagram users like to follow celebrities, get DIY inspiration, and look at travel photos, according to a Facebook study.

Snapchat

  • The majority of Snapchat users (71 percent) use Snapchat only or mostly for peer-to-peer messaging, according to a survey by Defy Media for Variety.
  • Nearly 60 percent of interactions on Snapchat are made between close friends, according to a study commissioned by Snap, as reported by Mashable.
  • 46 percent of Snapchat users in the U.S. don’t use Instagram, according to App Annie. The percentage is 37 in the U.K.

Snapchat audience exclusivity (US)

When deciding between Instagram and Snapchat, I personally think that the user base is the most important. If your target audience is not on one of the platforms, it may not be worth investing in that platform.

Consideration: Is your target audience on the platform?

If your target audience is on both platforms (yay!), here are a few other things to consider:

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2. Content types

Instagram posts are high-res and polished; snaps are often raw and unedited.

Next, let’s take a look at the types of content you can create on the two platforms.

Content types

Stories

Stories are available on both Instagram and Snapchat.

Stories can be either videos or images. Because stories are displayed in full-screen, the ideal orientation and dimensions for the stories are horizontal (i.e. portrait) and a 9:16 aspect ratio respectively.

Images and videos

Besides stories, images and videos are the other main types of content on Instagram and Snapchat.

But they are displayed differently on the two platforms.

  • Images and videos are published as posts on Instagram and snaps on Snapchat.
  • Instagram posts are public (unless your account is private). Snaps are mostly private between two accounts.
  • Instagram posts can be horizontal, square, or vertical. Snaps are usually vertical (since they are displayed in full-screen).
  • Instagram posts will stay on your feed and profile, whereas Snaps dissappear after 24hrs.

Content quality

In general, people like to post high-resolution, (usually) edited content on Instagram and raw, unfiltered content on Snapchat.

That said, with the introduction of Instagram Stories, people are also posting more unedited content on Instagram through Stories.

Consideration: Which content type (i.e. stories, images, or videos) suits your business better?

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3. Discoverability

Your brand will be more discoverable on Instagram.

In terms of discoverability, there are three areas to look at:

Profile

On Instagram, you can have a public profile which shows your follower count and all your Instagram posts. Instagram suggests profiles to follow and curates relevant posts in Discover, which helps people to find your Instagram profile.

On Snapchat, your profile can only be viewed by your friends and people who have added you. There’s little information on your Snapchat profile as the snaps and stories you post on Snapchat disappears after 24 hours.

Engagement

On Instagram, likes and comments on your posts can be seen by everyone while direct messages can only be seen by you.

On Snapchat, only you can see who has replied to your snaps or stories.

User-generated content

On Instagram, people (including yourself) can find posts that mention you. Through hashtags and @-mention tags, people can discover and check out your Instagram profile.

Hence, user-generated content is a common Instagram marketing strategy as it can help you grow your Instagram account and increase your brand reach.

On Snapchat, snaps or stories that mention your brand can only be seen by the friends of the person who posted them.

Instagram discoverability

Your brand will be more discoverable on Instagram than on Snapchat. This is great if you want to raise the awareness of your brand on social media and use social proof to build your brand.

That said, many brands like the privacy with Snapchat as that allows them to build meaningful one-to-one relationships with their followers.

Consideration: Do you prefer having a public profile that is easily discoverable and to interact with your followers in public? Or do you prefer a private profile and build close one-to-one relationships with your followers?

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4. Engagement level

Engagement seems to be higher on Instagram than Snapchat.

Comparing engagement levels on the two platforms can be tricky since the forms of engagement on the two are different. On Instagram, people like, comment, and watch a video. On Snapchat, people view a snap and reply privately.

While I can’t compare engagement levels as a whole between the two platforms, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at engagement level of stories since stories are available on both platforms and are very similar.

As reported by TechCrunch, businesses are seeing better engagement with Instagram Stories than Snapchat Stories.

  • An analysis of 21,500 Snapchat Stories by Delmondo found that the average unique viewers per Snapchat Stories fell by about 40 percent in 2016 after Instagram Stories was launched.
  • On the other hand, the influencer community of TheAmplify was seeing 28 percent higher view rate for Instagram Stories than Snapchat Stories.

Delmondo Snapchat study, reported by TechCrunch

For us at Buffer, we were seeing higher-quality conversations with our target audience (marketers and social media managers) on Instagram than on Snapchat before we stop posting on Snapchat.

Consideration: Is your target audience more engaged on Instagram or Snapchat? (You’ll have to try both platforms to get a good sense of this.)

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5. Analytics

You can get Instagram data more easily than Snapchat data.

Being able to measure and analyze your social media performance can help you improve your social media marketing.

Natively, Instagram provides business profiles with Instagram Insights, an in-app analytics for posts, stories, ads, and followers.

Instagram Insights

Snapchat does not provide any analytics (except for ads), and most marketers have been tracking their Snapchat marketing manually.

In terms of third-party tools, there are many free Instagram analytics tools available, such as WebstaUnion Metrics’s free Instagram account checkup, and Keyhole.

There seem to be much fewer Snapchat analytics tools and they are not free. For example, Snaplytics, a popular Snapchat analytics tool, costs $19 per Snapchat account per month for very basic metrics — views, screenshots, and completion rate.

Considerations: Do you want analytics to measure your performance? Or are you all right with manually tracking your performance?

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6. Ads

Both offer powerful targeting and several ad formats.

Since Instagram launched ads on its platform in late 2015, the number of businesses who advertise on the platform has grown to over a million. With Instagram being part of Facebook, these businesses have been able to easily create Instagram ads using the robust Facebook Ads Manager.

Snapchat advertising used to be quite inaccessible to most businesses. Other than Snapchat geofilters, businesses that want to advertise on Snapchat had to purchase ads from Snapchat’s ad partners (and they often cost a lot). Fortunately, Snapchat launched its self-serve Snapchat Ad Manager this year, making it easier for businesses to run ads on Snapchat themselves.

Facebook and Snapchat Ads Managers

Let’s take a look at three key aspects of advertising on these two platforms, namely audience targeting, ad formats, and costs.

Targeting

The two ads managers are quite similar in terms of their powerful targeting ability.

Using either of the ads managers, you can create a target audience for your ads with factors such as demographics, interests, and behaviors.

On top of that, you can also reach people using your own data (e.g. people who have interacted with your business) and the platform’s data (e.g. users who look like your customers).

Ad formats

Both Instagram and Snapchat offer a variety of ad formats. Here’s an overview of the ad formats each of them offers:

Instagram ad formats

  • Feed ads
  • Stories ads
  • Boost existing posts

Snapchat ad formats

  • Snap ads
  • Geofilters
  • Lenses

Apart from Instagram Stories ads and Snap ads (which are quite similar), Instagram and Snapchat offers quite different ad options.

I believe Instagram ads are easier to create than Snapchat ads at the moment. While Snap ads can be easily created using the Snapchat Ad Manager, creating Snapchat geofilters requires some design know-how and creating sponsored lenses requires you to work with a Snapchat partner (and it seems to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars now).

Cost

It’s a little tricky to compare the advertising costs of the two platforms as it can be quite dependent on the quality of the ads and the target audience created.

In general, it seems to be cheaper to advertise on Instagram than Snapchat at the moment.

