Body Scan: How Precision Engineering Aids Human Acumen

first_imgOften the most interesting science stories are the ones about us– how our bodies and minds function.  Actions we perform each day without much thought are made possible by precision engineering, sometimes at the molecular level.  Here is a selection of news briefs about human superpowers.Electrical engineering: We have untold myriads of electrical voltage sensors in our cells.  They are so small, scientists must use extremely delicate techniques of X-ray crystallography to try to determine their structure.  Science Now summarizes recent papers by Roderick MacKinnon et al. (see 05/01/2003, 3/12/2002 entries) about potassium channels in the membranes of neurons.  The structure of the pores and the adjacent voltage sensors is coming into focus.  There are four positively-charged arginine molecules (amino acids) that sit on top of the voltage sensors that surround the channel.  “These charged arginines,” the article says, “move in response to changes in the voltage across the cell membrane, pressing up and down on the lever that opens and closes the pore.”  Just how this movement takes place is still unknown, but it happens really fast.  That’s what makes you cry ouch almost instantly after stubbing your toe: an electrical current, set up by these voltage-dependent ion channels, travelled from neuron to neuron from toe to brain in a fraction of a second.Optical engineering:  What could be clearer than a cornea?  This outer surface of the eye looks simple, like a glass lens, but it is very complex.  EurekAlert summarized work by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  The scientists identified 141 distinct proteins in the cornea, 70% of which were previously unknown.  (For the structure of protein, see our online book).  These complex molecules perform many important roles, such as “antimicrobial defense, heme and iron transport, tissue protection against UV-radiation and oxidative stress,” it lists.  “Several other proteins were known antiangiogenic factors, which prevent the formation of blood vessels.”  The cornea is not a mere gateway for light, but a lively, active place, constantly undergoing maintenance, repair and cleaning.  The September issue of Sky and Telescope recommends that you think carefully before deciding on laser surgery on this delicate, dynamic, living surface.Software engineering: Perceiving perception:  Your brain uses database technology.  A press release from Howard Hughes Medical Institute states that “The brain may interpret the information it receives from sensory neurons using a code more complicated than scientists previously thought.”  This “perception code,” studied by experiments with monkeys (which presumably have similar neuronal equipment to humans) found that “most attention to the first 250 milliseconds of neural firing, and that their attention falls off exponentially from there.”  Maybe some form of attention deficit is built in to deal with TMUI (too much uninteresting information).    See also a related report on EurekAlert about work at Johns Hopkins, “How the brain understands pictures.”  Researchers found that “the system continuously organizes the whole scene, even though we usually are attending only to a small part of it.”  Three or four times per second, the brain organizes the chunks of a scene into something like a database, according to a “sophisticated program” to “select and process the information that is relevant at a given moment.”  As one researcher visualized it, imagine the challenge of pulling order out of a chaotic jumble of Lego blocks.  He said, “the visual system first has to arrange this bag of blocks into useful ‘chunks’ and provide threads by which one or the other chunk can be pulled out for further processing.”The Cellular 007:  When major threats arise, sometimes you have to give the cops their leash and turn them loose to do whatever is necessary to maintain security.  EurekAlert reported on work by Yokoyama et al. at Washington School of Medicine.  They found that natural killer cells act like the “James Bond” of the immune system.  Under certain circumstances, the body gives them a “license to kill” – “the arsenals of natural killer cells only become fully armed after a receptor on their surfaces interacts with a molecule on the surfaces of other cells.”  That’s the warrant to search and destroy.  The article says that these natural killer cells are produced in the bone marrow, and that the entire population is replaced in a week’s time.  “The molecular details of the process were so unusual,” says the report, “that Yokoyama and his colleagues found themselves struggling to develop terms to describe it to other immunologists.”Safe Stem Cells:  Scientists at Pittsburgh School of Medicine, reports EurekAlert, have found that discarded placentas apparently contain stem cells with the “same potential as the more controversial counterparts,” embryonic stem cells.  If so, then “placentas would no longer be relegated to the trashcan,” but become a lifesaving source of regenerative material.  See also the MSNBC News report.Navigational Guidance and Control:  Those orthogonal semicircular canals in our inner ears do more than just help balance.  Because they respond to acceleration and deceleration, reports EurekAlert on work by the Institute of Neurology in London, they provide the brain with inputs for an “on-line movement guidance system” that is crucial when visual cues are absent, such as finding your way in a dark room.  Additionally, the otolith organs (see 10/10/2003 entry), part of the vestibular system, are essential for determining which way is up.  The article states that “the inner-ear vestibular organs provide what is essentially an on-line movement guidance system for maintaining the accuracy of whole-body movements.”  This not only helps those of us lost in the dark, but highly-trained specialists undergoing “complex, high-precision whole-body movements, such as those of the gymnast or circus performer.”  Visualize an acrobat balancing and catching a jug on his head and making it spin around, or picture an Olympic gymnast on uneven bars nailing a double twisting dismount, or a skater executing a perfect triple Lutz.  You can bet those vestibular organs are working overtime.  The full article by Brian L. Day and Richard C. Fitzpatrick, loaded with praise for the vestibular system, can be found on Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 15, 9 August 2005, pages R583-R586.  Here is the opening paragraph:Small, beautifully formed and locked in the skull, the vestibular organs continuously bombard the brain with messages.  The messages are quite unlike any others.  They tell of accelerations, how the head is rotating and translating and its orientation in space.  The messages never stop and cannot be turned off.  Even when we are completely motionless, they signal the relentless pull of gravity.  Perhaps because of their constant monologue, the vestibular sensation is different to the other senses.  There is no overt, readily recognizable, localisable, conscious sensation from these organs.  They provide a silent sense. A body is a terrible thing to waste (speaking of waist, there can be too much of a good thing).  Whether your body is fully functional or afflicted with a malady or two, you have a marvelous set of capabilities, and a dignity underscored by the complexity of the engineering that went into your making.  Even if you are completely disabled, there is more complex engineering working properly under the skin than you could possibly realize.  Fill in the box you were given.  Exercise, eat right, practice.  Maintain your machinery in optimum working order.  Aim your body at something noble and worthwhile.  You have a huge support infrastructure, with a staff of trillions behind the scenes, hoping you will make the right choices.(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Read your way through 20 years of democracy

