13 Networking Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

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When done right, networking is an incredibly valuable investment of every professional's time and effort. It helps us make meaningful business connections, get feedback, and advance our careers. And best of all, it pays significant dividends over time.

So why does it seem so unpleasant sometimes? It can feel fake, it's exhausting, and frankly, standing alone in a sea of unknown faces with nametags and cheese plates can be utterly painful.

But there are ways to make networking less of a chore. It starts with reflecting on your current networking habits and learning where you might be making mistakes. I'm not talking about obvious mistakes, like talking super close to someone's face or not dressing the part. I'm talking about the more subtle mistakes you may not even know you're making.

Here are 13 networking mistakes that could be holding you back from developing meaningful business relationships and creating real value out of them.

13 Networking Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

1) You're waiting to build your network until you need it most.

A lot of people neglect to build their networks until they're desperate -- perhaps they've lost their job, they're looking for a career change, or they're applying to graduate school and need advice or references. It's hard to prioritize networking when you don't have a specific goal you're going after. But if you're constantly doing things to help you build your network -- even when you're gainfully employed -- then it'll be strong when you need it most.

When it comes to networking, it pays to be proactive. Don't wait until fate brings you a new networking opportunity; seek them out yourself.

"Put an hour on your calendar each week specifically focused on expanding your network." Katie Burke, HubSpot's VP of Culture and Experience, wrote in her article about networking.

"Ask a friend who the most interesting person they know is and go meet them. Email a blog author whose content you love with a specific comment or question about his or her work. Reconnect with an old colleague whose work you always admired. Sometimes, these conversations will lead nowhere. But many will generate new ideas, connections, and creativity, so it’s worth the break in the action from your usual busy day," she added. 

2) You aren't keeping up your personal brand.

When you network with new people, it's pretty inevitable that they're going to look you up online later to see what your deal is. They'll look at your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter page, and your blog posts. They might even Google you. And when they do, you'll want to have an active, interesting, and thoughtful online presence for them to browse.

That's why, in addition to regularly seeking out new connections, it's also important that you continuously develop your personal brand online. That means keeping your social media profiles (like LinkedIn) updated and regularly posting interesting, relevant articles and commentary to your social media accounts. It also means responding kindly when people message, email, or tweet at you, contributing to your company's blog, and writing guest blog posts for other blogs and publications (like these ones), and getting personal brand exposure through earned media.

3) You're afraid to attend networking events by yourself.

Even extroverts don't like going to networking events and conferences alone. It's straight up anxiety-inducing to stand around by yourself, wondering why everyone else seems to know each other already.

"For a long time, I never wanted to go to networking events by myself," my colleague Amanda Zantal-Wiener told me. "But eventually, I realized two things: 1) When I went with someone I already knew, that ended up restricting the conversations I had; and 2) if I went into the event with the mindset that I'm a person who will start a conversation with anyone, it was really quite effective."

Gaining the confidence to approach people and join in on conversations has a lot to do with simply being prepared. My advice? Approach every event you attend with a game plan, starting with looking through the speaker and/or guest list and identifying the people you'd like to talk with. Then, challenge yourself to connect with each of them. People really are willing to talk to you -- especially if you're the first one to say hello.

4) You don't do your homework.

Preparing for events, conferences, and meetings doesn't just mean coming with a stack of freshly printed business cards. If you know certain people who are attending or speaking at an event whom you know you'll be interested in meeting, then you should do research on them ahead of time. When you do your homework, you can skip the small talk and get right into the meaningful conversation you're looking for in the first place.

"Time is the most valuable resource people can offer you, so respect it," says Burke. "Do your homework on [the person's] title, their background, their email address, their preferred mode of contact -- e.g., never call Dharmesh, he's made it clear he hates the phone -- and their career history. That way, your conversation via email, phone, or in-person can focus on the advice you need help with, the subject matter you'd like to learn more about, or the organization you want to learn more about."

In addition to coming prepared with questions for other people, prepare to answer the questions they'll ask you. Practice your own pitch, as well as answering questions about your career goals.

5) You don't follow up with personal messages.

So you go to an event, talk to someone awesome, have a great conversation with them, and exchange business cards before you part ways. Great! But don't call it a day just yet. Unless you follow up with some sort of personal message, says my colleague Aja Frost, then you risk never talking with that person again -- and losing out on a potentially meaningful connection.

That's why you should follow up every great networking conversation with a personalized and thoughtful thank-you message or email. Here are 12 templates for follow-up networking emails that I've personally found super helpful.

Or, you can send something as simple as a short message along with your LinkedIn invitation:

Hi Shannon, it was great meeting you at the happy hour last night! I enjoyed hearing about the design project you're working on. I'm an aspiring designer myself, so I'd love to connect and follow your work."

A message like this gives the recipient both reassurance that you're someone they should have in their network, and a jumping off point to start a discussion.

If the person you spoke with gave you some suggestions for your own project or career, follow up to let her know how that's going -- and, later, whether or not her suggestions panned out. 

Pro Tip: Set yourself up for a substantial follow-up conversation by building a bridge to your next exchange before saying goodbye. Benjamin Akande, dean of Webster University’s George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology, suggests asking people what they're working on right now. Take note of their response and mention it when you strike up your next conversation.

If you tend to easily forget small details or are meeting a lot of different people at once, make follow-up easier by (subtly) writing a note or two down on the business cards people give you, or make some notes on your phone.

6) You can't follow up -- because you don't take other people's contact information.

Ever given someone your contact information, but neglected to take theirs? That leaves you depending on them to contact you, rather than the other way around.

That's what my colleague Padraig O'Connor cited as his biggest networking mistake to-date. "Sadly, these busy people would not always get in touch and contact was lost," he told me. Since then, he even goes so far as to open up his own LinkedIn account on his phone and have people find and themselves as a connection right then and there.