Here are some numbers I’ve found from Digiday and AdAge:

  • Buyers say Instagram Stories ads are about $3 to $4 CPMs (and completion rates are between two and three times higher on Instagram than Snapchat).
  • Instagram Feed ads cost a little more than Stories ads, between $5 and $7 CPMs.
  • Instagram Stories ads can cost half the price of Snapchat ads, at $4 CPMs (price per 1,000 impressions) versus $8.50 for Snapchat.
  • Snap Lenses’ minimum price has also dropped since they can now be targeted — but they’re still pricey, costing upward of $300,000 for one day.
  • Snap Geofilters can be bought for as little as $5 via self-serve, and CPMs can be as low as 27 cents (for geofilters in crowded areas) to as high as $48.

With the launch of Snapchat Ad Manager, perhaps the cost of Snapchat advertising will gradually be lowered.

If you are interested to learn more about advertising on Instagram and Snapchat, here are two guides you might like:

Consideration: Do you want to boost existing posts or run ads on the platform?

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Which platform are you using?

While Instagram seems to be better than Snapchat in most aspects of the comparison, it’s important to consider which platform your target audience prefers.

For example, if your target audience is students, teenagers, and young adults, you might be able to reach them more effectively on Snapchat than Instagram.

Also, a huge percentage of Snapchat users aren’t on Instagram as App Annie has found. So being on Snapchat might be the only way to reach them.

I hope you have found the analysis of the two platforms useful for your decision-making. Once you have made your decision, I would love to hear from you.

Which platform did you choose? What were your main considerations?

Image credit:

  • The feature image is via Unsplash.
  • The graphic on Snapchat user base is via Snapchat.
  • The graphic on Snapchat audience exclusivity is via App Annie.
  • The chart on the change in average unique viewers per snap is via TechCrunch.

Footnote:

¹ The statistics for user base were taken from Instagram, TechCrunch (Instagram monthly active users, Instagram Stories daily active users), and Statista.

28 Funny Twitter Bios to Brighten Your Day

Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of making an impact on social media is coming up with something profound in 140 characters. That’s right; I’m talking about the tweet.

A tweet is short, sweet, and to the point. And crafting one often leaves us staring blankly at that little blinking cursor, hoping for a way to rephrase the tweet to let up some characters for an image, a link, or that ever-essential hashtag.

Unsurprisingly, a Twitter bio is equally challenging. You mean to tell me that I have 160 characters (thanks for the extra 20?) to explain to the Twittersphere who I am, what I do, and why my Twitter is worth following?Click here to learn how to grow your network and become an influencer in your industry.

It might not seem like a big deal, but keep this in mind: Your bio is one the main things people use to decide whether or not to follow you on Twitter — so what you write in your Twitter bio needs to count.

Today, we’re taking a moment to highlight some of the most amusing and entertaining bios we could find. We’ve scoured far and wide and am proud to present to you with 28 of the funniest bios — from real people, beloved brands, and fictitious characters that pepper the Twittersphere.

28 of the Funniest Twitter Bios We Could Find

1) @TheMikeTrainor

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Why we’re amused:

Comedian and writer Mike Trainor makes my inner seven-year-old want to ask him to pull my finger. Also, imagining Mr. Trainor saying, “He who smelt it,” while looking as dapper as he does in his profile picture is a little slice of added amusement. Plus, we can’t help but love this bio’s self-deprecation, in its allusion to the fact that one of his shows is “still airing somehow.”

2) @UberFacts

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Why we’re amused:

UberFacts fills our brains with seemingly unnecessary information all day, every day. Though with the rise of popularity in bar-hosted trivia nights and games like Trivia Crack, I wouldn’t say we’ll never need to know things like this:

3) @NelsonFranklin

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Why we’re amused:

I [verb describing feelings of having a strong liking for] this. American actor Nelson Franklin gets us. We’ve seen enough “Actor/Entertainer/Jazz Pianist” Twitter bios — seriously.

Franklin took it upon himself to create a bio that not only asks his followers to test out their imaginations, but one which will also withstand the test of time. I mean, no matter what Nelson Franklin becomes in life, “Noun/noun/noun” is likely to be pretty accurate.

4) @mikeindustries

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Why we’re amused:

Mike Davidson, former VP of Design at Twitter, is a connoisseur of sorts — and while he has an impressive background, we do enjoy his present credential of, “Currently chillin’.”

We also can’t help but wonder: Does the Twitter bio 160 character limit have to do with the aesthetics of a Twitter page’s design? Is Mike Davidson to blame?

5) @JamieAmacher

jamie bio.png

Why we’re amused:

Some people aim to save neglected pets. Jamie Amacher aims to save neglected houseplants. Buffalo, NY resident (and coworker of mine at Mainstreethost), Amacher knows the importance of keeping plants alive indoors — especially since, here in the Northeast U.S., we don’t get to see much plant life outside during winter.

I must say, it’s a noble act; sacrificing a Twitter bio front-loaded with accomplishments. for the sake of our forgetful nature and thirsty houseplants.

6) @sixthformpoet

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Why we’re amused:

Like a homeless individual asking me for beer money, I can respect this. The mysterious Sixth Form Poet is an author (as she or he is quick to remind us) of the book The Sixth Form Poet, and offers up this Twitter handle on the book’s cover as authorship. The Sixth Form Poet has attracted 143k fans to date, which is fitting, considering this 2013 tweet:

7) @Lord_Voldemort7

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Why we’re amused:

Harry Potter fans, rejoice — or cower in fear. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has a Twitter, and he’s not afraid to share his truth — in the form of a clever use of Christina Perri lyrics.

8) @shelbyfero

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Why we’re amused:

As we mentioned above, we always appreciate a bit of tasteful self-deprecating humor, and Shelby Fero gives us just that in her Twitter bio. Though, according to HiTFiX (and her impressive Twitter following of 122k), it seems that people are crazy about her — at the very least, on Twitter. And, if you’re curious about her work, she’s also conveniently included a link to Google search her instead of providing a website.

9) @KevinSpacey

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Why we’re amused:

Huh. Well, whoever he is, we wish him the best of luck on his creative endeavor.

10) @sweetestsara

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Why we’re amused:

Sara Rubin is a video producer at BuzzFeed. You can thank her in part for many of the fantastic BuzzFeed videos you see circulating around social media and love are obsessed with. If you’ve seen any of the videos in which she’s, you know she’s an overall lovable and whimsical character — not to mention, hilariously awkward and anxious, like a good handful of us.

Her Twitter bio is just as imaginative and adds a touch of fantasy that I think provides a welcomed breather from some of the more serious Twitter bios out there.

11) @JohnCleese

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Why we’re amused:

John Cleese is an English writer, actor and tall person (according to his website). As he is also a comedian, we’re allowed to find it incredibly humorous that he mentions in his Twitter bio that he’s still alive, contrary to rumor. Plus, he’s doing “the silly walk” in his app, and we invite you to see for yourself just how silly it is. (Monty Python fans, rejoice.)

12 & 13) @arnettwill & @batemanjason

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Why we’re amused:

First off, it’s clear to me that BFF Twitter bios are the BFF necklace of 2017. Actors Will Arnett and Jason Bateman wear their BFF-dom proud for all of the Twitterland to see — but it’s not the first time they’ve taken their affinity for one another to the public eye. In 2013, they were seen strolling down the street on a sunny afternoon in 2013 while having some fun with the nearby paparazzi:

14 & 15) @AlisonLeiby & @alyssawolff

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Why we’re amused:

In a similar fashion, writers Alison Leiby and Alyssa Wolff have obviously made a BFF pact to dedicate their Twitter bios to one another. Again — we approve.

