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The Magic of Digitally Tidying Up: How to Clear Your Computer for Distraction-Free Focus

By the looks of his laptop, Robbert Van Els could be mistaken for a secret agent. His screen is an explosion of urgent files — a master control center for managing clandestine operatives. The man of mystery persona is typified by a side-sliding sports car winding through an onslaught of Word docs and Jpeg files. Just looking at his desktop can raise your blood pressure.

But Van Els is not a secret agent. He’s a mess.

Val Els’ desktop before.

In fact, Van Els’ LinkedIn profile says he is in the “custom made earplugs” business. Apparently, there is no correlation between the mayhem on one’s laptop and the adventure in one’s life. Anyone can find themselves drowning in desktop clutter and research suggests this digital detritus costs us time, degrades performance, and kills concentration.

Van Els decided he’d had enough. He realized if he was going to grow his business, he would have to regain control. “Less distractions, more time to focus,” he told me.

I first met Van Els at a conference where I presented a talk on getting “un-hooked” from personal technology. I learned later that Van Els took my presentation to heart. Over Facebook, he shared his “recipe for a minimalist desktop” and reported, “I tested the new layout for a month now and the result works great!”

After inspiring Van Els with my talk, I found he had inspired me as well. I decided to take a look at my own crowded desktop, which although not quite as explosive as Van Els’, certainly needed some tidying-up. Here’s why clearing your workspace can increase your productivity and the steps I took to achieve laptop zen.

​The Cost of Clutter

A cluttered computer doesn’t just look ugly, it’s also expensive. For one, there are cognitive costs. A study by researchers at Princeton University found people performed poorly on cognitive tasks when objects in their field of vision were in disarray as opposed to neatly arranged. The same effect applies to digital environments according to a study published in the academic journal, Behaviour & Information Technology. Unsurprisingly, our brains have a tougher time finding things when they are positioned in a disorganized manner.

Furthermore, extra distractions act as triggers coaxing us to do unimportant tasks — costing us wasted time and focus. Every errant icon, open tab, or unnecessary bookmark serves as a nagging reminder of things left undone or unexplored. With so many triggers, it’s easy to mindlessly click away from the task at hand. But moving from one thing to another, according to Sophie Leroy at the University of Minnesota, hurts our concentration by leaving what she calls an “attention residue.” This residue makes it harder to get back on track once we get distracted. Removing unnecessary triggers frees the mind to work on what’s really important.

And if you still need convincing, there’s yet another price you are paying for all that clutter — sluggish computing. Every open tab on your web browser for example, utilizes your machine’s processing and memory resources. Of course, there are technologies purpose-built to stop unused tabs from sapping resources, but those are band-aids that address the symptom not the disease.

Removing the Triggers

Now that I was certain all those distractions weren’t serving me, it was time to implement a clean sweep.

First, I dumped everything on my desktop into a folder called “everything” (I know, it’s not a particularly creative folder name).

It felt strange stuffing all those files into one folder and I wondered if I wasn’t just displacing the mess somewhere else. Then I reminded myself the idea was to remove visible distractions that could take me off course.

I assured myself that if I needed one of these files, it would be easier to find it using Spotlight (the Mac OS’ built-in search feature) rather than hunt for each file one at a time on my desktop. In any case, the files I use every day, like particular Word docs, are more easily opened under the “Most Recent” tab anyway.

Next, per Van Els’ advice, I changed my background photo to a muted boring grey and made the app dock auto-hide. I also found a program called Bartender 2 to organize all the apps running on menu bar at the top of the screen. Now I start my work day with a blank slate the color of actual slate.

Desktop cleared, I looked for more ways to declutter. I decided to disabled all notifications on my laptop, making sure no apps could interrupt me.

I also set the “do not disturb” feature to always on by making the setting turn on at 7 am and turn off at 6:59 am.

Digging Deeper: Into the Web

After conquering all the unwanted triggers on my desktop and disabling notifications, it was time to tackle the serpent’s den of distractions, my web browser. The first problem was how to deal with all those open tabs?

The issue was particularly troublesome because the more tabs I had open, the less likely I was to reboot my machine and web browser, preventing updates and further slowing down my computer. I’d go months without a cleansing restart until my mac would eventually give-up, freeze-up and crash — typically taking down unsaved documents in the wreckage.

I needed a new way of doing things. First, I realized that all my tabs fit into four categories:

  1. Things related to what I was working on right now.
  2. Articles I’d like to read later.
  3. Sites I might need in the future.
  4. Communication tools like social media and email.