"It also saves on data entry," he added. Can't argue with that.

7) You ask the same questions everyone else is asking.

Part of being good at networking is standing out from the crowd. How are you going to do that if you're asking the same old, predictable questions everyone else is asking? This is especially true for folks who are in high demand, like event speakers or high profile attendees.

The best way to make a positive impression on someone is to ask questions that unleash that person's passion or require them to tell personal stories.

"Asking more interesting questions gets you undeniably better answers," wrote Burke in her article, on how to talk to anyone about anything. "So instead of probing on what someone does now (which typically leads to awkward humble bragging), ask what they wanted to be when they grew up, what their first concert was, what magazines they subscribe to, or which celebrity they’d want to invite over for dinner. Doing so relieves people of the boring back-and-forth of typical office party conversation and into far more interesting territory."

For more ideas, here are 20 conversation starters to help you break the ice at a networking event.

8) You dominate networking conversations.

We've all been in one of those conversations. You know, the one where it slowly dawns on you you're listening to a person's life story and you may never be allowed to leave. Ever.

But have you ever been caught in a moment where you realized it was you who was doing this to another person? It can happen to any one of us, especially when we get excited about a particular topic or we really want to sell someone on our pitch. But dominating the conversation and monopolizing people's time can make you seem self-important, uninterested in listening to other people, and generally annoying. Remember: Networking events are for mingling and meeting a variety of people. Multiple people.

"A lot of people use networking as an opportunity to hard-sell themselves," said Hannah Fleishman, marketing lead on HubSpot's product team, in an email. "This is a big mistake. We should be using networking to make new connections and leave great impressions on those connections. Stealing the spotlight to talk about all the amazing things you've done isn't how you connect with someone -- save that for your job interview.

"Have a conversation, ask questions, and be genuinely curious about the new people you're meeting. People who can pick up on social cues, show an interest in others, and listen as well as they carry a discussion are the ones who stand out to me as someone I'd want to work with or stay in touch with."

To learn more about the importance of listening to others, asking questions, picking up on others' emotional cues, read this blog post on the 19 signs you're emotionally intelligent (and why it matters).

9) You avoid being the one to end the conversation.

Ah, the art of gracefully ending a conversation at a networking event. It's a tricky skill to master, but it'll save you from ending up feeling trapped. 

"One of my bigger mistakes is that I let people dominate my time because I'm terrible at ending a conversation and moving on," said Sam Mallikarjunan, principal marketing strategist here at HubSpot. "So I end up only talking to a few people for long periods, and wasting the opportunity to connect with more folks."

So, how do you end a conversation without looking like a jerk? I actually wrote a whole blog post about gracefully excusing yourself from conversations. Here are a few of my polite suggestions for conversation-enders:

  • "Did you see the restroom anywhere?"
  • "I think I left my [laptop/bag/phone] in the other room. I'd better go grab it before it disappears."
  • "I need another drink, what about you?"
  • "You love XYZ? You should meet Joe, he loves XYZ too!"

10) You're overeager.

Once you meet someone at an event and exchange information, be cool. Being a likeable person has a lot to do with the interactions you have with others, so take care that you're not overdoing it.

"Don't add someone you're looking to get to know better on LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and Medium in one fell swoop," Burke told me. "It just comes across as too aggressive out of the gate. Pick one channel you know the person meaningfully engages with on a regular basis, and focus your attention there."

When you do choose that channel, make sure you're using it correctly, personalizing your messages, and being friendly and professional. In other words, don't be this guy: Here's a screenshot of an actual conversation that my colleague Siobhán McGinty was pulled into on LinkedIn:

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There's a little lesson on how not to network with people. If you're not sure how to use LinkedIn for professional networking, read the networking section of this awesome blog post on how to use LinkedIn

11) You aren't helpful.

In Burke's post on networking like a pro, she reminded me of a concept revered by HubSpot’s co-founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah: the notion of being shockingly helpful. Focus on being helpful to others rather than on what you can get out of a networking relationship. When you rethink how you network in this way, you'll see the quality of your interactions go way up.

Burke suggests starting with the goal of helping ten people per month in a meaningful way. Start with a list from your immediate network, and "once you’ve warmed up your shockingly helpful muscles, expand your network each week." Trust me, this will pay off over time.

Remember: What goes around comes around. 

12) You don't venture outside your existing network.

Speaking of expanding your network ... far too many people avoid building relationships outside their existing network or field of work, even if they don't mean to. 

And are we surprised? It's way easier and more comfortable to stick with what's familiar, and at the end of the day, we all want to sound smart.

But if you don't expand your network, you risk creating a virtuous closed loop and rarely challenging your own perspective. To solve this problem, you need to be proactive: Start with the goal of following ten new people on Twitter and LinkedIn this week who are experts in something you know nothing about but find interesting. Don't let the algorithms pick these people for you -- actually go out and search for them. It could open you up to people worth learning from.

13) You don't ask for anything, or you ask for too much. 

It's helpful to come to a networking event or conversation with a specific goal in mind. Maybe you're looking for a job and want to get advice on how to build your resume -- or even get a referral. Or perhaps you already have a job and you're looking for feedback on your project, or you want to spread the word about your company's work.

Once you have a goal in mind, the hard part is letting the other person know about your goal without coming off like you're using them. When you're networking, it's okay -- even encouraged -- to have an "ask." Not only can it help move the conversation and the relationship along, but it can also provide some welcome context to your follow-up.

However, there are two mistakes people often make here: Either they don't make their "ask" clear enough, or they overdo it and ask too much of someone.