16) @Lesdoggg

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Why we’re amused:

What do we love about comedian Leslie Jones’ Twitter bio? It’s simple and to the point. Plus, we can’t help but snicker at the humor in its simplicity — she lets us know about her line of work, without any jokes. That’s okay; luckily, her on-screen work and actual tweets provide plenty of hilarious fodder.

17) @shondarhimes

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Why we’re amused:

For many of us, Shonda Rhimes is a legend — and our Thursday nights would be so much less interesting without her. She’s the writer behind such hit shows as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” and yes: People love to tweet their plotline opinions to her. She stops that madness with a concise, funny quip in her bio: “It’s not real, okay?” Yes, Ms. Rhimes.

18) @aparnapkin

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Why we’re amused:

Comedian Aparna Nancherla’s Twitter handle (@aparnapkin) is seemingly a play on her name, which is silly enough. Based on her bio I’d be willing to guess that her Twitter feed is equally as amusing.

That assumption is backed up by TIME, as her feed was named one of The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2014. Out of about 328 million monthly active users on Twitter, that ain’t too shabby – she’s definitely considered a comedian in this culture, if I had to guess.

19) @notzuckerberg

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Why we’re amused:

In case you haven’t already guessed, this is NOT Mark Zuckerberg. But that doesn’t stop @notzuckerberg (a.k.a., Twitter user @afterthatsummer) from tweeting as if (s)he were the “Zuck.”

The fake Mark Zuckerberg is pretty funny, as proven by his Twitter bio and tweets like this:

Touché, fake Zuck. Touché.

20) @AnnaKendrick47

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Why we’re amused:

We’ve always been rather amused by Anna Kendrick’s self-deprecating humor in general. Take, for example, this pinned tweet:

Plus, we love the location she listed. (Same here, Ms. Kendrick.)

21) @FirstWorldPains

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 10.15.27 AMWhy we’re amused:

This account pokes fun at “first world problems,” where people complain about things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things: cold French fries, getting the wrong coffee, a cell phone dying, or — as @FirstWorldPains mentions in its bio — the absolutely terrible moment when you really, really want to write a good online bio, but can’t think of anything. #worstdayofmylife

22) @Charmin

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Why we’re amused:

Charmin, as we know, sells toilet paper. We’re all adults here, and we all know what it’s used for. Charmin’s Twitter bio is entertaining because, considering its industry, the brand gets the awkwardness out of the way immediately, letting us all know that, hey, quality toilet paper is a good thing … and a good bathroom trip — or, “the go,” as it’s called here — should be enjoyed.

Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good, TP-related riddle?

23) @ComedyCentral

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Why we’re amused:

Because we see what you did there, Comedy Central. Also, this:

For some of us, cheese is always the answer, no matter what the problem.

24) @YourAwayMessage

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Why we’re amused:

Are we the only ones who remember the days of AOL Instant Messenger, a.k.a., AIM? Think back, if you can, to a time before Slack, Twitter, and even Facebook — and maybe, just maybe, it’ll all come back to you.

If looking at this bio (and its accompanying profile image) gives you an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, then you already know why it’s amusing. Remember AIM profiles? And sub-profiles? And away messages? Or the sound of that creaky door opening when your ~*cRuSh*~ signed on?

Also, the location being “the den” is on point. If this doesn’t hit home for you, view this BuzzFeed article, or move on to the next!

25) @TheEllenShow

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Why we’re amused:

Ellen DeGeneres entertains us on social media, television, real life, etc. She’s just plain amusing. So it should come as no surprise that her actual bio on Twitter is pretty darn amusing. According to her bio, she has a second job as an ice road trucker — hmm — and her tweets are both real, and spectacular. Well, she’s not lying about her tweets. After all, see below. So, what does that tell us about her second job? We buy it.

26) @tomhanks

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Why we’re amused:

Fame didn’t get to Tom Hanks’ head. He’s a normal person, just like you and I, having issues with fluctuating weight. Sometimes, he gains people’s approval — and other times, not so much. To that, we say, “Tweet on, Tom.”

27) @FranksRedHot

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Why we’re amused:

If you’re as big a fan of Frank’s RedHot as we are, then you know how easy it to actually but that — ahem — [stuff] on everything. Of course, as marketers, we agree that the brand might as well put it on Twitter, too.

28) @popchips

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Why we’re amused:

We wish eating popchips was in our job descriptions — since, when they’re around, we certainly eat them like it’s part of our collective responsibilities.

Find Your Twitter Humor

It’s true — exercising humor while also tweeting as a responsible business is often a fine line to walk. But as these examples show, it’s possible to be both self-deprecating and funny on social media, as long as it aligns with your brand.

And, as always, we’ll continue bringing you the latest news and tactics in conquering social media.

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How and When to Use Direct Mail as Part of Your Inbound Marketing Strategy

Direct mail regularly gets a bad rap as an exclusively outbound-focused tactic that doesn’t keep up with the ways buyers want to consume content.

But in the right situations, direct mail could be a crucial differentiator in a world where 78% of consumers have unsubscribed from a company’s email list because the company was sending too many emails.

Just as a product that’s similar to a dozen competitors will struggle to take off, marketing that looks like everyone else’s simply won’t be memorable. Classic digital marketing tactics like email have become so overcrowded that approaching inbound creatively is crucial to standing out from your competition.

The key to doing direct mail right is keeping it aligned with your inbound marketing funnel.

Never forget your main objective: you want to lead prospects back online to continue nurturing them there. Any piece of mail you send must direct prospects online to help you track them throughout the process — whether that’s including a link to a landing page or a code they can enter on your website. Plus, the more information you have about what kinds of offers they respond to, the better you can speak to their pain points and specific needs.

Notice something different? Click here to learn more about the HubSpot blog redesign process.

Identifying Your Potential Direct Mail Audience

Prior to beginning any marketing campaign, your team should be laser-focused on your potential customers’ preferences and needs.

Your number one priority is standing out to those who are most likely to buy your product. This fundamental step shouldn’t change when you’re considering incorporating direct mail into your marketing. Inbound is all about meeting prospective customers where they are.

If your target customers don’t check their mailboxes often, they’re probably not a good fit for direct mail.

Given the plethora of other places to spend, it’ll be hard to justify spending on direct mail over, for example, paid content promotion on social media if your target audience is addicted to their smartphones.

However, if your potential customers are old enough to own homes or apartments and are likely to check their mailboxes often, direct mail could prove to be effective. It’s all about understanding what your audience needs.

If you’ve identified that sending a letter or postcard is an effective way to reach your particular prospects, you can begin to think about the moments in the buyer’s cycle when it’s best to reach out with the personalized touch of a physical piece of mail.

Being Conscious of Your Prospects’ Stage in the Buyer Cycle

A prospect finds a piece of content useful and subscribes to your blog to stay in the know. So what’s your next step?

Keep in mind that all your prospect did was subscribe to an email list. That means they’re probably still a pretty “cold” lead. If they found a blog post through organic search or because they saw a headline that looked interesting on LinkedIn, they’re not going to appreciate receiving any type of content that attempts to make a hard sell, let alone a postcard explaining your pricing.