The solution was simple — I needed to make a routine of sorting tabs where they belong. For example, instead of leaving web sites related to a current project open day after day, I’d cut and paste the URL into the relevant document — typically a Google Doc or slide presentation.

Next, articles I’d like to read later are never read in the browser. Before I have a chance to get sucked-into the time wasting vortex of reading one article and then another, I quickly save it to Pocket where I can read the article at my leisure or listen to it while driving or in the gym. Finally, the open tabs I worry I might need some day go into Evernote with just a tap of a button on the chrome of my browser.

Here again, although it seems like I’m just pushing the mess around it’s important to remember that the quantity of digital stuff isn’t the problem — it’s the visual distraction and clutter that saps productivity and focus. The idea is to get stuff out of sight and out of mind until it’s needed. Interestingly, the same categories I used to sort through tabs worked just as well for eliminating many of the bookmarks that polluted the chrome of my browser.

Dealing with Interruptions: Email & Social Media

But what about email and social media? Perhaps the worst time-suck of all is the endless stream of messages, notifications, and updates that sap focus and keep us busy with pseudo-work. These services are like chocolate — they’re best kept hidden because the more we nibble the more we want.

Given how distracting they are, I try to never leave them open while not in use and I use attention retention tools like StayFocusd and Freedom to block access to my email, Twitter, and Facebook during my morning writing time when I most need to concentrate.

Now that I’ve removed as much distraction from my laptop as possible, I schedule fifteen minutes every Friday for a “Friday flush” to clear out any clutter that may have accumulated over the week.

Achieving Desktop Zen

As for Van Els, achieving desktop zen has made him happier and more productive. Today, his desktop couldn’t be more pristine. He replaced his screeching sports car image and hundreds of icons with simple white letters on a black background.

For me, the hardest part of removing all that desktop clutter was taking the first step. There’s some trepidation involved in doing a clean sweep. But the quote on Van Els’ screen provided some extra motivation. Though it sounds like a line from a cheesy spy movie, it applies just as well to getting started on any daunting task. “What we fear most is usually what we most need to do.”

Van Els’ desktop today

Here’s the Gist:

  • Distraction and clutter take a heavy psychological toll and can keep us from doing our best work.
  • When it comes to our personal technology, there are several things we can do to clean house.
  • Clear your desktop by putting all your files in one folder instead of strewn across your screen.
  • Turn off desktop notifications and remove distracting triggers like app icons and unnecessary bookmarks.
  • Leaving too many tabs open in your web browser slows down your machine and is distracting. Instead, save articles to Pocket to read later, use Evernote for pages you may need someday, and paste the URLs for websites inside the application where they’re needed.
  • Schedule 15 minutes on your calendar every week to do a desktop cleanse.
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Startup Marketing 101 with Aaron Carpenter, CCO at Hubnami

In March, Startup Grind Fremont hosted Aaron Carpenter, the Chief Customer Officer at Hubnami, a social media management startup where he oversees all sales, marketing, and user experience efforts for the company. Aaron Carpenter joined Hubnami with 17 years of experience in digital marketing, e-commerce, site design, and sales, most recently as Vice President of Global Marketing at The North Face. Here are some valuable tips from Aaron Carpenter about effective marketing:

Marketing to consumers

According to Aaron, with retail consumers, what you see is what you get. The biggest challenge is to be creative and concise. Normal consumer attention span is 10 seconds, which means you have to get your message across to them in that time span. So, key to marketing to consumers is:

Consumer Sales = 10 Second Message [Engage Emotionally + Provide Clear Message + Creative delivery]

Marketing to businesses

Marketing to businesses is more complicated and involves dealing with many layers. The first layer is the politics inside the company. Once you have moved past the politics, the second layer involves the company’s selling message. Unless your selling statement aligns with their message, it may be a hard sell. The last but not least important step is the ownership of funds. If the engaged partner does not have sufficient funds, your sale might not go through. All these layers make selling to businesses more complex than selling to consumers:

Business Sales = Selling Statement [Political maneuverability + Message alignment + Fund ownership]

What is the timeline to start marketing a new product?

According to Aaron, it is never too early to start marketing your product/company, since early marketing can help create awareness about the product.

Talking about the product creation process is a great way to connect with potential users and increase brand awareness.

Once the product is complete and ready for launch, other stories related to completion and launch can provide great marketing material for nearly the first 6 months. Telling why you are unique in your storyline help you gain credibility in eyes of users.

What is the best medium to market your product?

Aaron suggests never launching on all the social channels. Based on your product and target markets, there are specific social platforms that are better suited than others.

For consumer-focused products that involve lot of images, like fashion, Aaron recommends Facebook and Instagram. He points out that Linkedin as a marketing channel has not provided type of results that Google and Facebook provide. For Fintech startups, Aaron suggests looking into podcasts from thought leaders.