"My last VP told me that not enough young people early in their careers make a proper 'ask,' my colleague Sophia Bernazzani told me. "They just talk, and maybe get a business card, without asking or saying something more definitively."

But no one's a mind reader. You'll never get what you're looking for if you don't ask -- and it's all about asking politely and genuinely. For example, if you're looking for a job and the person you're talking with doesn't have any openings, you might ask him:

  • Well, what's the outlook for future opportunities?
  • Do you know anyone else in the industry who might have something?
  • Any thoughts on what my next step should be?
  • Do you know someone whom it might be good for me to talk with?

If you're talking to this person via email, here are 12 networking email templates with language that might help you better position the request.

On the other end of the spectrum, you shouldn't ask for too much from someone you barely know. There's a huge difference between asking someone for advice on your next career move and asking them to be your mentor forever and ever. Same goes for asking for a quote for a piece you're writing, versus asking them to review the entire piece and give you in-depth feedback.

We hope these tips will help you make more meaningful connections, expand your network, and strengthen your emotional intelligence.

What other networking mistakes can you add to this list? Share with us in the comments.

free guide to using linkedin

Turn Your School’s Website into an Application Generating Machine

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Picture your website as a home. Your prospective student database lives in this home. You want your school's website to gather and store as much information as possible from prospective students. To get these prospects to enter your home (i.e.database) and provide that information, you need to create as many doors as possible.

Your website may present strong content, but does it provide a pathway for website visitors to reach back to your school? Your prospect database's doors are the calls-to-action (CTAs) you have strategically placed all around your website. Maybe there are no calls-to-action (CTAs), or not enough CTAs, or easily ignorable CTAs.

Maybe you have just one big, honking CTA – a bright red button that screams "APPLY NOW".

Ouch.

The Enrollment Journey Takes Time 

Most of your website visitors aren't ready to APPLY NOW. You need to use your content to delightfully nurture them down the path from first visit to application. Not scare them away when they're already overwhelmed by the thought of just how important of a decision selecting a school is. 

Instead, your website should offer up a variety of offers that align with different points in a prospect's journey. That means don't get rid of your "Apply Now" button. After your awesome content stream has gently pushed visitors down the funnel, some of them are indeed ready to apply.

But it also means you need plenty of CTAs for people still wandering around the backyard garden exploring, those settling in the kitchen for a bit for a good chat, and those curious enough to head upstairs. 

When you provide all sorts of doors (i.e. offers) for your website visitors to enter your house, you're filling the top of your funnel. The more prospects you bring into the top of your funnel, the more pro-active you can be about targeting and nurturing the best prospects into applying and ultimately enrolling.

For more on applicant nurturing, see our guide: From Stranger to Student >>

As long as you keep any given offer on your website, it remains an open invitation for new prospects to enter your database. Even as you sleep, your offers are generating leads and keeping your application funnel working.

So where to build your doors? Here's a process and some tips for placing the right CTAs in the right spots that will open the floodgates to your prospect database. 

Look at Your Current CTAs

If you only have the "APPLY NOW" CTA, don't think you can skip this step. Catalog what offers you have where, what they're offering and how they're performing. This information will give you some baseline guidance on what's working and what isn't.

Where do your "APPLY NOW" buttons convert well – on program pages, but not the home page or campus life pages? Now you know your home and campus life pages need a different kind of CTA to engage visitors. 

You may find that offers for certain types of content convert better than others. Your "Use this checklist…" CTAs absolutely kill. But your "Access your report…" CTAs get ignored. That could be a sign to reformat a long report for more bit-sized consumption, say a slide presentation big on images and bullet points.

Try to figure out why a CTA is under-performing. Maybe some of your report CTAs do well, but you have one that doesn't. Looking more closely, you see that report CTAs on topics and pages geared towards parents convert, but those targeting young students don't.

Examine Your Current Content

Look at both gated and un-gated content. Review your best performing gated content, looking at its topic and format. Your best performing content isn't just generating high conversions, but also quality prospects. Develop those topics and prioritize those formats that are already attracting exactly the sort of student you want at your school. 

Analyze your high performing un-gated content as spots ripe for the right CTA. Do you have a collection of high-powered posts that rank well and consistently attract lots of traffic? Are the CTAs on those pages performing well or clogging up your machinery? If they're gumming up the works, the CTAs probably don't align well with the topic of the blog post or its audience. 

If one of your power posts goes into how students can convert their real world experience into course credit, having a CTA to view a video of on-campus housing doesn't make much sense. Does interest in on-campus housing fit the persona of the older prospect returning to school? Instead, you can create and gate a calculator that helps them estimate how many credits their current experience would generate. Or post a CTA to view a video featuring alumni sharing their school/work balance stories.

Need CTA templates? We've got 50 you can download and cutomize >> 

Work Your Best Performing Content 

Select some of your best performing content, gated or not, for your different personas at different stages of their enrollment journey. While you can (and should) add CTAs for this content in other, relevant spots on your website, you can also create separate landing pages for them. 

If you have a collection of power posts on a similar topic, sew them up into an ebook (free templates here) or presentation. Put up a landing page for the now-gated ebook and promote the landing page link via your social media channels as a distinct campaign. 

If the program-page CTAs for your "Setting Up for Trade School Success Tool Kit" convert like crazy, give this content its own landing page to promote as well.  

Aligning Your Offers Boosts Your Numbers 

The CTAs need to make sense for who the visitor is and where he is on your website. What he's reading or watching are clues where he is in his journey. It's the ever-important cross section of persona-journey stage to make sure you're making the right offer at the right time.

Put together a worksheet of all your personas and the topics/questions they have at each stage in their journey. Make sure you have CTAs for each cross section. Then make sure the CTAs are placed on pages with content that connects to that cross section.