Think about the number of coupons and offers that you’ve discovered in your mailbox, only to toss them in the recycling bin immediately. Those pieces of mail probably weren’t relevant to needs you’d expressed.

You need to make the content you’re offering via direct mail speak to the individual. That means that if at all possible, you want to segment your mailing list in the same way you’d segment an email list. Can you match a physical offer on a piece of paper to the article or offer the prospect just opened online?

Ultimately, striking at the right time with direct mail comes down to maintaining awareness of your prospects’ stage in the buyer’s cycle. Craft the direct mail piece that stands out from the rest by showing that your company understands their leads.

Creative Ways to Incorporate Direct Mail — at the Right Time

Let’s return to the recent blog subscriber.

The typical inbound marketing response is to send them an email, thanking them for subscribing and assuring them that you’ll keep them updated when the next blog is published. Rather than sending a follow-up email, though, what if you responded with a direct mail piece?

You could thank them for subscribing to your blog and direct them to some of your most popular blogs. You could even direct them to a landing page with a video that contains a personal message. It certainly stands out from the mundane marketing messages they see on a daily basis.

Rather than sticking with a complete email campaign, you could use a direct mail piece to encourage your prospect to check out an ebook or other offer you’ve created.

You could also provide them with a case study from a business similar to theirs and include compelling stats. The key is to help educate them on how to address whatever problems they’re trying to solve.

Further down the funnel, once a lead is more familiar with your brand, you might host an event they’d find useful. Invitees often perceive physical event invitations as more personal — just as an invitation to a wedding or large birthday party is likely to feel more genuine when you find it in your mailbox rather than your inbox.

Drive event attendance and track your offline efforts effectively by putting a QR code on the invite that motivates invitees to register online.

Direct mail is particularly useful when you’re trying to target a specific geo-location, age bracket, or household income level. It comes back to meeting your customers where they are. If you’re running a campaign on a local level, generate buzz in your community by sending out a visually compelling piece of direct mail that neighbors are apt to discuss.

Keys to Direct Mail Marketing Success

1) Focus on the trackability of your campaigns.

You should already be using a marketing automation solution to track your typical inbound efforts. In order to make the most of your direct mail efforts, you must also track these campaigns to decipher what’s working and what’s not.

Without tracking — a function of driving recipients online – you won’t have a true understanding of what pieces are resonating with your prospects (and what topics they’re actually interested in). 

2) Keep it visual.

Remember what the last long, descriptive brochure you read said? Me neither. Lean away from long sentences and blocks of text. Instead, spark your recipient’s interest with a beautiful image that’s relevant to the content or event you’re offering.

3) Provide a clear next step.

It’s best to limit yourself to one CTA per piece of direct mail — and make it obvious. It’ll limit confusion and make it easier for you to evaluate the piece’s ROI.

4) Target people who are checking their mail (and particularly the ones who are hard to reach online).

It won’t matter how compelling the image or copy on your postcard are if your recipients aren’t seeing it. Consider setting up automation to send physical mailers to recipients that have expressed interest in your company, but haven’t responded to digital outreach after a certain amount of time.

5) Always tie it back to online efforts.

The only way you’ll truly know how direct mail is influencing your bottom line is to track everything. Your mailers should have unique codes or phone numbers with unique extensions.

Prospects should go to landing pages that track their journey and trigger next steps in your marketing automation or sales process. Make sure you’re setting yourself up to prove the effectiveness of your campaign.

Remember, providing information to prospects when they’re ready is a foundational principle of inbound marketing.

If you can automate sending the right information at the right time, you’ll be primed to turn leads into customers.

Marketers commonly paint direct mail with an outbound brush, but classic mail can be an effective marketing tool with the right approach. With creativity and a targeted approach, you have the chance to speak to your prospects in a personalized and genuine way.

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Nobody Tells Leaders When They’re Doing a Bad Job. Here’s How to Do It Right.

Two threads on Hacker News recently have shed light on the utter failures of leadership in tech. The first was an honest question: “Women in tech, how do you find non-toxic work environments?” The second was in response to an article, “Why Good People Leave Large Tech Companies.”

These threads read like the Inept Executive Handbook  –  failures to address cultural issues, ignorance of the reality of day-to-day life for their employees, mishandling of everything from HR complaints to stock options.

My intention isn’t to be unnecessarily hard on executives, all humans are prone to error, but executives are at the greatest risk of believing a single version of reality  —  our own. I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, we often get it wrong.

And if you’re relying on your open door policy to keep a pulse on things? I’m sorry, but you’re just not doing enough.

The executive title is a funny thing. The higher you ascend in an organization the more isolated you tend to become. It starts getting harder and harder to get a true picture of how effective you are at leading a team.

Executives, if you want the actual truth, you need to stop assuming people will show up to tell you, you’re going to have to work for it. Why? Well we’re all subject to the idiosyncrasies of human behavior. As a senior leader, you invariably get isolated from an honest assessment of your behaviors. The main reason it happens is fear.

The people in the best position to provide leaders with honest feedback on what’s working and what’s not have the most to lose by providing that feedback.

Even in the most progressive and supportive environments people are reluctant to provide honest feedback on their leaders  —  self-preservation is an exceptionally strong motivator.

We’re trying something a little different at HubSpot to ensure our senior leaders know exactly what they’re doing that’s having a positive impact and what’s not. That’s where I come in. My job at HubSpot is to be the person that tells executives the things others won’t or can’t.

Yes, it’s a weird role.

I want to share this process because I believe it’s time for executives to stop expecting that someone will speak up if something needs to change. It’s time for executives to get serious about honest feedback.

My 3 Step Process for Honest Executive Feedback

1) Identify a broad set of people surrounding the leader in question and conduct in-depth feedback interviews with them.

To get a comprehensive set of feedback I will interview an average of 18 people that interact with the executive being reviewed. I break the interviewees into the following groups:

  • Direct reports/Team Members  —  not much explanation need on this one
  • Peers  —  these are people operating at the same level as the executive being reviewed and have a working relationship with that person
  • Associates  —  these are people that the executive works with cross-functionally to get work done
  • Manager  —  that’s pretty clear
  • Self  —  yup, that’s right, the executive does a self-assessment answering the same questions as everyone else

For each person giving feedback I will conduct a 30-minute interview and capture their sentiments through handwritten notes. As soon as an interview ends I take a half hour and transcribe my notes into a master document that will ultimately contain notes from all the interviews for a particular 360.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Woah, that’s really inefficient … you should just take notes on your computer or better yet record the interviews”.

You’d think so.

But, what I’ve found is that nothing reduces the level of candor quite like typing (no eye contact), and the reminder that an audio record of the conversation will live on. So, old school pen and paper it is.

2) Compile the interview findings into a 360-feedback report for the executive.

When all the interviews are complete and the notes have been transcribed into a master notes document, I read the notes multiple times to draw out key feedback findings and capture them in a separate document that will become the Executive 360 Feedback Report. To qualify as a “finding,” an issues needs to have been mentioned by at least 5 different people  —  this is all about uncovering the signal in the feedback noise.

Then I match up the quotes from each feedback interview with the appropriate finding I listed in the feedback report, and finally, write an overall summary of that finding to add clarity and context to the supporting quotes.