first_img Through the sharp yet loving eyes of 11-year-old Lily we see the whole exotic, vivid, vigorous culture of the so-called Cape coloured community at the time when apartheid threatened its destruction. As Lily’s beautiful but angry mother returns to Cape Town, determined to fight for justice for her family, so the story of Lily’s past – and future – erupts. 1999 Disgrace by JM Coetzee (Penguin) After years teaching Romantic poetry, David Lurie, middle-aged and twice divorced, has an impulsive affair with a student. The affair sours; he is denounced and summoned before a committee of inquiry. Willing to admit his guilt, but refusing to yield to pressure to repent publicly, he resigns and retreats to his daughter Lucy’s isolated smallholding. For a time, his daughter’s influence and the natural rhythms of the farm promise to harmonise his discordant life. But the balance of power in the country is shifting. He and Lucy become victims of a savage and disturbing attack which brings into relief all the faultlines in their relationship.2000 13 Cents by K Sello Duiker (Kwela) K Sello Duiker was, before his death in 2005, widely regarded as South Africa’s most promising young writer. 13 Cents, his explosive debut, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize Best First Book Award (Africa Region) and has gone on to become a modern South African classic. 2001 The Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda (Oxford University Press) Set in the Eastern Cape, where in the 1850s, a 16-year-old prophetess Nongqawuse instructed the Xhosa nation to kill all their cattle and destroy their crops. She foretold that on an appointed day, the dead would arise, the kraals would be full of cattle, the silos full of fresh grain, and the white colonists and others who did not believe in her would be swept into the sea. Mda weaves a captivating story about a family caught up in the events of the 1850s, and their descendants’ continuing feud in the 1990s.2002 The Restless Supermarket by Ivan Vladislavic (Umuzi) It is 1993, and Aubrey Tearle’s world is shutting down. He has recently retired from a lifetime of proofreading telephone directories. His favourite haunt in Hillbrow, the Cafe Europa, is about to close its doors; the familiar old South Africa is already gone. Standards, he grumbles, are in decline, so bad-tempered, conservative Tearle embarks on a grandiose plan to enlighten his fellow citizens. The results are disastrous, hilarious and poignant.2003 Recessional for Grace by Marguerite Poland (Penguin) When a post-graduate student of African languages, looking for an angle for her doctoral thesis, comes across an obscure and incomplete lexicon of metaphorical names for indigenous Sanga-Nguni cattle by long-dead academic CJ Godfrey, she knows, instinctively, that she has found her subject. She is given access to his personal papers and field notes, recorded in a remote valley in 1946. Among his many photographs is a small print of a delicately patterned cow. In finding it, she discovers – unwittingly – a cipher to his world.2004 Dog Eat Dog by Niq Mhlongo (Kwela) Dingz, your “average Wits student”, spends most of his time with his friends, drinking and discussing current affairs – Aids, racism, South African politics and history. Set at the time of the first democratic elections, this novel offers a glimpse into the lives of the “kwaito generation”, both in the township and on campus.2005 The Promise of Happiness by Justin Cartwright (Bloomsbury) A classic novel of English life and family love. Prodigal daughter Juliet is about to be released from prison after being involved in an art theft. This brings the family back together, reopening the wounds caused by her imprisonment.2006 Coconut by Kopano Matlwa (Jacana) Coconut tells the story of black children who grow up in white neighbourhoods, go to private schools and have white friends. As is the case with any child, all that these children want is to grow, to be loved; but most importantly, to fit in. Fitting in, however, comes at the cost of one’s blackness – too white for black, and too black for white.2007 Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk, translated by Michiel Heyns (Tafelberg) On the farm Grootmoedersdrift, tragic and unexpected events are triggered by a number of fateful shifts of power and dependence in the intimate relationships between four family members.2008 Blood Kin by Ceridwen Dovey (Penguin) A chef, a portraitist and a barber are taken hostage in a bloody coup to overthrow their boss, the President. They are held in a castle high above a nameless capital city. Far below them, chaos tears through the streets. As the old order collapses, so does the network of secrets and lies that hid the brutal truth about their own dark passions.2009 The Rowing Lesson by Ann Landsman (Kwela) Betsy Klein is summoned to the bedside of her dying father in a South African hospital. Faced with having to say goodbye, she imaginatively recreates his life – his struggles to become a doctor after being orphaned young and his fight to win the respect of his Boer patients as a Jew – as well as her own experiences with him as a father.2010 Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Jacana) Zinzi has a sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a client turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons. Set in a wildly re-imagined Johannesburg, it swirls refugees, crime, the music industry, African magic and the nature of sin together into a heady brew.2011 Young Blood by Sifiso Mzobe (Kwela) Sipho is a young man living in Umlazi, Durban. At 17, he’s a school drop-out who helps out at his father’s mechanic shop during the day. Soon Sipho’s love for fast cars and money leads him into a life of crime that brings him close to drugs, prison time and death.2012 Lost Ground by Michiel Heyns (Jonathan Ball) A richly textured novel set in contemporary South Africa. The murder of a beautiful woman shatters the rural village peace of Alfredville, and her husband, the police station commander, is jailed as chief suspect. Her cousin Peter, a freelance writer in London, returns to South Africa for the first time in decades – unsettled, curious, but also in search of a career-defining story. Lost Ground explores questions of xenophobia and prejudice, of national, sexual and personal identity, and what it means to be a foreigner wherever you go.2013 For the Mercy of Water by Karen Jayes (Penguin) In a country devastated by drought, water has become the priceless commodity over which a deadly war is being waged. When an unexpected rain leads a group of ruthless water security guards to a town long since thought abandoned, they find an old woman, identified only as Mother, and four girls in a classroom. When strange, dislocated fragments of Mother’s story appear in the media, a young writer is intrigued enough to set off on a journey to find her, a journey that will take her into the heart of a broken country in search of a truth that no one wants uncovered. The books team at the Sunday Times has put together a list of the top South African books that will give readers insight into the country’s past 20 years of democracy. We feature a selection of their award-wining and best-selling fiction titles below. To download their colourful infographic, made up of the covers of the selected “notable reads, as a high-res PDF, click here. To download a high-res image in jpg format, click here.Highlights from 20 years of fiction1994 None to Accompany Me by Nadine Gordimer (Penguin) In the extraordinary period immediately before the first non-racial election and the beginning of majority rule in South Africa, Vera Stark, the protagonist of Nadine Gordimer’s passionate novel, weaves a ruthless interpretation of her past into her participation in the present as a lawyer representing blacks in the struggle to reclaim the land.1995 Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda (Picador) In Zakes Mda’s first novel, Toloki is a “professional mourner” in a vast and violent city of the new South Africa. At a funeral for a young boy, Toloki is reunited with Noria, a woman from his village. Together they help each other to heal the past, and as their story interweaves with those of their acquaintances, this elegant short novel provides a magical and painful picture of South Africa.1996 The Year of the Tapeworm by Chris van Wyk (Pan Macmillan) Mandla “Scara” Nhlabatsi is a journalist who yearns to write “tales of fantasy and imagination”. In the small hours one morning, he is woken up from a drunken stupor by urgent knocking at the door of his tiny Sofasonke home. Scara stumbles out of bed to find the most unexpected visitors imaginable: the white President of a beleaguered government accompanied by one of his ministers. They have come to ask a favour. And so begins an uproarious sequence of adventures, stranger than any Scara’s overheated mind might have invented.1997 Kafka’s Curse by Achmat Dangor (Random House) From the award-winning poet Achmat Dangor, an imaginative reinterpretation of an old Arabic fairy tale unfolds in five magical narratives set in post-apartheid South Africa.1998 Dance with a Poor Man’s Daughter by Pamela Jooste (Transworld Publishers) Originally published by BooksLive. A selection republished here with kind permission.For the full list of both fiction and non-fiction titles – with short descriptions – visit the BooksLive blog at bookslive.co.za/bloglast_img read more