If the only door from the backyard garden is an express elevator to rummage around the attic, no one's going to go through it. Give your website visitors multiple doorways attractive to them, which gives you and your admissions team multiple ways to continue to keep the application machinery producing.

SEO DO's and Don'ts for Schools

The Rocket Science of Social Media Marketing

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At NASA, one of the world’s leading space associations, social media marketing and rocket science combine in a way that could shock even the most weathered social marketer. The organization manages more than 500 social accounts. Imagine what their analytics must look like!

From broad agency accounts to specific accounts dedicated to certain NASA missions, their social media isn’t selling products or services, but rather inspiration.

NASA has nailed down an elusive social media success around an incredibly complicated and naturally curious topic. Even with so many different accounts, NASA has managed to create meaningful connections with followers and spread a consistent message.

Although not directly marketing for profit, NASA has developed a strong social media marketing strategy that B2B brands and all marketers can learn from and use in their own content and campaigns.

How to Tell Your B2B Brand Story

If there’s one thing NASA knows—besides the mysteries of space, it’s their own voice. They have cultivated a brand image and tone that is based on history, exciting developments, generating buzz, some professionalism and a nerdy sense of humor.

In an environment where voice can vary from platform to platform, this is quite the accomplishment. From quick Twitter quips to informative Instagrams and straightforward Tumblr posts, NASA sprinkles their updates and science lessons with pop culture, striking images and conversational language. This tone complements their mission and still relates to the average follower.

To follow NASA’s lead, B2B companies first need to find their voice. This means fully understanding your company, its intention with customers and its future goals.

For example, if you want your brand to be community-oriented, write like a community leader who cares. If you want your brand to be strictly professional, keep your tone clinical and simple.

The point of even giving your brand a voice is to humanize your company. A personal way of conversing as a brand allows you to participate in conversations naturally with followers.

Find your voice by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish with my social content?
    Maybe you want to educate or promote. This answer will guide the voice of your content.
  • What tones complement the voice I want?
    A tone is an expression of language that supports your overall voice, so find a few that are good for your brand.
  • What emotions are you trying to evoke in your customer?
    Identifying the emotional connection can help nail down the voice you are looking for.

Once you’ve established your voice, you can begin to develop your story. NASA has the advantage of having a built-in story of exploration and discovery, but you can also find the story you want to tell by using themes and hierarchies within your content.

Telling a multi-channel story, as NASA does across the many social platforms, all connects back to your central goal. A story, regardless of the form it takes or how it is presented, should be specific in nature and relate to the interests and needs of your customer.

Sell the Value, Not the Product

Sometimes marketers can get lost in the microscopic focus of selling a specific product or service. Boasting the features of something and harping on its shiny new elements is an easy trap to fall into. But in the long term, it’s not about the minutiae of a single aspect of what you offer.

It’s important to take a step back and present the value of your company in a macro sense. For NASA, they have the ability to share information about an up close photo of the surface of Mars or an infinite photo of Saturn’s rings, which is literally a zooming in and out of their content. But from a deeper level, they are trying to inspire their followers and generate genuine interest in their missions and work.

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Their move to post a photo of dwarf planet Pluto before the official press release of the New Horizons’ results was an impressive show of giving followers excitement and capitalizing on anticipation.

They knew the value of NASA is providing these fresh facts to a public with curiosity about the universe. Companies can also deliver social content of a similar vein by discussing the ways their product or service solves problems, avoids issues or brings certain emotions to customers’ lives.

Think about how your customers’ lives will be improved by making a purchase with you. Pinpoint a before and after effect to really determine the value of your product or service.

You can also use the tactic of value and authenticity in generating leads, improving sales and affecting the company as a whole.

Involve Customers in Your Content

Another strength of NASA’s social media marketing is to not just engage with followers, but to give them the opportunity to be a part of the social movement. B2B companies should also take user-generated content as a viable component of social strategy.

The NASA program, called NASA Socials, gets followers involved in learning about and sharing information on the organization’s missions, people and programs. The program hosts events where social followers gather to get a behind-the-scenes look at labs and projects, hear from engineers and astronauts, and can meet fellow NASA enthusiasts.

The content these fans create at the event also gives them the understanding they need to make shareable content in the future. When the fans tell the story, NASA’s story becomes more powerful.

In a way, this is an even stronger tactic for companies because of the importance and reliability of brand advocacy and loyalty. Testimonials, first-person accounts and user-contributed content tell a more convincing and credible story.

Here are a few specific ways you can involve your customers in telling your story:

  • Free Trial
    Offering your product or service for no cost for a short period of time gets customers comfortable with your company. You can also build in the stipulation that they must share their story on social media to receive the free trial.
  • Case Study
    The most traditional, but one of the most effective, forms of using your customers’ experiences to your benefit is to tell their story in your branding. A case study is proof positive your product or service has performed well in a real setting.
  • Community Forums
    For hyper-specialized industries, it’s good to provide a forum for professionals to gather and discuss your product and new industry trends. You can use the ideas and opinions from the forum for social and blog content fodder.
  • Guest Posts
    Asking a customer to write a guest post for your blog or to collaborate on content shows a dedication to a partnership and presents your company from a perspective with some weight.

Getting your customers involved also shows you consider their input and are working to create an inclusive community. Customers who are part of a like-minded group will have more positive feelings about a company, increasing their word-of-mouth marketing and your sales.

Infinity and Beyond

NASA has infused their social content with originality, narrative and community. They take their mission in connecting with an interested public as seriously as an astronaut on a mission in space. They use their background in rocket science to good use in an unlikely place.

B2B companies should take away important lessons from the visuals, language and content NASA generates. They don’t have to emulate the famous association, but can be inspired by both their images of planets and stars and their brilliant approach to inbound and social media marketing.