The feedback findings are presented in 4 sections:

  1. The first section covers Strengths/Positive impacts.
  2. The second covers What Gets in Your Way/ Negative Impacts.
  3. The third section is Stop/Start/Continue which contains all of the specific advice interviewees provided when I asked them “If you could give [Leader]specific advice to be more effective, what would you tell them to stop doing? What would you tell them to start doing? What would you tell them to continue doing because it’s working?”
  4. The fourth section is the Self-Assessment. As I mentioned above, the leader receiving the 360 feedback is asked the same questions as the people I interviewed. Their self-perceptions and perspectives are detailed in the report so the executive can compare their own point of view to that of those providing feedback.

My intent is to be as impartial as possible, but I am also filtering the feedback through the lens of HubSpot. There are some behaviors that, in a different organization, would be a strength. The core goal of this program is to provide effective and actionable feedback that is calibrated to the context of the unique attributes of our organization.

3) Share the feedback with the executive and their manager.

This is arguably the hardest part of the process. At HubSpot we consider feedback to be the breakfast of champions; that doesn’t mean it’s always yummy. While The feedback I provide centers on strengths and positive impacts, the part everyone always wants to dig into are the Negative Impacts and What Gets in Your Way.

In every 360, there are inevitably pieces of negative feedback the executive is surprised to learn, finds tough to face, or disagrees with entirely. That’s to be expected. There are some key things I focus the executive on when delivering this feedback to make the experience as palatable as possible.

The first thing I coach executives to consider is how can you derive even more success from your strengths and the behaviors that have a positive impact on the organization and the people around you. I caution people when they consider the Negative Impacts/What Gets in Your Way findings to not jump to the conclusion that “I need to work on all this right away”. As you might suspect, it’s more complicated than that.

When thinking about the things that are having a negative effect or are getting in the way of greater success you must think more broadly than just “I need to work on that”. You need to consider the following:

  • Is this negative impact a function of the role I have and no change on my part is going to really affect the sentiment of the finding?
  • Is this the result of how I fundamentally behave as a person and making a change in this area will take me years of effort which won’t address the issue right now?
  • What if I figure out how to minimize the negative impact the behavior is having rather than trying to change who I am?
  • Is this something that I have the capacity to change with relative ease and the change will make a tangible difference in my effectiveness as a manager and leader?

If you’re still with me I want to make something really clear  — the sole purpose of this effort is to make good executives better, by keeping them tuned into the actual reality, not just the reality in their own heads. Getting an Executive 360 isn’t an indicator that things are going poorly for that person. It’s an indicator that there are even greater heights of achievement for that person, and it’s critical they understand what to lean into and what needs work. That’s why the feedback review itself takes a two-part form:

Part One

I conduct a one hour review session with the executive to go over the findings to ensure there is clarity around all the feedback contained in the Executive 360 document. During that conversation, we make some initial judgments together on the strengths to lean into and the negative-impact areas where either making a change would be effective or minimizing the impact of something is the right approach.

Depending on the nature of the feedback and the approaches needed to move forward, we arrive at a conclusion on the level of involvement I might have in helping them take action on the feedback they now have.

Part Two

I conduct a half hour session with the executive’s manager to review the overall findings. In that session, I provide a summary document that only contains the positive and negative findings. This document does not include the quotes for each finding, the Stop, Start, Continue section or the self-review.

Given the highly personal nature of the feedback, it is the recipient’s decision to share the more detailed version of the feedback with their manager. During the session with the executive’s manager, I will also share the general gist of the conversation I had with the executive and any next steps we might have decided.

It is essential for both the manager and the feedback recipient to be aware of the findings since much of the development work that results from the document and the review will be done by the executive and their manager. The 360 itself, while a valuable tool to get clarity into how people perceive an executive’s effectiveness, won’t change behavior.

That’s on the shoulders of the executive to do the hard work of leaning into strengths and developing strategies to address the things that get in their way. My role in that is to provide further coaching at the discretion of the development partnership between the executive and their manager.

As you’ve probably guessed, this level of feedback is a lot of effort and laden with emotional landmines.

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder.

There are a lot of reasons people may choose to follow a leader  — vision, inspiration, power, fear  —  those are just a few. Regardless of people’s motivation to follow, the way you lead will have a significant impact on your ability to drive success in your organization. Often the way you lead is referred to as your leadership style.

The funny thing about your leadership style is that you don’t define it  —  your followers do.

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder. “Wait” you say, “I’m the one leading, so I’m setting my leadership style”. Actually, you are exhibiting the set of behaviors you are using to lead. Your followers, the ones observing and being affected by those behaviors, define your leadership style.

Think of it this way. While one person you lead might see your approach as demanding and blunt; another might see you as decisive with high expectations; yet another might see you as an unreasonable jerk who doesn’t listen.

Who’s right? They all are.

And the best leaders aren’t naive enough to believe that their actions or good intentions are perceived the same way by every person.

So if you want honest feedback on how you’re doing, stop assuming that it’s just going to show up. It’s on you to get out there and uncover the issues — and the opportunities.

Editor’s note: a version of this post first appeared on ThinkGrowth.org. 

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7 Digital Marketing Strategies That Work: A Complete Guide

There’s no question that, in the modern landscape, a big part of your marketing strategy is digital. Consumers and businesses alike are almost always online — and you want to be able to reach them and observe their behavior where they spend the most time.

But when you’re growing a business, it seems like this ever-evolving landscape can quickly become overwhelming. There’s already enough to do — how are you also supposed to create, fine-tune, and maintain an agile digital marketing strategy?

We’ve compiled a list of seven digital marketing strategies that marketers can adapt to help their teams and businesses grow, as well as a crash course on the meaning of digital strategy and marketing campaigns.

Click here to download our free guide to digital marketing fundamentals.

What is Digital Strategy?

In short: Your digital marketing strategy is the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing. The term ‘strategy’ might seem intimidating, but building an effective digital strategy doesn’t need to be difficult.

In simple terms, a strategy is just a plan of action to achieve a desired goal, or multiple goals. For example, your overarching goal might be to generate 25% more leads via your website this year than you drove last year.

Depending on the scale of your business, your digital marketing strategy might involve multiple goals and a lot of moving parts, but coming back to this simple way of thinking about strategy can help you stay focused on meeting those objectives.

Despite our simplification of the term ‘strategy’, there’s no doubt it can be difficult to get started actually building one. Let’s see what a digital marketing campaign looks like, and then, we’ll jump into those seven building blocks to help you create an effective digital marketing strategy to set up your business for online success.

What is a Digital Marketing Campaign?

It’s easy to confuse your digital strategy with your digital marketing campaigns, but here’s how to distinguish the two.

As we’ve already outlined, your digital strategy is the series of actions you take to help you achieve your overarching marketing goal. Your digital marketing campaigns are the building blocks or actions within your strategy that move you toward meeting that goal.

For example, you might decide to run a campaign sharing some of your best-performing gated content on Twitter, to generate more leads through that channel. That campaign is part of your strategy to generate more leads.

It’s important to note that even if a campaign runs over the course of a couple of years, it doesn’t make it a strategy — it’s still a tactic that sits alongside other campaigns to form your strategy.

Now that we’ve gotten to grips with the basics of digital strategy and digital marketing campaigns, let’s dig into how to build your strategy.

How to Build a Comprehensive Digital Strategy

1) Build your buyer personas.