How to Crowdsource Videos for Your Business [Marketing Cast]

first_img Originally published Jan 10, 2011 3:30:00 PM, updated February 01 2017 Video Marketing Create a Contest for Best VideoLaunching a contest is a great way to go about crowdsourcing videos. Make sure the contest prize you offer is a significant sum, but not as big as the marketing budget for a full-blown video. Then, invite local film school students to participate and encourage them to create the best video assignment.See How Other Businesses Did ItHP, for instance, used the D&AD Student Awards to launch a similar contest in 2009. Its assignment was: “Present an idea which promotes HP Workstations ability to bring to life anything the creative mind can conceive.” The end result of this contest was brilliant! It enjoyed thousand of views and hundreds of positive comments.Give People OpportunityWhy would anyone participate in such a contest apart from the possibility of winning a prize? “They want the exposure,” says David. People are eager and excited to express their creativity and receive a public acknowledgment for it. So don’t think contests are a way to get a video for cheap. It is more about giving an opportunity to people who wouldn’t otherwise had it. Don’t exploit them but celebrate their unique perspective and knowledge.What is your recipe for creating valuable videos? Topics:center_img Videos present a great way to create remarkable content and expose your business to more PR opportunities. But coming up with creative ideas and engaging in video production can be time-consuming or expensive. That is where crowdsourced videos come in to offer the perfect solution for a clever and well-budgeted clip.In this episode of the Marketing Cast David Meerman Scott shares tips about crowdsourcing videos for your business. Watch the video below to hear his insights! Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