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How to Translate Unhelpful Client Feedback: What 11 Phrases Really Mean

You've probably wished at some point that you had a pocket translator that could give you the real meaning behind a client's vague, inoperative feedback. It shouldn't feel like a high-stakes guessing game, right?

So while these tips won't turn you into a mind reader (sorry!), they will help you uncover the actionable feedback behind your client's most confusing comments.

The Guide to Translating Unhelpful Client Feedback

1) "I like it, but we were really hoping for something completely different."

You're probably thinking: How is it possible that the client likes your work, but also wants you to change everything about it? This kind of gear-shifting feedback indicates that somewhere along the way, you and your client stopped being on the same page. Maybe the project began on a shaky foundation without any solid directives, or maybe the client's goals shifted, and they didn't keep you in the loop. To prevent the project from going down in flames, you should schedule some time with the client to realign on the underlying goals of the project.

Ask the client to clearly explain which components of the project seem off base to them and why. Extract as much specific information as possible, and don't be afraid to press your client for more details.

2) "I'm not really sure what I want, but I'll know it when I see it."

This type of feedback can seem frustratingly vague, but take it as an opportunity to dig deeper. When a client fails to provide specifics about their goals for a project, it most likely means that they don't know exactly how to express their vision to you, or they don't fully realize that they need to tell you what they want. Talking about design concepts may be second nature to you, but try to remember that it can be challenging for most people to turn a fuzzy idea into a specific request.

Help your client find some clarity by asking questions that get at the core of their project's objectives, and force them to identify some tangible design preferences. For example, have them point out a few specific things they like about their current marketing materials and a few things they don't like. Show them some examples of your past work, and ask them if anything in particular catches their eye.

To get to the bottom of what they want, try starting a discussion about what they don't want. Are there any particular colors that turn their stomachs? Any fonts that cause headaches?

This might seem uncomfortable at first, but it's a conversation you need to have before moving forward.

3) "I don't think our target audience is going to like it."

It's safe to assume that your client knows their target audience better than you do, but it can be frustrating to receive unspecific feedback that doesn't explain why they feel a project is off-brand. If a client seems concerned that a project won't truly resonate with the right people, ask them to give you some more background on who they're trying to connect with.

How old is their target demographic? What is their income bracket? Nail down the basics and then dive into specifics: Where does their target demographic like to shop? What do they do for fun? Where do they hang out online? If your client's business has created buyer personas for their business, ask to discuss them. Buyer personas can be a valuable treasure trove of information about who a company's intended audience is and what kind of content they will respond to.

4) "Can you make it feel more playful and bubbly?"

Abstract concepts without solid examples and clear instructions are the bane of any agency professional's existence, and they're also a sign your project could be headed for disaster. Wishy-washy language simply isn't capable of holding up the entire weight of your project. It can lead to a problematic lack of alignment on where the project is headed and cause frustration for everyone involved. Your interpretation of "bubbly" could potentially be disastrously different from what the client thinks "bubbly" should be.

When a client starts throwing around a laundry list of adjectives, it's up to you to find the substance underneath the fluff. Request an example of a design the client thinks is "playful" and "bubbly," and ask what individual characteristics convey the desired feeling. The client obviously has a specific vision in mind, and it's your job to figure it out. 

5) "Our CEO came up with a color scheme that we want you to use instead."

Feedback like this can be a red flag that the client doesn't quite trust your expertise yet, but don't let your ego suffer. If a client blindsides you with an abrupt change, it usually means that they've been holding it in for a while. Don't hesitate to ask the client where the change is coming from, and try to keep an open mind about their motivations. It's possible that they haven't been happy with the direction of the project and didn't know how to break it to you.

Respect the suggestion, but don't be afraid to push back and state the case for your own work, especially if it seems like the client might be headed towards catastrophe without you. If the CEO's proposed color scheme is puke green and highlighter yellow, explain why that might not be the best choice. Never shut down a client's suggestion without explaining why you don't think it would work and most importantly, presenting a better alternative.

6) "It doesn't look quite finished. It just needs something else to make it really pop."

The client feels that the current project doesn't fully match up with the vision in their head, but they don't have any real idea how to describe it. No matter how many questions you ask, you can never seem to get any specifics from the client. If you're not careful, you'll soon find yourself caught in a messy web of tweaks and revisions.

A perpetually dissatisfied client needs some clear expectations set, so remind them of the project's original plan. Gently explain to them that you're happy to make changes within the scope of the project, but you need actionable requests.

7) "The project has to capture everything about our brand's identity -- our history, our future, and what we stand for as a company."

When a client starts asking you to cram every idea under the sun into a single project, it's a sign that they're getting overambitious and might be in need of a reality check.

To be successful, a project needs a singular, attainable goal. Projects that try to accomplish too much tend to suffer, since they'll never fully live up to the client's inflated expectations. Tame expectations by bringing the client's focus back to a single, over-arching goal. Use questions that lead the client toward a distilled version of their vision: If this project could accomplish one thing, what would it be? What will be the one indicator that this project was successful?

8) "Can you just change the color quickly? It shouldn't take any time."

A client who frequently asks for "quick" favors on a project might be trying to squeeze some free hours out of you, or they may not completely realize that what you do takes time and energy -- it can't be rushed along. 

It's best to be firm when a client starts to ask for little requests and changes outside the original scope of the project. If you give into one seemingly simple request, you can bet that another will follow. It's perfectly acceptable to remind the client of your contract's original terms and point out that the new request falls outside of scope. If they continue to insist that the change is small and won't take you a long time, provide them with a time/price estimate for the work, and break it down into the steps it will take you to get it done. This will help them see that your work isn't as simple as they think, and they'll hopefully start to value your time more. 

9) "Just do whatever you want."