Marketing tools for startup founders

Finally, for all of the startup founders who want to achieve maximum mileage for their money, Aaron provides a list of tools that they can use to improve their marketing strategy:

  • To build social followers: Archie.co

  • To manage various news Feeds for tweeting & sharing: Feedly.com

  • Social Influencers: Readypulse.com

  • Analytics: simplymeasured.com, sprinklr.com, Adobe Social

Written by a Startup Grind Team – Abhishek Agarwal, Pankaj Jain and Shilpi Sharma

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Who’s Really in Charge of Addicting Us to Technology?

“Nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet,” wrote Tony Schwartz in a recent essay in The New York Times. It’s a common complaint these days. A steady stream of similar headlines accuse the Net and its offspring apps, social media sites and online games of addicting us to distraction.

There’s little doubt that nearly everyone who comes in contact with the Net has difficulty disconnecting. Just look around. People everywhere are glued to their devices. Many of us, like Schwartz, struggle to stay focused on tasks that require more concentration than it takes to post a status update. As one person ironically put it in the comments section of Schwartz’s online article, “As I was reading this very excellent article, I stopped at least half a dozen times to check my email.”

There’s something different about this technology: it is both pervasive and persuasive. But who’s at fault for its overuse? To find solutions, it’s important to understand what we’re dealing with. There are four parties conspiring to keep you connected and they may not be whom you’d expect.

The Tech

The technologies themselves, and their makers, are the easiest suspects to blame for our dwindling attention spans. Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” wrote, “The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention.”

Online services like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Buzzfeed and the like, are called out as masters of manipulation — making products so good, people can’t stop using them. After studying these products for several years, I wrote a book about how they do it. I learned it all starts with the business model.

Since these services rely on advertising revenue, the more frequently you use them, the more money they make. It’s no wonder these companies employ teams of people focused on engineering their services to be as engaging as possible. These products aren’t habit-forming by chance; it’s by design. They have an incentive to keep us hooked.

However, as good as these services are, there are simple steps we can take to keep them at bay. After all, we’re not injecting Instagram intravenously or freebasing Facebook. For example, we can change how often we receive the distracting notifications that trigger our compulsion to check.

According to Adam Marchick, CEO of mobile marketing company Kahuna, less than 15 percent of smartphone users ever bother to adjust their notification settings — meaning the remaining 85 percent of us default to the app makers’ every whim and ping. Google and Apple, who make the two dominant mobile operating systems, have made it far too difficult to adjust these settings so it’s up to us to take steps to ensure we set these triggers to suit our own needs, not the needs of the app makers’.

Your Boss

While companies like Facebook harvest attention to generate revenue from advertisers, other more generic technologies have no such agenda. Take email, for example. No one company “owns” email and the faceless protocol couldn’t care less how often you use it. Yet to many, email is the most habit-forming medium of all. We check email at all hours of the day, whenever we can — before meetings begin, waiting in line for lunch, at red lights, on the toilet — we’re obsessed. But why? Because that’s what the boss wants.

Near the top of the list of individuals responsible for your seeming addiction to technology is the person who pays you. For almost all white-collar jobs, email is the primary tool of corporate communication. A slow response to a message could hurt not only your reputation but also your livelihood.

Unfortunately, being chained to technology can leave little time for higher order thinking. Real work — requiring the kind of creativity and problem solving that only comes from uninterrupted focus — no longer happens in the office, it starts at home after the kids are put to bed.

Cal Newport, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, calls this sort of work “deep work.” In his book by the same name, Newport writes, “Deep work is to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task, and shallow work describes activities that are more logistical in nature, that don’t require intense concentration.” Playing email Ping-Pong with colleagues is shallow work.

Newport recommends people discuss the appropriate ratio of deep and shallow work with their employers. “Get your boss to actually try to commit to a vision like, ‘About 50% of your time should be unbroken and 50% should be doing these shallow tasks.’” Newport continues, “When they’re actually confronted with how much time you’re spending trying to produce real results with your skills, they have to start thinking, ‘Okay, we need to change some things.’”

Your Friends

Think about this familiar scene. People gathered around a table, enjoying food and each other’s company. There’s laughter and a bit of light banter. Then, during a lull in the conversation, someone takes out their phone to check who knows what. Barely anyone notices and no one says a thing.

Now, imagine the same dinner, but instead of checking their phone, the person belches — loudly. Everyone notices. Unless the meal takes place in a fraternity house, the flagrant burp is considered bad manners. The impolite act violates the basic rules of etiquette.