Help! My Sales Team Thinks Our Inbound Leads Suck

first_img Originally published Feb 12, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 I must have had the following conversation at least 50 times last year: “Mark, we love inbound marketing. We’ve completely overhauled our marketing so it aligns with the way prospects buy today, and we’re generating 10 times the leads we did in the past. It’s awesome. But my sales team does nothing but complain about these leads. They say the leads suck. What are we doing wrong?”Here’s what’s happening: Your typical salesperson has been honing his/her skills for years — sometimes decades — in the art and science of closing outbound leads. But inbound leads don’t act like outbound leads. So it’s not uncommon for inbound leads to look like they “suck” to your salespeople, when in fact, they’re just different. The “problems” your sales team has identified with your inbound leads are just signs pointing to the ways inbound leads act, think, and close differently than outbound leads do. Diagnose the “problem,” and your sales team can learn to work effectively with your new inbound leads. Here are my top five tips for transforming how your sales team approaches selling to inbound leads, and how Marketing can help.Tip #1: Don’t buy a list of companies in your target market.  Do generate lots of inbound leads and pass only the good fit companies to your sales team. Inbound marketing has turned the fit/pain funnel on its head. In an outbound model, companies start with a list of executives at a “perfect fit” company and bombard them with hundreds of calls and emails until 1% or 2% call back and admit they have pain. In an inbound model, all your leads have the pain your company solves. Otherwise, they would have never conducted that Google search, downloaded that whitepaper, or read that blog article that led them to you. The problem is that your company doesn’t sell to the entire world. Some percentage of these leads are just not a fit for your business. However, the inbound leads who are a fit are exceptional — and they close much faster and at a higher rate than your outbound opportunities.The problem here is that marketers get so excited to be generating hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of inbound leads each month, that they end up passing all these leads to sales. If Marketing passes the sales team 1,000 leads, only 100 of which are good, and Sales has to sift through 900 bad leads, they’re going to hate it, and they’re going to say things like, “These leads suck.” However, if Marketing can filter out the 900 less fit companies and pass along just the 100 good ones, their sales team will think they have the best marketing department in the world. As a result, Marketing and Sales must align to develop and implement a lead scoring system that makes sense and results in only good fit leads getting passed from Marketing to Sales.Tip #2: Don’t call high. Do call the inbound lead influencers, ask them what is going on, and then call high. Look … not every inbound lead is going to be a C-level executive. In fact, very few of them will be. You’re much more likely to get a mid-level manager, associate, or even an intern on the other end of the phone. So what does your typical salesperson think? “This isn’t a qualified buyer. This is an intern. These leads suck.”However, who do you think told the intern to do the Google search that led to your company? The C-suite. The inbound lead indicates that pain exists at that company — the pain you solve. So call the mid-level manager. Call the associate. Call the intern. But don’t try to sell them. You’re right — they’re not buyers. Instead, use that call to prepare yourself for the call with the executive. Ask them, “Why did you download that ebook? Why did you read that blog article? Who told you to conduct this research? Why? What is your boss’ key initiatives for 2013? What did your CEO talk about at the annual kick-off?” If you’re doing inbound marketing well, you’ll be surprised how much these leads trust you and how honest their answers will be.Now you’re in a position to call high. You don’t have to leave the typical voicemail …“Hi John, we help companies like you get more leads and customers from your website. Give me a call back so I can tell you more about ways we do this.” Instead, you can leave one that says …“Hi John, a number of people from your company have contacted me about effective lead generation strategies. I understand you’re hiring 10 new sales reps next quarter and need to increase lead generation by 35%. I’ve been working on a strategy with your team that I would like to run by you.” Now, which voicemail would make you more willing to call back?Tip #3:  Don’t lead with your company’s elevator pitch.  Do lead with your buyer’s interests.By the time they get passed on to your sales team, a typical inbound lead might have visited your website 15 times, read 11 blog articles, opened 3 emails from you, and downloaded 5 ebooks. They’re already several stages into the sales process before they’ve even spoken to someone from your company. So what do you think happens if a sales rep calls them up and leads with a stone-cold elevator pitch? It comes across as completely tone deaf to the prospect, right? It might even erode most of the trust your marketing team has worked so hard to build up. The lead hangs up on your salesperson, and again, your salesperson thinks, “These leads suck.”Instead, salespeople need to leverage all the data you’ve collected about your inbound leads in your contacts database. How they found your website, what pages they viewed most, what emails they opened and read, how often they shared your content on Twitter and Facebook: All of this tells you loads of information about what the prospect’s problems are and how you can help. Your salespeople should be using that information to open the conversation on the phone …Sales Rep: “Hi, Mary, this is Mark from HubSpot [pause because at this point Mary may start telling you how much they love your content and your company]. I noticed you downloaded our ebook on lead generation from LinkedIn. What specific questions did you have?”Mary: “Oh, I was just doing research. I didn’t know I’d actually get a call from a salesperson.”Sales Rep: “That’s okay. I’m actually looking at your company’s LinkedIn page right now and had two quick tips for you. Do you have a minute to go over them?”Mary wants to hear those tips. Mary will ask more questions. Mary will be impressed with how helpful and smart you are. Mary will wonder what she can buy from you. Congratulations! You no longer have a salesperson-prospect relationship, you have a doctor-patient relationship. Now you can diagnose whether you can help their company — and how.Tip #4: Don’t beg for an appointment.  Do qualify out non-buyers.  If you’ve never cold called before, you’re not missing out on much. Imagine a day where you dial the phone 100 times, leave 95 voicemail messages, and not one person calls you back. Of the five people who did pick up the phone, three hung up within the first five seconds. And when you do get somebody on the phone who’s willing to talk, it’s clear that he’s not really qualified to buy from you. But because you’re having such a lousy day of cold calling and feeling unloved — and because you don’t have enough leads to begin with, and beggars can’t be choosers — you book an appointment with them anyway. It happens more often than most salespeople are willing to admit.But with a steady stream of inbound leads flowing in, your salespeople can approach these initial conversations from a position of strength. Every minute you spend on the phone with an unqualified buyer is time you could be spending with a warm lead. Do build trust. Do understand the prospect’s needs. Do attempt to provoke pain if it doesn’t exist. But most importantly, do move on if they’re not a good fit. Thank your prospect for their time. Introduce them to someone else who can help if you know somebody. Encourage them to continue to enjoy your content. And quick … call that next inbound lead.Tip #5: Don’t “Always Be Closing.”Do “Always Be Helping.”Most salespeople, following the directive of the infamous movie Glengarry Glen Ross, adopt the rallying cry, “Always Be Closing.” But this is a disastrous approach to take with an inbound lead. The internet has shifted control from the salesperson to the buyer. People can research your company, research your competitors, understand your price, and sometimes even try your product — all without speaking to a salesperson. And by the time an inbound lead reaches your sales team, that’s exactly what that person has done.Sales should not start out by looking to close. They shouldn’t even be thinking about pitching your product. Instead, they should look to help the buyer. Strive to uncover the thing your buyer is worried about — the thing she’s stuck on — and if you find it, help her with it. Don’t try to tie it to your product. Just help them. Buyers don’t need to talk to Sales anymore. Make them want to talk to you because they trust you and you’ve been helpful in the past in solving their problems. If done correctly, your product and how it can help them will naturally come up at the right time.Just as the internet has changed life for the modern buyer (and the modern marketer), life has also changed for the modern salesperson. In all cases, it’s for the better. If your salespeople still complain that your inbound leads suck, try running an experiment. Choose a sales rep with an open mind, and tell them they need to make their goal this month from inbound leads alone, using the guidelines above. Then tell the rest of the team to watch as their colleague starts closing business faster and at a higher rate. Nothing succeeds like success. The rest of your team will soon follow suit.Don’t run a sales and marketing team that annoys people. Do run a sales and marketing team that people love. Topics: Passing Leads to Sales Don’t forget to share this post! 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What the Best Business Bloggers Do (And You Should Too)