For any marketing strategy — offline or online — you need to know who you’re marketing to. The best digital marketing strategies are built upon detailed buyer personas, and your first step is to create them. (Need help? Start here with our free buyer persona kit.)

Buyer personas represent your ideal customer(s) and can be created by researching, surveying, and interviewing your business’s target audience. It’s important to note that this information should be based upon real data wherever possible, as making assumptions about your audience can cause your marketing strategy to take the wrong direction.

To get a rounded picture of your persona, your research pool should include a mixture of customers, prospects, and people outside your contacts database who align with your target audience.

But what kind of information should you gather for your own buyer persona(s) to inform your digital marketing strategy? That depends on your businesses, and is likely to vary depending on whether you’re B2B or B2C, or whether your product is high cost or low cost. Here are some starting points, but you’ll want to fine-tune them, depending on your particular business.

Quantitative (or Demographic) Information

  • Location. You can use web analytics tools like Google Analytics to easily identify what location your website traffic is coming from.
  • Age. Depending on your business, this may or may not be relevant. It’s best to gather this data by identifying trends in your existing prospect and customer database.
  • Income. It’s best to gather sensitive information like personal income in persona research interviews, as people might be unwilling to share it via online forms.
  • Job Title. This is something you can get a rough idea of from your existing customer base, and is most relevant for B2B companies.

Qualitative (or Psychographic) Information

  • Goals. Depending on the need your product or service was created to serve, you might already have a good idea of what goals your persona is looking to achieve. However, it’s best to cement your assumptions by speaking to customers, as well as internal sales and customer service representatives.
  • Challenges. Again, speak to customers, sales and customer service representatives to get an idea of the common problems your audience faces.
  • Hobbies and interests. Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience. If you’re a fashion brand, for example, it’s helpful to know if large segments of your audience are also interested in fitness and well-being, as that can help inform your future content creation and partnerships.
  • Priorities. Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience to find out what’s most important to them in relation to your business. For example, if you’re a B2B software company, knowing that your audience values customer support over a competitive price point is very valuable information.

Take this information and create one or more rounded personas, like Marketing Molly below, and ensure they’re at the core of your digital marketing strategy.

2) Identify your goals & the digital marketing tools you’ll need.

Your marketing goals should always be tied back to the fundamental goals of the business. For example, if your business’s goal is to increase online revenue by 20%, your goal as a marketer might be to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year to contribute towards that success.

Whatever your overarching goal is, you need to know how to measure it, and more important, actually be able to measure it (e.g., have the right digital marketing tools in place to do so). How you measure the effectiveness of your digital strategy will be different for each business and dependent on your goal(s), but it’s vital to ensure you’re able to do so, as it’s these metrics which will help you adjust your strategy in the future.

If you’re a HubSpot customer, the Reporting add-on in your HubSpot software brings all of your marketing and sales data into one place, so you can quickly determine what works and what doesn’t.

 

3) Evaluate your existing digital marketing channels and assets.

When considering your available digital marketing channels or assets to incorporate into your strategy, it’s helpful to first consider the bigger picture to avoid getting overwhelmed. The owned, earned, and paid media framework helps to categorize the digital ‘vehicles’, assets, or channels that you’re already using.

Owned Media

This refers to the digital assets that your brand or company owns — whether that’s your website, social media profiles, blog content, or imagery, owned channels are the things your business has complete control over. This can include some off-site content that you own, but isn’t hosted on your website, like a blog that you publish on Medium, for example.

Earned Media

Quite simply, earned media refers to the exposure you’ve earned through word-of-mouth. Whether that’s content you’ve distributed on other websites (e.g., guest posts), PR work you’ve been doing, or the customer experience you’ve delivered, earned media is the recognition you receive as a result. You can earn media by getting press mentions, positive reviews, and by other people sharing your content on social media, for instance.

Paid Media

Paid media is a bit self-explanatory in what its name suggests — and refers to any vehicle or channel that you spend money on to catch the attention of your buyer personas. This includes things like Google AdWords, paid social media posts, native advertising (like sponsored posts on other websites), and any other medium for which you directly pay in exchange for visibility.

Gather what you have, and categorize each vehicle or asset in a spreadsheet, so you have a clear picture of your existing owned, earned, and paid media.

Your digital marketing strategy might incorporate elements of all three channels, all working together to help you reach your goal. For example, you might have an owned piece of content on a landing page on your website that’s been created to help you generate leads. To amplify the number of leads that content generates, you might have made a real effort to make it shareable, meaning others are distributing it via their personal social media profiles, increasing traffic to the landing page. That’s the earned media component. To support the content’s success, you might have posted about the content to your Facebook page and have paid to have it seen by more people in your target audience.

That’s exactly how the three can work together to help you meet your goal. Of course, it’s not compulsory to use all three. If your owned and earned media are both successful, you might not need to invest in paid. It’s all about evaluating the best solution to meet your goal, and then incorporating the channels that work best for your business into your digital marketing strategy.

Now you know what’s already being used, you can start to think about what to keep and what to cut.

4) Audit and plan your owned media.

At the heart of digital marketing is your owned media, which pretty much always takes the form of content. Every message your brand broadcasts can generally be classified as content, whether it’s your ‘About Us’ page, your product descriptions, blog posts, ebooks, infographics, or social media posts. Content helps convert your website visitors into leads and customers, and helps to raise your brand’s profile online — and when it’s optimized, it can also boost any efforts you have around search/organic traffic. Whatever your goal, you’re going to need to use owned content to form your digital marketing strategy.

To build your digital marketing strategy, you need to decide what content is going to help you reach your goals. If your goal is to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year, it’s unlikely that your ‘About Us’ page is going to be included in your strategy — unless that page has somehow been a lead generation machine in the past.

It might more likely that an ebook gated by a form on your website drives far more leads, and as a result, that might be something you want to do more of. Here’s a brief process to follow to work out what owned content you need to meet your digital marketing goals:

Audit your existing content

Make a list of your existing owned content, and rank each item according to what has previously performed best in relation to your current goals. If your goal is lead generation, for example, rank them according to which generated the most leads in the last year. That might be a particular blog post, an ebook, or even a specific page on your website that’s converting well.

The idea here is to figure out what’s currently working, and what’s not, so that you can set yourself up for success when planning future content.

Identify gaps in your existing content

Based on your buyer personas, identify any gaps in the content you have. If you’re a math tutoring company and have discovered in your audience research that one of your persona’s biggest challenges is finding interesting ways to study, but you don’t have any content that speaks to that concern, then you might look to create some.

By looking at your content audit, you might discover that ebooks hosted on a certain type of landing page convert really well for you (much better than webinars, for example). In the case of this math tutoring company, you might make the decision to add an ebook about ‘how to make studying more interesting’ to your content creation plans.

Create a content creation plan

Based on your findings and the gaps you’ve identified, make a content creation plan outlining the content that’s necessary to help you hit your goals. This should include:

  • Title
  • Format
  • Goal
  • Promotional channels
  • Why you’re creating it (e.g., “Marketing Molly struggles to find time to plan her blog content, so we’re creating a template editorial calendar”)
  • Priority level (to help you decide what’s going to give you the most “bang for your buck”)

This can be a simple spreadsheet, and should also include budget information if you’re planning to outsource the content creation, or a time estimate if you’re producing it yourself.

5) Audit and plan your earned media.