One has to wonder: why don’t we apply the same social norms to checking phones during meals, meetings and conversations as we do to other antisocial behaviors? Somehow, we accept it and say nothing when someone offends.

The reality is, taking one’s phone out at the wrong time is worse than belching because, unlike other peccadillos, checking tech is contagious. Once one person looks at their phone, other people feel compelled to do the same, starting a churlish chain reaction. The more people are on their phones, the less people are talking until finally you’re the only one left not reading email or checking Twitter.

From a societal perspective, phone checking is less like burping in public and more like another bad habit. Our phones are like cigarettes — something to do when we’re anxious, bored or when fidgety fingers need something to fiddle with. Seeing others enjoy a puff, or sneak a peek, is too tempting to resist and soon everyone is doing it.

The technology, your boss, and your friends, all influence how often you find yourself using (or overusing) these gadgets. But there’s still someone who deserves scrutiny — the person holding the phone.

You

I have a confession. Even though I study habit-forming technology for a living, disconnecting is not easy for me. I’m online far more than I’d like. Like Schwartz and so many others, I often find myself distracted and off task. I wanted to know why so I began self-monitoring to try to understand my behavior. That’s when I discovered an uncomfortable truth.

I use technology as an escape. When I’m doing something I’d rather not do, or when I am someplace I’d rather not be, I use my phone to port myself elsewhere. I found that this ability to instantly shift my attention was often a good thing, like when passing time on public transportation. But frequently my tech use was not so benign.

When I faced difficult work, like thinking through an article idea or editing the same draft for the hundredth time, for example, a more sinister screen would draw me in. I could easily escape discomfort, temporarily, by answering emails or browsing the web under the guise of so-called “research.” Though I desperately wanted to lay blame elsewhere, I finally had to admit that my bad habits had less to do with new-age technology and more to do with old-fashioned procrastination.

It’s easy to blame technology for being so distracting, but distraction is nothing new. Aristotle and Socrates debated the nature of “akrasia” — our tendency to do things against our interests. If we’re honest with ourselves, tech is just another way to occupy our time and minds. If we weren’t on our devices, we’d likely do something similarly unproductive.

Personal technology is indeed more engaging than ever, and there’s no doubt companies are engineering their products and services to be more compelling and attractive. But would we want it any other way? The intended result of making something better is that people use it more. That’s not necessarily a problem, that’s progress.

These improvements don’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to control our use of technology. In order to make sure it doesn’t control us, we should come to terms with the fact that it’s more than the technology itself that’s responsible for our habits. Our workplace culture, social norms and individual behaviors all play a part. To put technology in its place, we must be conscious not only of how technology is changing, but also of how it is changing us.

Originally written by Nir Eyal on Nir and Far


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Jeremy WebbWho’s Really in Charge of Addicting Us to Technology?
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The Billion Dollar Mind Trick: What's Actually Triggering Us?

Yin asked not to be identified by her real name. A young addict in her mid-twenties, she lives in Palo Alto and, despite her addiction, attends Stanford University. She has all the composure and polish you’d expect of a student at a prestigious school, yet she succombs to her habit throughout the day. She can’t help it; she’s compulsively hooked.

Yin is an Instagram addict. The photo sharing social network, recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, captured the minds of Yin and 40 million others like her. The acquisition demonstrates the increasing importance–and immense value created by–habit-forming technologies. Of course, the Instagram purchase price was driven by a host of factors including a rumored bidding war for the company. But at its core, Instagram is the latest example of an enterprising team, conversant in psychology as much as technology, that unleashed an addictive product on users who made it part of their daily routines.

Like all addicts, Yin doesn’t realize she’s hooked. “It’s just fun,” she says as she captures her latest in a collection of moody snapshots reminiscent of the late 1970s. “I don’t have a problem or anything. I just use it whenever I see something cool. I feel I need to grab it before it’s gone.”

THE TRIGGER IN YOUR HEAD

Instagram manufactured a predictable response inside Yin’s brain. Her behavior was reshaped by a reinforcement loop which, through repeated conditioning, created a connection between the things she sees in the world around her and the app inside her pocket.

When a product is able to become tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a pre-existing habit, it creates an “internal trigger.” Unlike external triggers, which are sensory stimuli, like a phone ringing or an ad online telling us to “click here now!,” you can’t see, touch, or hear an internal trigger. Internal triggers manifest automatically in the mind and creating them is the brass ring of consumer technology.