first_img Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack You know those business bloggers who never run out of innovative ideas, churn out a piece of content like it ain’t no thang, and are always one step ahead of industry trends?How annoying are they?Well, the good news is you can be like them! That’s right, you! All for the low, low price of reading this blog post!I’ve coached a lot of bloggers and businesses looking to get started with blogging, and I can say with full confidence there are concrete habits and characteristics the most successful bloggers adopt that separate them from the ones that end up flailing and trailing behind their competitors.Here’s what I’ve found the best business bloggers do. Where do you have room for improvement?What the Best Business Bloggers Do1) They read stuff that has nothing to do with their job.Variety is the spice of life! Want your blog posts to have a little more pizzazz? You need a variety of sources of inspiration for that to happen. The best writers read a lot — and so do the best bloggers, in both quantity and variety of content.Venture outside of your industry publications. Find a host of amazing content sources — a great podcast, a great magazine, a great YouTube channel, a great bunch of websites — and consume that content just because it’s high-quality, innovative, and interesting. It’ll help you improve skills like storytelling and story structuring, and give you ideas for new content formats to experiment with.2) They aren’t scared of writing.There’s no magic potion that makes blogging easier or faster. The only way to get to that point is to just write.Seriously, just go write.A lot of people are afraid of blogging — so if this rings true, you’re not alone. Maybe they’re scared of doing new things that are outside of their typical job function. Maybe they don’t fancy themselves good writers. And heck, maybe they’re not … yet, at least.But every blog post you write makes the next one just a little bit easier. The more you blog, the easier it’ll be. And before you know it, you’ll have no fear of blogging, and writing a blog post will be one of the easiest (dare I say enjoyable?) parts of your job.3) They write with empathy.Empathy is a powerful skill for content creators. The best business bloggers use empathy to guide all of their editorial decisions. It helps them choose topics that’ll address their audience’s pain points and solve their problems. It helps them structure content in a way that will resonate with readers. It helps them phrase things in a way that leaves their audience open to hearing more from them (nuance is a powerful thing, you know).Remember, in most cases, you are not your target audience. But if you blog with empathy, you’ll have a hard time creating stuff that falls flat.4) They take the right criticism.One of the best things about blogging is having something to show for your work. There are plenty of jobs that can require hours of serious effort — but all that you have to show for it is a calendar full of meetings. But when you blog? Look! You’ve created something!The downside to creating something? It’s there for someone — anyone — to critique. Now, some people will tear you apart no matter what. But you know what they say about those people:Then you’ll get some criticism that you should actually listen to. For instance, you’ll hear that you left out an important part of the story or that your advice doesn’t work for a significant segment of your target audience. Listen to these kinds of comments — and learn from them.Your criticism could take another form, too: total and utter silence. If your blogging is falling on deaf ears, it’s a good sign your topic choices or execution are a bit off. Don’t worry, though. Just revisit what you’ve written in the past that resonated and identify what people liked about it. Repeat more of that — and keep listening to what your productive readers have to say.5) They let themselves cut corners.Not every blog post is the be-all, end-all of your marketing. That means you can write some really short posts once in a while, because you just don’t have time for the lengthy, meaty thought leadership piece. Or maybe you don’t have time to locate the best image of all time for a piece — there’s other important stuff to do.That’s all totally fine! Sometimes, your time is, indeed, better spent on something else. It’s important to retain perspective on where business blogging fits into your overall inbound marketing strategy, and remember that perfecting every little detail isn’t always necessary. If you don’t give yourself a break once in a while, you’ll burn out on blogging.6) They don’t hide their personality.Somewhere along the way, people got to thinking anything associated with business meant the requisite hiding of all personal quirks. No smiling. No personality. All briefcases.Although you are doing business blogging, it doesn’t mean you can’t infuse personal elements in your content. In fact, the best business bloggers I see create posts that pack a hell of a lot of personality punch. My theory on why this works? People like people.It’s nice to feel like you’re reading something from a person — not a content farm or an encyclopedia entry. Have some fun, infuse your personality, and allow yourself to go “off-brand” for a bit. You might even find your blog becomes a good testing ground for new brand positioning.What else do the best business bloggers you know have in common? Share their habits and personality traits in the comments!Image credit: Gisela Giardino Blogging Advice Topics: Originally published Sep 25, 2013 11:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017last_img read more