Contrary to popular belief, designers are not mind readers, nor are they magically capable of spinning up the perfect project without guidance. At first this feedback can seem like an exciting invitation to experiment, but make no mistake: Starting a project without solid expectations and objectives will only lead to pain down the line for both you and the client.

Even if they don't seem open at first, convince your client to sit down and discuss the project in depth. The client might think they don't need to be involved at all in the creation process and that they hired a designer to avoid making any executive decisions. Make it clear that you need guidelines to proceed.

10) "I like it."

Hearing that a client likes your work can feel awesome, but is it helpful? No. Does it give you any guidance on how to move forward with the project? No. 

Even though it's validating, vague and opinion-based feedback like this doesn't actually advance the project. For starters, you don't have any idea what exactly the client likes about the current version. "I like it" doesn't necessarily mean, "I like each individual element." You could move forward thinking that the client is infatuated with the bright red color scheme you used, but it turns out that they were actually more excited about the font.

Don't proceed blindly. When a client says, "I like it," you need to pinpoint what specific elements they like about it. This will allow you to proceed with the project with a better understanding of their precise preferences. 

11) *silence*

The absolute worst feedback a client can give you is no feedback at all. Silence is not an invitation to keep going on the current path. It's an indicator you're dealing with a big communication problem that needs to be addressed.

If a client stops offering comments or communicating regularly, reach out and make it clear that you need feedback to work. Some clients might not understand right away that their feedback is needed on more than just the final proof, so explain that they need to be more involved throughout the process.

client-checkup

Google Maps for Android gets Wi-Fi-only mode and SD card download option

maps2-side Google is making its Maps app more accessible to users in emerging markets with two nifty features for the Android version of the service. Read More

Google Maps adds rides with Uber rivals Grab and Go-Jek in Southeast Asia

Grab logo There was once a time when Uber’s big advantage over the competition was being integrated into Google Maps. That’s long passed now, however. Earlier this year, Google added a slew of non-Uber options to Maps — and that now includes Grab and Go-Jek in Southeast Asia. Read More

Facebook adds more Olympics coverage with live broadcasts, Instagram feeds

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Facebook is expanding its coverage of the Olympics. More video highlights, live programming and interactive features are coming to your News Feed and Instagram. 

The social networking giant has partnered with more than 20 official broadcasters and National Olympic Committees to host more content on Facebook and Instagram. That includes broadcasters from local networks and athletes from more than 10 countries participating in the Games.

These broadcasters will provide live programming on their Facebook Pages with Facebook Live, video highlights and 360-degree videos from the ground in Rio. The live videos will feature athletes and other participants of the Games who can converse in real time with Facebook users.  Read more...

More about Live Video, Facebook Live, Rio 2016 Olympics, Rio 2016, and Ioc

Google buys Orbitera, a platform for building marketplaces for cloud software

industrycloud Google today announced another acquisition that will help the company improve how it competes against Amazon’s AWS, Salesforce and Microsoft in the area of enterprise services, and specifically selling enterprise services in the cloud: it has acquired Orbitera, a startup that developed a platform for buying and selling cloud-based software. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed… Read More

This man’s complaint about a dead worm in his cucumber escalated hilariously

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LONDON — The world of Facebook-based customer complaints can sometimes be a strange, wonderful place.

Wes Metcalfe's recent post on British supermarket Tesco's wall is a perfect example of this — it started with a dead worm in a cucumber, and somehow ended with Tesco adapting a famous Oasis song to act as tribute for the worm's funeral.

But let's back up a step. 

The whole thing started on Saturday, with the following post.

Image: facebook/wes metcalfe/tesco

Luckily, Tesco were sympathetic.

Image: facebook/wes metcalfe/tesco Read more...

More about Uk, Customer Service, Customer, Facebook, and Supermarket

NYC Sanitation, Scotch Tape & More: 10 Companies With Unexpectedly Good Twitter Content

Twitter_Brands_Inspiration.jpg

Back when I was in business school, just a wee lass interning for a consulting firm, one of my first assignments was to deliver a presentation on the value of social media. I had to prove why something like Twitter was actually of any use in this industry, and explain how we would leverage it to promote our company.

At the time, it was a bit of a tall order. And my presentation was met with a lot of the questions and objections:

  • “My line of work is too boring.”
  • “I don’t have anything meaningful to contribute.”
  • “The people we want to reach aren’t on Twitter.”

Since then, businesses have certainly warmed up to the platform -- and some of them have managed to establish a really impressive presence. But there are still a lot of small- to mid-size companies that continue to question the platform’s fit for their businesses.

Some continue to automatically push content to Twitter directly from Facebook -- a big no-no in social media automation -- while others start an account, only to abandon it a few weeks later.

For those folks, I've put together a list of 10 brands that are tweeting out thoughtful insights on some of the most unexpected topics, from bricks to car mats. Despite the unusual products and services they've been tasked with marketing, they are finding unique ways to use the platform ... and you should take note. (And to learn more about how to succeed on Twitter, download our introductory guide to Twitter for business.)

10 Unexpected Companies to Follow for Twitter Inspiration

1) NYC Sanitation

They say that New York is the place to get the best of everything, and the city’s Department of Sanitation is no exception.

The word “sanitation” doesn’t exactly paint the prettiest mental picture, but the department uses creative images to take away some of the ickier connotations associated with it. For example, check out this graphic they put together to promote their food waste reduction initiative:

We’d consider this a strong post for a few reasons. For one, tweets with images tend to receive 150% more retweets than those without. Not to mention, the image communicates information in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the user with details -- an important factor to consider when creating content for users who might be quickly skimming through their feeds.

NYC Sanitation is also careful not to come off as too authoritative on Twitter, which can be tricky for a local government office. It’s able to establish itself as a source of information, rather than a domineering force, and uses the platform for its own version of customer service.