We check Twitter when we feel boredom. We pull up Facebook when we’re lonesome. The impulse to use these services is cued by emotions. But how does an app like Instagram create internal triggers in Yin and millions of other users? Turns out there is a stepwise approach to create internal triggers:

1. EDUCATE AND ACQUIRE WITH EXTERNAL TRIGGERS

Instagram filled Twitter streams and Facebook feeds with whimsical sepia-toned images, each with multiple links back to the service. These external triggers not only helped attract new users, but also showed them how to use the product. Instagram effectively used external triggers to communicate what their service is for.

“Fast beautiful photo sharing,” as their slogan says, conveyed the purpose of the service. And by clearly communicating the use-case, Instagram was successful in acquiring millions of new users. But high growth is not enough. In a world full of digital distractions, Instagram needed users to employ the product daily.

2. CREATE DESIRE

To get users using, Instagram followed a product design pattern familiar among habit-forming technologies, the desire engine. After clicking through from the external trigger, users are prompted to install the app and they begin using it for the first time. The minimalist interface all but removes the need to think. With a click, a photo is taken and all kinds of sensory and social rewards ensue. Each photo taken and shared further commits the user to the app. Subsequently, users change not only their behavior, but also their minds.

3. AFFIX THE INTERNAL TRIGGER

Finally, a habit is formed. Users no longer require an external stimulus to use Instagram because the internal trigger happens on its own. As Yin said, “I just use it whenever I see something cool.” Having viewed the “popular” tab of the app thousands of times, she’s honed her understanding of what “cool” is. She’s also received feedback from friends who reward her with comments and likes. Now she finds herself constantly on the hunt for images that fit the Instagram style. Like a never-ending scavenger hunt, she feels compelled to capture these moments.

For millions of users like Yin, Instagram is a harbor for emotions and inspirations, a virtual memoir in pretty pixels. By thoughtfully moving users from external to internal triggers, Instagram designed a persistent routine in peoples’ lives. Once the users’ internal triggers began to fire, competing services didn’t stand a chance. Each snapshot further committed users to Instagram, making it indispensable to them, and apparently to Facebook as well.

Originally written by Nir Eyal on Nir and Far.

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How to Build 44,000 Facebook Fans in 3 Months

I was scrolling through the various notifications on my lock screen last week when I came across one I don’t often get. There, next to the blue iMessage bubble, were a few surprising words. I swiped to unlock.

With only about an hour per day and $800 in total Facebook ad spend, my buddy had turned an experiment in his free time to over 40,000 fans and has now received two offers to acquire his page.

I. Background

Chin Fong is the chap who sent me the message. He’s a former colleague and product guy who thought it would be fun to grow a Facebook page from scratch on a random topic. It was strictly to learn something new in his spare time, but quickly turned into a bit of a success story.

We started with a list of all the top fan pages on Facebook and their associated likes to see if we we could detect any patterns. It was useful for discussion purposes but ultimately led our thinking in a different way. Namely, coming up with a few niche markets to A/B test against each other. Chin started 4 Facebook groups:

  • NYCity Gardening: Notice the creative naming convention, combining ‘NYC’ with ‘City’ because many page names were already taken for the city gardening concept.
  • Wedding Dreamer: Weddings represent a highly engaged audience and covers most of the adult population, we would have to answer the question of whether the market is too saturated already.
  • Crafts For Kids: For busy parents, a few do-it-yourself projects for kids seems like a problem that needs solving. Parents don’t have much time to find, prepare, and run a project in what little free time they already have so this could serve as a potential resource.
  • Clowns, Ghosts & Creepy Stuff: Not everyone loves horror, so there isn’t as many folks interested in it or talking about it online. So, this serviced as a good niche to test.

As you might expect, the niche pages did better for a few reasons. First, because there isn’t as much competition. And second, but also counterintuitively, it’s easier to find compelling content in the long-tail of things like horror than for a generic topic like gardening. As of today, the total likes for each page are as follows:

  1. Clowns, Ghosts & Creepy Stuff: 44,380 likes
  2. Crafts for Kids: 337 likes
  3. Wedding Dreamer: 19 likes
  4. City Gardening: 13 likes

Each page started at exactly zero fans. It took about 1.5 hours per day in the beginning and about 30 minutes per day towards the end to grow the Horror page to over 40,000 fans.

Once you reach that threshold, you’ll begin receiving acquisitions requests. In this case, the first came from a woman who worked for a marketing agency and wanted to buy the Horror page because they thought it could help promote other things for their clients. The price they were offering? $6,000. As I write this today, a second offer came in from another party offering $10,000.

That’s over a $9000 profit (10x return) for only about 80 hours of work. Not too shabby for something that continues to grow organically with very little work.