Facebook Rolls Out Twitter-Like ‘Trending’ Topics Feature

first_img Originally published Jan 17, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Topics: Facebook Marketing Facebook released one more feature today — one that’s remarkably Twitter-like, actually.According to Mashable, the new tool is called “Trending,” and it’ll be showing up in a Facebook account near you in the next few weeks — on both mobile and desktop. The feed will show a list of popular topics, personalized to the user.Sound familiar? Take a look below for a sample of what it’ll look like:You’ll notice that, in addition to the topic, there’s a nice little description of the topic below, too.It’s also important to note that Trending isn’t necessarily pulling in just one particular article for each trending topic. If you click into a trending topic, you’ll see a list of several posts related to the topic.How Facebook Trending WorksYou may be wondering, “Hey, how do I get my content trending? That seems like some pretty good real estate.”Good question. Well, Facebook’s placing content up there based on a couple criteria:Which content is getting the most attention across the entire Facebook platform — this is being measured based on whether the topic has seen a “sharp increase in popularity,” rather than the net volume of content about the topic.Which content is more relevant for that particular user based on his or her interestsAnd now that you know that, you might be thinking, “Great, this means I have to buy a bunch of Facebook ads to get my content spiking in mentions.”Actually, that’s not true … at least not yet. Facebook’s not including sponsored or promoted content in their Trending topics right now. But who knows what the future has in store, so try to get in your Trending face time now.So … whaddya think of this new feature from Facebook?last_img read more

Your Anti-Social CEO Is Hurting Your Brand [New Data]

first_imgImproved Brand Image71% Benefits Percentage of Respondents Better Communication78% Building Better Connections With:Percentage of Respondents Better Leadership45% Other31.4% None of the Above5% Sources:http://www.go-gulf.ae/blog/ceo-social-media/http://ceo-positions.blogspot.com/2014/03/why-ibm-was-wrong-social-ceo-isnt-more.htmlhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2012/05/22/ibm-study-if-you-dont-have-a-social-ceo-youre-going-to-be-less-competitive/ Additionally, CEOs who participate on social media are able to build better connections and a stronger network. These connections can turn into customers, partners, or employees down the line.Better Connections Made From CEO Participation in Social Networks Improved Company Morale45% There’s lots of up-side to social media. Better communication, better branding, more customers, more transparency. Maybe there are CEOs out there who don’t want all that. I’ll assume most want it if it’ll benefit their businesses.Learn How to Be a Social CEOWhether you’re brand new to social or looking to spice up your game, HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan will be divulging his secrets to being a strong social leader in a special webinar: The Rise of the Social CEO. During the free webinar you’ll learn:The top CEOs on social and how they do things differentlyCommon mistakes executives make on social and how to avoid themHow to optimize and amplify your social presenceYou can register for the webinar here. You won’t want to miss it.Remember — deciding not to invest more in social may not hurt you. But it will certainly help your competitors. Your choice.center_img Topics: More Transparency64% Brand Management Everyone’s doing it. Tweeting. Following. Friending. It feels like the entire world and their grandmother is on social media. Everyone except for Chief Executives, it seems.Yesterday a colleague told me only 1 in 5 CEOs have a social media account. [Tweet This Stat]”Really?” I thought. “Hello, it’s 2014!” But then I Googled it. Sad, but true.Not only that, only 50% of CEOs have a personal bio on their website. Fewer have one on LinkedIn. It’s as if they have something to hide.Out of all the people within a company that should be most present where millions of customers, prospects, suppliers, shareholders, and employees interact, you would think the head honcho would be one of them.It appears that for most CEOs, their social media strategy is to ignore it entirely. And it’s not just the CEO. Many corporate executives seem to be pulling a Ferris Bueller on the socialphere.Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?And then I thought, so what? CEOs are too busy to be tweeting. Plus, their industry isn’t on social anyway. And ROI can’t be measured. And it’s too risky. Actually, it’s really just for young people. Or the marketing department. Yep, social is no place for a CEO.BS. Those are all lame excuses.The truth is, CEOs can’t afford to ignore social media. Not in today’s world. When CEOs choose to resist social media, they fail to realize that their absence not only impacts their personal reputation but also that of their brand’s. According to a recent post by enterprise marketer Lindsey Gusenburg:”There is a growing expectation from consumers and employees alike that the leaders of companies, large and small, should embody the brands they represent — and demonstrate that commitment by being visible and accessible on social media.”Social media isn’t just about tweeting or Facebooking. It’s not about hopping on the bandwagon. It’s not about hanging with the cool kids.It’s about transparency and trust. Social is branding.When CEOs choose not to be social, that transparency and trust suffers. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what audience you sell to. Are Brands With Unsocial CEOs Less Competitive? Awhile back, Forbes published an article stating, “If you don’t have a Social CEO, you’re going to be less competitive.” Is there actually a negative impact to being socially left out? If a brand has a strong following on social, why does the CEO need to follow?While the article has a valid point, not every CEO agrees. According to an interview by author Susanne Mueller Zantop;”Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of Google X and the person behind Google Glass told me recently that he thinks the job of a CEO is fundamentally antisocial. Politicians and celebrities can measure the advantages of their social engagement. They need fans. CEOs don’t need fans.”Well then, if the CEO doesn’t need fans, than neither does their company.49% of corporate reputation is attributed to how people view the CEO. [Tweet This Stat] Not a fan of the CEO? Might as well say goodbye to half of your business (okay, a little drastic, but you get my point).In fact, among the 50 top-performing companies, 72% of CEOs are active on social media. Not quite causation and correlation, I agree, but interesting nonetheless.Additionally, according to various studies and reports:82% of consumers are more likely to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team engage on social media. [Tweet This Stat]Half of consumers believe CEOs who don’t use social will lose touch with consumers. [Tweet This Stat]78% of employees want to work for a CEO who engages on social media. [Tweet This Stat]81% of employees consider social CEOs better leaders. [Tweet This Stat]93% of employees feel social CEOs are better equipped to handle a crisis. [Tweet This Stat]CEOs and corporate execs are the face of their brands. Richard Branson (4.6M followers), Arianna Huffington (1.52M followers), Elon Musk (638K followers) are all great examples of CEOs who have built their businesses from the power and influence of their social presence. Social media helped project their ideas and their products to a community of millions. Fans on social listen. They engage. They share. They communicate. No expensive ad campaign or clever marketing message will do that.The Benefits of a Socially-Strong CEOAccording to a survey by BRANDfog, they’ve uncovered some of the primary benefits to why CEOs should get social: Major Benefits of CEO Participation in Social Networks Investors66.3% Originally published Apr 29, 2014 3:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017 Customers89.3% Employees84.7% Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