Evaluating your previous earned media against your current goals can help you get an idea of where to focus your time. Look at where your traffic and leads are coming from (if that’s your goal) and rank each earned media source from most effective to least effective.

You can get this information from tools like Google Analytics, or the  Sources Reports in your HubSpot software.

You might find that a particular article you contributed to the industry press drove a lot of qualified traffic to your website, which in turn converted really well. Or, you might discover that LinkedIn is where you see most people sharing your content, which in turn drives a lot of traffic. The idea here is to build up a picture of what earned media will help you reach your goals, and what won’t, based on historical data. However, if there’s something new you want to try, don’t rule that out just because it’s not yet tried and tested.

6) Audit and plan your paid media.

This process involves much of the same process: You need to evaluate your existing paid media across each platform (e.g., Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to figure out what’s likely to help you meet your current goals.

If you’ve been spending a lot of money on AdWords and haven’t seen the results you’d hoped for, maybe it’s time to refine your approach, or scrap it altogether and focus on another platform that seems to be yielding better results. (Check out this free AdWords guide for more on how to leverage it for business.)

By the end of the process, you should have a clear idea of which paid media platforms you want to continue using, and which (if any) you’d like to remove from your strategy.

7) Bring it all together.

You’ve done the planning and the research, and you now have a solid vision of the elements that are going to make up your digital marketing strategy. Here’s what you should have so far:

  1. Clear profile(s) of your buyer persona(s)
  2. One or more marketing-specific goals
  3. An inventory of your existing owned, earned, and paid media
  4. An audit of your existing owned, earned, and paid media
  5. An owned content creation plan or wish list

Now, it’s time to bring all of it together to form a cohesive strategy document. Let’s revisit what digital strategy means: the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing.

By that definition, your strategy document should map out the series of actions you’re going to take to achieve your goals, based on your research to this point. A spreadsheet is an efficient format — and for the sake of consistency, you might find it easiest to map out according to the owned, earned, and paid media framework we’ve used so far.

You’ll also need to plan your strategy for a longer-term period — typically, something like 12 months is a good starting point, depending on how your business is set up. That way, you can overlay when you’ll be executing each action. For example:

  • In January, you might start a blog which will be continually updated once a week, for the entire year.
  • In March, you might launch a new ebook, accompanied by paid promotion.
  • In July, you might be preparing for your biggest business month — what do you hope to have observed at this point that will influence the content you produce to support it?
  • In September, you might plan to focus on earned media in the form of PR to drive additional traffic during the run-up.

By taking this approach, you’re also creating a structured timeline for your activity, which will help communicate your plans to your colleagues — not to mention, maybe even help keep you sane.

Your Path to Digital Marketing Strategy Success

Your strategy document will be very individual to your business, which is why it’s almost impossible for us to create a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy template. Remember, the purpose of your strategy document is to map out the actions you’re going to take to achieve your goal over a period of time — as long as it communicates that, then you’ve nailed the basics of creating a digital strategy.

If you’re eager to learn more about this realm, and how you can build a truly effective strategy to help grow your business, check out our simple guide to digital marketing strategy.

 

Four Days of Facebook: Learn How to Grow Your Facebook Audience Fast

As we approach 2018, two things about the near future of marketing are clear: the way we approach social is transforming, and messaging apps are undeniably on the rise.

Now more than ever before, having a coherent, actionable Facebook strategy to grow your business is absolutely essential. But as you probably know from experience, this is easier said than done.


Register for Four Days of Facebook and learn how to grow your audience faster than ever before

To teach you how to grow your business in the new era of social, HubSpot and Facebook are teaming up to bring you “Four Days of Facebook,” a series of live, virtual events about leveraging Facebook for ads, messaging, and so much more.

We’ve enlisted Gary Vaynerchuck, HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, and a powerhouse group of social experts from Facebook and HubSpot for a week packed with educational workshops, live talks, and more.

Each day includes a unique agenda of top-notch video content to help you navigate the rapidly changing Facebook ecosystem like a pro. You won’t find this inside knowledge anywhere else, so register now to get reminders for the event, and join us every day of the week for exciting product updates from Facebook and HubSpot — plus a few daily surprises.

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What’s the Best Way to Write a Blog Post? Marketers Weigh In

I write content for the HubSpot Blog every day, and after more than a year of doing it, I like to think I have a good system.

It starts with drinking seltzer and listening to instrumental pop music, and it usually ends with a finished article. But I wondered if others might have better strategies and more efficient hacks than Polar’s Dragon Whispers seltzer and 2Cellos’ cover of “Despacito.”

So I asked the rest of my teammates about their processes — how they source ideas, and any of their hacks and tricks for putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard), and getting the job done.

Unsurprisingly, I got a lot of good advice — from not allowing yourself to delete anything written during the first draft, to saving the introduction and title for last — so I wanted to open up the discussion to a larger group of marketers on inbound.org.

Whether you’re an experienced blogger or are just getting started, I’ve compiled suggestions for every stage of the writing process — along with some general tips for writing clearly and concisely, staying focused, and knowing when you’re done writing.

14 Helpful Blogging Tips

Sourcing Blog Post Ideas

1) Source inspiration from sites like Quora, Reddit, and inbound.org.

When you’re at the very beginning of the writing process and wondering what topic or idea you want to tackle, Paul Skah recommends finding out what types of questions your target audience is asking before getting started.

Sites like Quora, Reddit, and inbound.org, where people ask and discuss common questions and challenges, can inspire blog post ideas. Once you have an idea of what to write about, you can choose specific keywords to target.

2) Or, ask your colleagues and peers common questions to guide your blog post’s focus.

Shauna Ward recommends finding blog post inspiration by asking members of your own team what your audience wants to know. Whether you’re targeting your blog post to attract new visitors or help convert leads, your colleagues will give you the specific guidance you’re looking for.

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3) Don’t be afraid to freewrite if you have writer’s block.

My colleague Eric Peters recommends writing — about anything — if your blog post is having a slow start. In fact, morning freewriting has been recommended to improve general productivity for anyone.

Getting Started on New Posts

4) Start with a completely blank document and brain dump everything you know about a particular subject.

Caroline Cotto‘s method for starting the blog writing process is to do a brain dump — to write anything and everything you know about the subject in a blank document, and then, go back and find themes, arguments, and gaps in information to continue researching and writing about.

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5) Outline blog posts with a working title and headings to guide your brainstorming and writing as you go.

HubSpotter Emma Brudner, meanwhile, believes in starting out with a bit of guidance — namely, a title and headers to organize the blog post’s content as you write.

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6) Do your research first, then bullet out main points, then write it all out.

My colleague Meg Prater has a different method — starting with research. After she thoroughly researches a blog post topic, she jots down the points and facts she wants to include in bullet format, then organizes them into an outlined version of the full blog post.

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7) Write your introduction once your post has evolved.

Tatiana Morand advocates for saving the first for last — the introduction. Revisiting the introduction — once you’ve worked out your arguments, main points, and body content — can help ensure it captures the reader’s attention and sets them up for the rest of the blog post.

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Writing and Finishing Posts

8) Focus on clarity, not complexity.

HubSpot Marketing Blog Editor Karla Cook offered a plethora of writing advice below, but my favorite suggestion was to “focus on clarity, not complexity.”