I. First Month

The first week is where we separate the wheat from the chaffe. You need to do two things every day for each page: 3 pieces of content and buy $5 ads. Check the pages at the end of each day to see which are getting traction. In the first week, expect to spend about an hour and a half each day doing this. Chin Fong recommends:

Use bitly links for every URL that you post to the page so you can track engagement. Facebook tells you a lot, but sometimes it’s better to have two data points so you can cross-check everything. Also, bitly lets you sort by most clicked links so you can see quickly what works and what doesn’t.

Something that will take more time in the beginning but pay dividends in efficiency later is to collect a library of content up front. Create a folder on your computer and drop as many images, links, or videos you will want to use later. Then you don’t have to search online every day. If you’re feeling lazy, just pull from the content you’ve already collected.

You can even go so far as prescheduling everything to go out the next day. Write it up at night or in moments of free time, then let it be posted by Facebook at the day and time you set.

After the first week, drop the two underperforming pages that are getting less likes. In Chin’s case, it was the generic, highly competitive ones that did not perform well: weddings and gardening.

For the last two weeks in the first month, use the same approach outlined above. A/B test the remaining two pages against each other to see which one has not just more likes, but higher engagement by the fans. In Chin’s case his two remaining pages were neck-and-neck, gaining almost the same amount of likes, but the Horror page was getting triple the engagement.

Chin Fong said:

One page was getting 3x more interactivity from fans. The number of likes were the same, but it didn’t matter, because it’s all about engagement.

Kill the less engaging page, even if you have more likes. Eventually that interactivity with potential superfans will become more valuable and allow the page to feel more active for new fans who just arrive.

II. Second Month

In the second month, it’s time to refine the tactics you’re using with the ads. Once you have them running, you begin getting analytics on who clicked on your ads like sex and age group. Now you’ve got yourself a feedback loop, but remember, this is after you pay.

After paying for ads on Facebook, you get some insightful analytics about the audience.

Chin tried various strategies and kept refining. His goal was to get the price down so he was paying no more than $0.02 per click. Your goal should also be to try different types of targeting to reduce the cost per click. After all, why pay $3 when you can get the same fan interested for $2.

If you’ve never set up a Facebook ad, have a gander at Facebook’s official guide to help you get started. One important aspect to pay attention to is the topics your audience is interested in. For the Horror page, Chin chose things like “American Horror Story”, “The Exorcist”, and “CreepyPasta” (a competitive page).

Whatever your page is, choose some things that your target audience might also have liked on Facebook, including other popular pages. You might try underserved geographies like Chin did with Trinidad and Tobago. The competition for reaching these people is likely to be less, which means you pay a lower price per ad click.

Below are a few examples showing the ad targeting he used.

After choosing your target audience, you then need to select a compelling image and write engaging ad copy. For example:

Be scientific about your approach to the ads.

Choose 4 combinations running at the same time: 2 with the same image and 2 with the same copy. Then whichever ad combination performs best, use that to A/B test a different audience. Keep repeating this process with different variables until you find a combination that gets you the most fans at the cheapest price (e.g., $2 per click).

It’s a bit like continuous deployment, only applied to ad cost optimization. Facebook gives you the keys to success for pretty much everything except the content. For example, below is an example of the engagement for the page throughout the day so you know the best time to post. Remember from above that you can schedule in advance. Use this page to inform you of the best time for your audience.

Facebook has an incentive to make their app as engaging as possible, especially for advertisers who earn them revenue. So they’re going to keep giving you data to help you make decisions and optimize your page for their users. For example:

Whenever you post a piece of content you can see how many views, clicks, and overall engagement to help you with this optimization. For example, you might switch between articles and images or different subheadings and comments. Questions like “Is the image not working, or is the title not working?” become important.

We found that asking questions of the audience creates the most engagement. For example, Chin promoted an image for the movie Conjuring 2, which was trending at the time, and got 3 million views due to the question posed within the image. Because it said something that was potentially false, it created a conversation around the topic. That drove people to see the movie and find out for themselves if the claim was true. Brilliant.

The best part is you don’t even have to create this content. You can find it online and post it to your page. 3 million views for 3 minutes of work.

At this point you might be asking whether you should boost posts. Based on our experience, it works when you’re first getting started building a community for your page. But after you have many folks who’ve liked your page and are engaging with the content, it’s a waste of money. You won’t reach many new people who haven’t already come across the page.

III. Third Month

After you build your page to 10,000 to 20,000 fans, you’re allowed to get demographic insights from Facebook on your page and other pages. As long as you’re paying for ads, you get data about your page. But this goes deeper. Much, much deeper. You get data on your fan’s education level, relationship status, other sites they like, activities they like, devices used, household income, size of their house, and what they spend their money on. You see pretty much everything they’ve ever put into Facebook.