Check out this exchange with a local resident seeking advice on how to store her compostable scraps before collection day:

What also strikes us about NYC Sanitation is its ability to illustrate its widespread presence in the community. The department uses Twitter to join existing conversations about something everyone is talking about -- without coming off as patronizing or cliché. For example, take this screen capture of a Pokémon Go creature next to a collection bin:

It shows that there are simple ways for any brand -- even one that’s known for trash pickup -- to participate in a larger dialogue.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Use images to share key information in a readable format (so people don’t skim past it).
  • Don’t be afraid to use Twitter for customer service -- your followers expect it.
  • Think about how your business relates to something everyone is talking about, then join the conversation.

2) Pine Street Inn

I've always had tremendous respect for the number of marketing challenges faced by nonprofits, but with the right efforts, these issues can be overcome. Pine Street Inn, a Boston-based shelter and provider of services to the city’s homeless population, has commanded a Twitter presence with some great takeaways for NPO marketers.

To start, we can’t help but notice how infrequently Pine Street Inn tweets about donation requests. Instead, the organization chooses to indirectly encourage volunteerism or material contributions by giving serious props to corporations and individuals who help out:

It also uses Twitter as a place to share success stories of its past residents or clients. Updates like that show the impact of fundraising, so that followers know exactly how donation dollars are put to use:

By populating Twitter with this kind of diverse content, followers aren’t as likely to tune out tweets that do pertain to donations. That’s a principle applicable to for-profit businesses, too: When you avoid saturating Twitter with sales pitches, your audience is less likely to ignore them (or unfollow you).

Plus, remember the love Pine Street Inn tweets for its volunteers? According to Nonprofit Tech for Good, those folks make double the fiscal donations as non-volunteers.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Don’t bombard followers with requests for donations, sign-ups, or sales.
  • Use images and stories to show how much you value your customers' business and support, and how it's making an impact.
  • Give props to your customers, followers, or volunteers -- they’ll notice, and often reciprocate.

3) WeatherTech

WeatherTech, a maker of weather-proof car mats, is using Twitter to show how nifty (and definitely multi-purpose) automotive accessories can be.

For those of us who are more accident-prone than others -- myself included -- it might not always be so obvious how helpful a floormat can be after something as routine as grocery shopping. But using tweets like this one, WeatherTech is able to say, “Hey, you! Yeah, the one who spills things in the car. It happens. We’re here to help.”

WeatherTech also does a good job of working seasonality into its tweets. When something is deemed “seasonal or limited,” writes Mark Macdonald, people are inspired to get it while they can. For that reason, it’s generally a best practice to align your tweets with the time of year. WeatherTech follows that concept with photos to show how its custom-fit car mats come in handy during the summer, when road trips -- as well as the sand and food that come with them -- reign supreme:

Another tactic that WeatherTech isn’t afraid to use? Tweeting with cute animals. (Yes, we're serious.) When a brand is able to connect a bland subject with something adorable, people typically pay attention. (Think: The Budweiser puppy or Heinz's stampede of wiener dogs.) WeatherTech combines this idea with the seasonality of its tweets in posts like this one:

And this one:

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Show the different (counter-intuitive) ways your products can be used.
  • Keep tweets seasonal: how are your products are used during a specific time of year?
  • Use cute animals -- even better if they’re interacting with your products.

4) Scotch

When was the last time you identified an office supply as “cellophane tape”? Over the years, Scotch Tape has become one of those brand names people use for generic terms -- just like Chapstick or Kleenex. But despite the fact that it’s a household name, there are two factors to consider here:

  1. Tape isn’t typically a lengthy conversation topic.
  2. The brand makes more than just tape.

Scotch has used Twitter to address both items. For example, this tweet visually represents how Scotch products can be applied in many scenarios, like moving:

What makes this tweet effective is how it includes multiple pieces of information in a small, digestible format. With one post, Scotch has accomplished three-in-one communication: The practicality of its products, a link to its website, and a positive customer review.

Scotch also plays into people’s love for visual statistics by incorporating visual content -- like this micro-infographic -- into their publishing mix:

Here, Scotch is not only catering to the fact that readers tend to pay closer attention to information-carrying images than they do to plain text on a page, but this post also ties in a relatable element: Honestly, who doesn’t have Scotch Tape in their junk drawer? And tweets that are relatable have been shown to get more engagement.

Let’s do a deeper dive into some of these images, as well as how Scotch curates them to promote its brand. Take a closer look at the colors used in the previous and following image. Do they remind you of anything?

If you answered, “The Scotch logo,” you get an A+. Scotch has achieved consistency by incorporating the color palette associated with its brand into what it shares on social media. And since 80% of consumers say that color boosts their recognition of a brand, these images keep the brand recognizable, even when depicting something other than Scotch’s chief product offering.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Again, use images to communicate information, like statistics. If you can include multiple pieces of information in one image without crowding it with text, even better.
  • Make your tweets relatable.
  • Maintain brand consistency in the images you tweet (e.g., by making the dominant colors the same as those in your logo).

5) TigerChef

It’s no secret that B2B marketers can borrow techniques from their B2C peers. TigerChef, a restaurant supplier, follows that advice by taking advantage of what it has in common with the general public: An obsession with food.

For example, food trucks have been an infatuation-du-jour for a few years now. TigerChef recognizes that growth and uses it to create blog content. Then, it uses Twitter to direct visitors there, like in this tweet:

Check out the language used above: It’s geared toward a target audience. TigerChef makes products primarily for chefs and restaurant owners, both seasoned and aspiring. With this tweet, the brand is able to attract two types of culinary professionals: Pros who have been buying these supplies for a while and want to explore the food truck market, and industry newcomers who are starting out there.