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Instead of trying to write complex sentences using technical vocabulary and multiple phrases, write so your reader can get the necessary content as efficiently as possible. And that means writing sentences that are clear, concise, and get to the point — not necessarily in the most artistic fashion. Remember, you’re writing a blog post — not a short story.

9) Write first — delete later.

My fellow HubSpot bloggers Aja Frost and Amanda Zantal-Wiener are avid believers in banning the delete key while writing the first draft of a blog post. They advise to write as much as possible, even in stream-of-consciousness style, and then to go back and delete when it comes time to edit.

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10) Keep your writing process nimble. Take breaks and come back to content later if you need to.

Lydia Cockerham advises bloggers not to be afraid to take breaks or go on a writing marathon, depending on how the words and inspiration are flowing. She mixes longer and shorter writing chunks to take breaks and allow time to think and brainstorm during the process.

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11) But make sure you make decent progress before stepping away from a blog post to stay motivated.

On the other hand, Ivan Kreimer suggests not stopping until you’ve finished writing a certain number of words to keep yourself motivated and to complete your blog post in good time — his threshold is 750 words.

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12) Rely on multitasking to help you stay focused while writing.

Kenny Pattle uses multitasking to keep himself focused and on-track while writing blog posts — by setting 30-minute timers by completing other tasks on breaks. By planning other tasks and projects while working on a post, you can stay focused by the necessity to stay productive and get everything done.

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13) If music doesn’t work for you, create your own soundtrack.

Instrumental Britney Spears just isn’t for everyone, so Ward recommends skipping the tunes and creating your own ambient noise soundtrack to keep you focused while you write if music doesn’t help you stay focused.

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14) Come up with at least 5-10 title options to choose from.

Once you’ve finally finished your blog post, it’s time to get it ready for publication — and that means choosing a title. As the blog post evolves, so too does your original idea for it, and that includes your working title. Joe Goldstein recommends reviewing the finished blog post, creating as many as 10 of them, and choosing the best fit for the piece with multiple options in front of you.

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5 Mistakes That Will Bankrupt Your Agency

These days, agencies tend to get caught up in near-constant talk of creativity, innovation, and disruption. But all that noise can drown out the real reason you’re in this business: to make money.

The truth is that you’re trying to make a living — for yourself, your family, and your employees. And no matter how hard you work to serve clients, when you don’t make money, it’s pretty tough to sustain enthusiasm.

Even when you are making money, this is a tough business. That’s why it’s crucial to avoid certain catastrophic mistakes agencies make every day.

Draining Water From Your Own Pool

Even smart agency owners make some of these painful mistakes. They don’t willfully sabotage their own efforts, but they fail to realize the long-term impact these seemingly innocuous decisions carry.

You might even recognize yourself in these five financially draining errors — and not realize how harmful they are to your bottom line.

5 Mistakes That Will Bankrupt Your Agency

1) Your pricing is too basic.

Nine times out of ten, agencies present clients with a single price and package. However, when you do this, nine times out of ten, they’ll push back.

Instead, always give them three options. Build the middle option first because this is the one they’re likely going to choose. This option should be your ideal sale and what’s really best for the client. According to a study on the center-stage effect, consumers feel that options put at the center of a range of options are the most liked.

Once you’ve constructed your “middle” option, strip some of those deliverables away to create a first option. This bare-bones option is priced about 20 percent to 25 percent lower than the middle option.

As for the third option, add some bells and whistles — not ones that are meaningless to the client, but factors that take things above and beyond the minimum standard. Price it about 30 percent to 35 percent higher than the second option.

When you present these three options, more often than not, clients will talk themselves into the second option. What’s beautiful about it is that they feel like they have control over their budgets and over the work.

2) You give it away for free.

Virtually all agencies have a gaping hole called scope creep: allowing the scope of a project to get larger without the price rising accordingly. If we could control it, we would all be driving nicer cars and taking better vacations.

I’m not suggesting you nickel-and-dime your clients to death, but you do have to plug that hole. Of course, we can look at our clients and be frustrated that they keep asking for more and more. But the truth is that the blame sits squarely with us.

Often, your scope documents are too vague, failing to define deliverables in a way that leaves no room for interpretation. Or maybe they’re too broad, without any boundaries.

If you have account people managing client project budgets, they may not understand agency math. You expect them to be good stewards of your profitability, but they don’t understand the game they’re playing — no one has taught them the rules.

In most agencies, leaders never take the time to teach employees how an agency makes money. Thus, they fail to understand that everyone, every single day, either makes the agency money or costs it money by over-servicing clients or not negotiating better with vendors.

When employees don’t understand that, they believe their jobs are not to make money, but to keep clients happy. Naturally, the easiest, fastest way to do that is by over-servicing clients. Voilà: scope creep.

Don’t take my word for it: It turns out that by overservicing just once a week, an agency can give away a whopping seven figures of essentially free work.

3) You let clients slowly pick you to death.

When your scope documents are too vague, you’ll get clients exceeding them in no time at all, asking for the 12th or 13th revision. Yet chances are good that no one will issue a change order. This is especially true if your scope documents are loose because you know you’re standing on shaky ground.

However, the biggest reason is that by the time you’re far enough along to consider a change order, your account executive is thinking, “The client wants to make a minor change. By the time I calculate the change order costs, write up a document, send it to the client, and get him to sign off on it, we could have just made the change. So why waste more time and irritate the client by issuing this change order? Screw it. I’m just going to make the change.”

Here’s the easy fix: In all of your scope documents, include language that describes a flat fee for changes beyond the number of changes allowed. Clearly define the deliverables and the timetable.

If, for instance, you’re working on a brochure for a client and you’re going to give the client four revisions, include this: “With this estimate, you are going to be granted four revisions. Any revisions after the fourth revision will cost a flat $250.”

4) You put out small fires at the expense of the raging inferno.

You’re so busy running around with a fire extinguisher, chasing after the drama of the day, that you don’t really have a vision for how you want to move your agency forward. How do you want it to be different a year from now?

If you really do want to grow your business — not necessarily in the number of bodies, but in fulfilling your vision for your agency — it won’t happen without planning.

5) Your new business plan sucks.

Have you ever caught yourself saying any of these phrases? “Well, we grow based on referrals.” “We’re going to hire a guy.” “We’re just too busy taking care of clients to chase after clients.” “We’re really lucky the phone is still ringing.”

If so, you don’t have a plan. Sure, all of that may be true today, but if you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know it ebbs and flows. That’s why you need a consistent new business program to keep your sales funnel full. It’s getting tougher and tougher to find great client prospects, and the time period between meeting them and signing them is stretching out.

If you don’t drum up new business now, chances are you won’t start until the minute you get the sense that your most valuable client — your gorilla — is unhappy. Or, even worse, the dread will strike the minute you get the phone call that he or she is done. By then, it’s too late. New business is a muscle you exercise every single day, no matter how busy you are.

If you’re the agency owner, new business should be your primary responsibility, taking up 40 percent to 60 percent of your time. You’re not always out pitching or calling on prospects; maybe you’re writing content. But not spending time on new business is a big money-sucking mistake agencies make every day.

If a Shark Stops Swimming, It Dies

Above all, make sure you’re constantly evolving, growing, and refining. Even at the best and most profitable agencies, there’s room for growth and improvement. Whatever solutions you’re using now, different options will exist a year from now. Our world is changing too fast for us not to keep up with it. And that doesn’t happen without a plan.

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