This Week in Popular Content: Funny LinkedIn Endorsements, Website Launch To-Do’s & Perfect Facebook Posts

first_img Content Creation ShareLaunching a new website is a daunting dask, and the stress mainly comes from worrying something will go wrong. We’ve come up with the 57 things you should check before your website launch to make sure nothing goes wrong.20 Skills You Won’t Believe You Can Endorse People for on LinkedIn Topics: ShareWhen it comes to getting in Facebook’s News Feed, the competition is fierce. How can you make sure you’re squeezing the most views and engagements out of each post? TrackMaven did the research for us: They analyzed over 1.5 million Facebook posts from almost 6,000 brand pages, condensed their findings this infographic to show you the nuts and bolts of a perfect Facebook post.What were some of your favorite stories from this week?  ShareSales and marketing teams have historically butted heads when it comes to lead quality and converting leads into customers. In this post, we talk about the different ways Marketing can help Sales close more leads, how Sales can help Marketing generate better leads, and how to integrate technologies to measure and improve processes and communication.Data-Backed Tips for Crafting the Perfect Facebook Post [Infographic] Originally published Aug 17, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 This week’s most popular content covered a wide range of subjects. About to launch a new website? We’ve got your checklist covered. Looking to craft the perfect Facebook post? We have the secret formula. Want to foster a better relationship with your counterpart in Sales? We’ve got a post for that.While you breathe in the last few weekends of summer, take a few minutes to catch up on anything you may have missed from this week. And once you’ve read the LinkedIn post, think about which weird endorsements you can endorse your friends for on LinkedIn. (I’m thinking “dessert.”)57 Little Things to Double Check Before Your Website Launch ShareYou can endorse people for “snacks” on LinkedIn? Sign me up. This post lists 20 hilarious LinkedIn endorsements you probably didn’t know about, which really speaks to the ubiquity of LinkedIn. It’s gone beyond the realm of traditional job descriptions, and now even fire-eaters and smoothie-makers can include their unique expertise in their profiles.How Marketing and Sales Can Work Together to Close More Leads Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