How do you use all of this new data to your benefit? Refine your ads to make them even better, of course. Once you see what your general group of fans like, you can go to those other pages and see what type of content your competitors are posting, then mimic that on your own page.

Note: it’s important to respond to any message or question quickly. There’s one fan that messages Chin every night with non-horror related chats. It’s things like, “How’s it going”. Chin always responds as fast as he can. He shows a human side to his page. That’s what it means to build a community. You must engage with them. They’re real people with feelings after all.

Now that your page is running and you’ve reached 40,000 fans, you should be spending about 30 minutes per day for 5–6 content posts. From folks I’ve talked to in the industry, spending a minimum of $500 per month in Facebook ads will get you the greatest reach. I have a feeling Facebook ranks advertisers by dollar spend and will help out the pages that spend more and spend consistently on ads.

IV. A Note On How To Find Content

Did you know that you can track your competitors and reuse the content they post for your own page? It creates a bit of an ethical dilemma, but Facebook does make this easy. They show you the top competitor pages, as so:

And then shows you the top post from each page:

Oy, that’s a lot of temptation. But I don’t think Facebook much cares as long as their users keep logging in every month. Other options you have for finding more images include searching sites like buzzsumo to see whats trending and the best place to share it:

Finally, there’s also Reddit or imgur to see what’s trending for your topic and post that to your page.

V. What’s Next

Another interesting development will happen after you reach about 40,000 fans. Fans will request to be page administrators. It engages the super fans even more and removes you from having to do the heavy lifting every day. Instead, check in briefly to make sure everything is still on brand.

In essence, once you reach a bit of scale, your community will start to work on your behalf and you don’t have to do as much. It just works. This is the power of the internet.

You don’t have to use shady tactics or buy likes from a social media farm in order to build a community of your own. You can use the free tools available to everyone, a few hundred bucks in ads, and a bit of time.

The real value in doing this isn’t to get acquired, however. Rather, it’s to learn about how to grow a community from scratch for when you want to do it for a real product. This is just practice.

When you have nothing to promote, it makes it easier to focus on the people instead of your product or service. And it’s the promotion part that always gets people in trouble. Your priority may not always be your audience’s priority.

A great lesson.

So that’s how you build a Facebook page from 0 to 40,000 fans in a few short months and get an offer to be acquired for $10,000. Give us a shout if you have any questions.

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Jeremy WebbHow to Build 44,000 Facebook Fans in 3 Months
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6 Social Media Insider Tips You Need to Implement

Social media is changing fast, with new social networks popping up daily and innovative advertising features being introduced more frequently.

Marketers need to be responsive and adaptive to stay ahead of the curve. But instead of trying to figure out best social media strategies alone through trial and error, learn from seasoned practitioners. Here are six power tips I picked up from a group of veteran social media marketers at the recent SocialPro conference here in Seattle, WA:

1. Pinterest engagement happens over time

Pinterest is a bit of an anomaly in the social media world. Unlike Instagram, where posts generate 90% of all social interactions within their first 13 hours after going live, it takes a pin three and half months to get 50% of its engagement. Although Pinterest’s prolonged engagement window works against the goal of having an instantly viral social media success story, there is a long-tail benefit for advertisers, who generally pay only for the initial clicks or engagement. Any remaining activity essentially represents free media.

Because 80% of Pinterest pins are repins, representatives from the company advise marketers to tag and caption each pin carefully and make it easily discoverable and maximally keyword-friendly. Indeed, many have compared Pinterest to a search engine for compiling shopping lists, where people search for specific keywords and bookmark relevant links.

2. Facebook is an excellent Lead Gen tool

This social media juggernaut has worked hard in recent years to turn into a commerce powerhouse. The transition has included introducing a “Buy” button to take users directly to e-commerce websites and a “Shop” tab for small businesses to sell directly through Facebook. The company has also been testing a product-dedicated news feed or shopping section with a select number of retail partners.

To enhance the ROI of its mobile ads, Facebook also launched “Lead Gen ad products,” which allow prospects to submit contact information without leaving the app. According to a senior executive at a digital ad agency, this new tool has made it easier for users and thereby greatly increased Facebook campaign conversation rates.

3. Pay attention to Snapchat

With 10 billion video views daily, Snapchat is quickly becoming the most active social network after Facebook. Although one might legitimately question the value of producing Snapchat content only to see it disappear after 24 hours, the short life cycle  of “snaps” can make short-term marketing campaigns like flash sales and limited-time promotions work magic. According to Snapchat marketing experts, advertisers who are new to Snapchat can use their existing Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels to cross-promote their Snapchat accounts, which can lead to great results. Another trick of the trade is to hire Snapchat “influencers” who can either create native content targeting the platform’s younger users or take over advertiser Snapchat accounts and help attract followers.