How BuzzFeed Makes Money: An Inside Look at Their Sales Process

first_img Inbound Sales (Marketing) Originally published Nov 11, 2014 12:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017 Topics: This post originally appeared on the HubSpot Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to the Sales Blog.Chances are, you’re familiar with BuzzFeed as your go-to workday procrastination. The site has helped you figure out what city you should live in, normalized your struggles as a short/tall/blond/brunette/girl/boy, and alerted you to the latest and greatest viral video. But behind the playful content that thrives on shares is a serious business that thrives on what all businesses need — revenue. BuzzFeed’s sales team is made of approximately 50 reps nationwide who sell the value of the listicle to companies such as Target, Toyota, Starbucks, Disney, and Unilever day in and day out.How do they do it? I got on the phone with Blake Boznanski, sales director, to find out. In this Q&A, he talks about why content might be the future of advertising, keeping up with industry trends, and the social selling tactics he swears by.We’ve all read, shared, liked, or commented on a BuzzFeed article. But what exactly does BuzzFeed sell?We sell branded content that [acts as] ads. Our founder Jonah Peretti — the cofounder of Huffington Post — had BuzzFeed as kind of a side project initially. When he looked at the business side, he said we’re writing such great content that people are talking about and sharing that we want the advertising to be the same way. No one talks about, clicks on, or really engages with your typical ad, so how do we make it more engaging? It’s so easy to just run a banner, but we felt it would be more compelling to create content. So the content we create for a brand becomes the ad that’s run across BuzzFeed and the social web.What’s the sales process like?A lot of people are familiar with BuzzFeed from a consumer standpoint, but it’s a little different from an advertising standpoint. Because we’re not doing the standard banner, there’s more of an education aspect — here’s how we can get people to talk about your brand through word of mouth marketing and get engaged with it. Then we get into the art and science behind what BuzzFeed actually is and does. From the outside it looks simple — creating great content — but behind that we have a science about what works.So we walk through all that information with a client, and once they have sign off, then we start really collaborating with them. We don’t do a big sales push. It’s more of a conversation about content in general, and if they get content, then it’s a perfect play. If they don’t get it and they’re nowhere near starting or wanting to, we’ll take more of a back seat, and say ‘Here are things you should do whether it’s on BuzzFeed or not, and once you’re ready to work with us, let’s pick up that conversation again.’So how do you convey the value of branded content as opposed to more traditional advertising?I do it a couple of ways. When I talk to somebody who does the traditional online advertising, I ask them, ‘When was the last time you personally clicked on an ad banner?’ It’s usually crickets, so that’s kind of a telltale sign right there. Then I ask, ‘What’s the last advertisement you were so passionate about that you shared with a friend?’ And a lot of times people respond, ‘Well, I don’t really do that.’ That’s where I say, ‘That’s what we do — we want people to not just see an ad but engage with it and share it with their friends and colleagues.’We also have a very in-depth dashboard that shows the results of the branded content we work on, so we can show how many engagements a [piece] got, and how many times it was shared and from where. Once you see the data, then you can really tell the story because I think people are a little skeptical of content in general. We have a lot of case studies that show that if you create great content people are going to be more likely to want to work with your brand and buy your product. Does the structure of the sales process have an impact on the type of salespeople BuzzFeed hires?Absolutely. If someone has done all direct response advertising in the past, that’s a completely different skill set than what we’re looking for. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t hire somebody with that background, but it might be harder to transfer into what we’re selling.We’re more of that consultative, longer sales cycle. There are some brands that you have just one meeting and they’re on board but others are like ‘I kind of get it, but I need to sell this up the chain.’ So it’s a completely different type of sell and salesperson we’re looking at. We want to have somebody that is intellectually curious about what’s going on in the marketplace and how this type of marketing can help your brand. Primarily they’ve been in media sales, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be online media sales — we’ve hired people who have done print and television. But I think knowing the media industry is [important].Do you use social selling in your day to day? If so, how?If there’s a company I’m interested in, I do a ton of research. If it’s a cold email and I don’t have a relationship there, I want to be buttoned up and know about their business, so when they get something from me, they say, ‘Blake has really invested time and has some initial ideas on how BuzzFeed can help us.’ If I find people to reach out to, I’ll look at them on LinkedIn and see where they’ve worked before and if we have any common connections. I used to work at LinkedIn, so it’s a huge sales tool for me. Same thing on Twitter and Facebook if their profile is public, and I’ll also do a Google search to see if their name comes up in the news. I think the more information you go in with, the better conversation you’re going to have. Not knowing anything about the brand, the person, the product — that’s not going to help you drive business.And it takes a lot of time to do that. The amount of time I spend researching before I talk to somebody is immense and it’s tough because a lot of times you don’t get a response. [You might think] you wasted time, but, at the end of the day, you didn’t. You’re still very interested in the company, and if they come around eventually you have all this background information. Plus, I’m just curious about industries in general, so I like knowing what’s going on.What kind of information do you put into cold emails? Again, it depends on the company. If they’re doing something in the marketplace right now, or if I read they just launched a marketing program, or if I saw one of their execs was on a panel — it’s really different for each individual. But it’s really doing your homework to find out as much information about the company and the person as possible and then personalizing that message.Does BuzzFeed have a target customer persona? We don’t. We work with so many different types of customers — clients direct, PR agencies, creative agencies, social agencies — and then within the client there are all sorts of different groups. So we don’t have one standard set of people that we try to go after or typically see. Whatever group is looking to have a conversation with us, we’re happy to talk.So how do you tailor your message to those different audiences — PR, creative, social, direct?The thing is we don’t have a set presentation. When I go into meetings, I don’t even do a presentation anymore — I just talk to them about what BuzzFeed does in general, and show them some examples of what we’ve done with brands. I think that brings it more to life. So that doesn’t change, but obviously if I’m talking to someone from a PR agency, I may show some examples that we’ve worked directly with PR agencies on. Maybe if they’re in the automotive or food industry, we’ll show examples in regards to those. Also, a PR challenge is going to be different from a social challenge or a creative challenge, so we make sure we’re aligning with what they’re talking about and what we’re offering fits the needs of what they’re trying to do.A lot of sales today is keeping up with industry trends and helping clients spot problems they don’t even know they have. How do you stay up on the media industry?Any newsletters, any information that’s out there, I’m like a glutton for it. Because the more I know, the more it’s going to help me in the long run.I get a lot of emails [with updates] in the morning so I can digest what’s going on. If I don’t have time to read them, I have an articles folder that I’ll go back to. And I typically go through them every day at least just to see what’s going on across the brands — even if it’s someone I’ve never worked with. I just saw Honda Civic is doing a YouTube video that’s basically a splice of two videos — it’s unbelievable. I always want to be aware of what’s going on in the marketplace so when I have a conversation with somebody it’s not like I just know BuzzFeed and I just know their brand; I know everything that’s happening. Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

5 Tips to Punch Up Your Product Descriptions

first_img Product Marketing Topics: Pictures of products are great for showing customers what they’re considering giving you hard-earned money for. Still, a picture can’t tell the whole story. Sometimes only words can do that. If you’re skating by with minimal product descriptions, you may be earning minimal profits. Here are a few hints to help you boost your bottom line.Download Now: Free Product Marketing KitConsider Your BuyersWhat do your buyers find most important? Will they be more likely to buy if you focus on the status they’ll acquire when they purchase your products, or are they more pragmatic? Is a fun and quippy product description going to catch their eyes, or do they prefer just the facts? If you write with your buyer personas in mind, you’re more likely to reel them in.Write Something… AnythingSure, the manufacturer provides a succinct product description, complete with product numbers, sizes, colors, and other pertinent details. A lot of ecommerce companies only post that, to their detriment. Keep in mind that other online stores may work with the same manufacturers, which means they might post the exact same descriptions. You should augment the description, instead of simply posting what’s provided. Tell a StoryWhether that story is a few simple words or a couple of paragraphs, your buyers want to read it. They want to picture themselves with that product, enjoy the benefits and the stares of envy. And you? You want to make sure every word you write supports your brand and continues to share your vision. A story is the only way to connect with your buyers.Get DetailedKeep in mind that people may search for specific items by various terms, including product numbers, colors, sizes, and even materials used in production. You should share any and all information within your product descriptions, and consider sharing that information again in another tab. The story is important, but so are the minute details.Avoid FluffIt’s not easy to tell a story without putting in all sorts of frilly language, but you must resist. If you include information that can’t be substantiated, such as “exceptional quality,” your buyers will not be persuaded. Instead, focus on things that you can back up with facts. Describe the features and then explain the benefits. Let the customer decide if the product is of exceptional quality. If he or she deems it so, your other buyers will find out through reviews from past customers. Those words hold so much more weight than yours do.Product descriptions are one more chance for you to soothe your buyers’ pain points—to let them know exactly why they need the items you’re selling. If you miss this chance to convince them to buy, you may never get another. That’s why it’s so important to give everything you have to creating copy that focuses on converting those visitors into paying customers.Which ecommerce companies really kill it with product descriptions? We’d love to know who your favorites are. Originally published Oct 8, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated June 19 2019 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more