4. Social ads are part experience, part sales

Obviously, the ultimate goal of any form of advertising, social ads included, is to generate sales. But in order to cultivate long-term relationships with customers, advertisers need to invest in user experience when constructing social ads. Instagram, for example, is an environment platform where highly aesthetic images overwhelmingly trump sales tactics like spamming hashtags to increase reach. To create better ad experiences for its users, Facebook introduced its new Canvas ad format — a full-screen, immersive, and fast-loading interface that’s built for the mobile audience. Marketers clearly need to set up different KPIs for campaign goals on different social platforms, such as a “view-through” rate for enhancing brand image via video, and click-through rates for measuring purchase intent.

5. Video ads are an unstoppable force

From Twitter to Instagram and Facebook, all major social platforms now offer autoplay video functions. Twitter has rolled out “conversational ads,” in which brands can include a call- to-action button alongside branded videos to encourage users to share video content with their followers. Strong engagement numbers speak to this trend: native Facebook videos generate twice as many views and seven times as much engagement as embedded videos hosted on external sites like YouTube. Another interesting fact is that 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound, which means that marketers need to produce ads accordingly and caption auto-play videos with eye-catching text overlay.

6. Plug social media into every step of your customer lifecycle

For social media marketers, one of the biggest challenges is to document a direct correlation between social activities and sales performance. But it is possible to track how social media helps drive consumers down the purchase funnel by documenting the impact of social interactions with brands through each step of the process. In today’s 24-7 social-driven world, consumers look to social media for information at every stage of the purchase process — whether they are looking for inspiration, weighing different options, or in the final stage of making a purchase decision. Therefore, advertisers should develop a range of social content tailored toward consumers at different phases of the sales cycle. They should also use rigorous conversion-tracking tools that shed insight into the effectiveness of social promotion in influencing customer decision-making.

What social media marketing strategies help you stay ahead of the curve?

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6 Tricks For Implementing Purposeful and Effective Digital Content

Absolutely anyone can craft content. Everything is ‘content’ but not everything is worthwhile content. To be useful and well-received, your digital content has to have a purpose. This guide will show you six tricks for implementing purposeful content:

1. Establish an end goal

Before you do anything, determine your end goal and write it down. This could be the goal for your business at the end of the year or the goal at the end of a long campaign. Everything must conform to this goal. Your overall objective will dictate whether your campaign succeeds or fails, which in turn will influence future campaigns.

2. Develop brand awareness

Content is mostly about branding. Whenever someone reads a blog post by one of your writers, they should instantly remember your brand. To implement your digital content, you have to increase brand awareness. A big part of this is keeping a consistent tone and style.

To evaluate brand consistency, hire a reliable team that works for you on a regular basis. Try not to dilute your team with too many unnecessary personnel.

3. Generate trust

To build authority, you have to generate trust. Following the best SEO best practices for digital content, make sure that you fact check all content before releasing it. If a study or contentious point of view is involved, check the facts and backup your content with links to credible sources.

The last thing you want to do is make unsubstantiated claims. That can lead to disaster in the long run.

4. Focus on boosting rankings

SEO is a big part of generating organic traffic. Even though you are writing for the market, you still have to deliver what Google wants. Be aware of the latest trends and make sure that you are conforming to the latest SEO guidelines. You don’t want to inadvertently make mistakes.

Google can change its rules at any point without any prior notice. You can’t expect them to directly inform you about any upcoming changes. To stay updated, keep up with the latest news and consider whether you need to evolve your strategy.

5. Get more viable traffic

Traffic alone means absolutely nothing because people do not solely operate based on the amount of traffic they pull in. Traffic has to lead to conversions. You need to target the right people and ensure conversion when they reach your website.

Think about how you can convert that traffic. This may require extensive split testing. You may need to test out different landing pages and calls to action. There are many reasons why you may or may not be getting the traffic levels you want.

Remember, quality always matters over quantity.

6. Make social media your crowning glory

Social media is the most powerful way of making your content visible. Any digital marketing strategy must make social media its primary method of distribution. Ensure that you are targeting the right social media networks and taking your time to find out what’s trending and what your competitors are doing.

With social media marketing, knowledge is power, so make yourself powerful by doing your research. It will serve you well.

What do you think is the most important part of implementing your digital content strategy?

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Jeremy Webb6 Tricks For Implementing Purposeful and Effective Digital Content
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