Here’s another key lesson from the B2C camp: Twitter can be used for customer service by B2B brands, too. When this French bakery received a defective product, TigerChef was able to respond more quickly via Twitter and send a free replacement, publicly ending its interaction with the customer on a positive note.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • If you’re B2B, don’t be afraid to borrow some Twitter best practices from B2C brands. Take something people are obsessed with -- like food -- and make it relevant to your brand and target audience.

6) Northcot Bricks

In the English language, there are a few human qualities ascribed to a pile of bricks. “Sexy” is not one of them. But at the same time, bricks surround most of us for the majority of the day. That’s something we tend to take for granted.

Northcot, a 90-year-old British brickmaker, uses Twitter to bring that to our attention. (See? You’re never too old to tweet.) The following tweet succeeds in highlighting the beautiful architecture that was achieved using a commonly overlooked product: bricks.

This serves as a good takeaway for businesses who aren’t sure where to begin with Twitter. If you don’t know what to say, think about the ways people interact with your product daily, and might not even realize it.

Northcot has also figured out how to share the social love. Here, the brand tweets its congratulations to an architecture firm:

How does that benefit Northcot? It draws attention to the fact that its bricks were used to create an award-winning design project.

Twitter can be a valuable relationship-building tool in that way, by nurturing and drawing attention to connections with brands that can potentially use and promote a business.

Retweeting other brands can achieve something similar. This retweet shows how other brands and people engage with Northcot. Plus, it shows that the brand isn’t afraid to have fun; it’s a reminder that brickmaking largely consists of playing with clay. And who doesn’t want to do that on a Wednesday afternoon?

Just be sure not to retweet every tweet that mentions your brand. At that point, it starts to look like you’re showing off.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Even if you think your products are boring, think about how people come across them on a daily basis. Tweet out photos to remind your audience of that.
  • Shout out to other brands on Twitter, especially if they used your product to create something notable.
  • Retweet other brands, especially if it depicts them interacting with yours.

7) John Deere

Farming equipment never looked so cool. John Deere is one of those brands that has mastered Twitter in a way that makes people look at tractors differently.

For example, here’s a great example of how a branded hashtag can create long-term engagement, when done well. For over three years, users have been uploading images labeled with #DeereSighting (a branded play on words) to show how they interact with John Deere’s products:

Here’s what’s neat about branded hashtags. First, tweets with hashtags get twice the engagement as those without. Let’s say someone has followed John Deere for a while, but hasn’t thought to mention it on social media. Just by clicking #DeereSighting, that person sees how others show their love for John Deere in a fun way.

And remember that image lesson from Scotch -- the one that says color boosts brand recognition for a vast majority of consumers? Notice that this picture doesn’t even contain a picture of an actual tractor. It’s a lovely, floral tribute to mothers, but it still carries the identifiable green and yellow colors associated with the iconic John Deere logo:

We also noticed that John Deere’s isn’t using Twitter to stray from the farm, so to speak. Rather, it’s paying tribute to what the business is known best for -- tractors -- and highlighting that legacy in unexpected ways.

In this tweet, the brand is acknowledging the important role that young engineers will play in the company’s future. Tweets like these send a message that says, “We’re adapting to change, but we’re still the reliable brand you’ve always known.”

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Create a branded hashtag that encourages your followers to start a conversation about your products.
  • If your business is a bit older, use Twitter to let followers know that you’re adaptable to change, but can still preserve your brand’s legacy.

8) Niagara Conservation

Remember that earlier statistic on hashtags, and how much they can boost engagement? Niagara Conservation, a maker of water-saving toilets, shows that those numbers don’t lie. I personally discovered the brand when someone I follow on Twitter used its very eye-catching hashtag: #WhatTheFlush.

Using the toilet is one of those things that we’re taught not to discuss openly, let alone announce on social media. But in an era where 40% of young adults say they use social media when nature calls, Niagara Conservation has leveraged Twitter in a way that gets people to broadcast their business, along with its environmental and financial implications.

Niagara Conservation achieves a really interesting balance with its tweets. The topics are usually crucial, like natural resource depletion. But the brand is able to effectively use humor to make these subjects more approachable, and even resonate with followers more than they might have otherwise. The drought is a serious problem. Water wastage is a serious problem. And this cat on a toilet isn’t messing around:

Another way Niagara Conservation creates a mass appeal is by addressing something everyone wants to do: Save money. (Just look how many articles come up for a search on “how to save money on Twitter.”) That’s another great use for Twitter: To highlight the benefits of your products -- like how they can help your budget -- in a condensed, digestible format.

Niagara is able to achieve that with the example below. It also avoids a doom-and-gloom approach to the primary intention of its product -- to solve a global water shortage -- and instead uses a cartoon to illustrate how this special toilet is financially beneficial.

And by the way, that dancing taco isn’t messing around, either.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Highlight the benefits of your product that most people seek when researching brands, like how it will save them money.
  • Inject humor into certain topics to make them more approachable. (Note: Tread lightly, as to avoid coming off as insensitive or offensive.)

9) Roland Berger

Management consulting is one of those lines of work that, when talked about, can quickly cure insomnia. It’s also overrun with stereotypes (I’ll never forget this 1998 Dilbert cartoon that breaks down the word “consult” as a combination of “con” and “insult”).

But Roland Berger, a Munich-based management consulting firm, is using Twitter to reshape the perception of its industry. It uses the platform to answer some of the most common questions about management consulting, like “Why?” -- namely, why talented people choose this line of work. And by accompanying their answers with rich colors and visuals -- which are said to increase a person's willingness to read a piece of content by 80% -- the firm invites users to engage with them:

At risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s worth pointing out the color scheme. The use of blue in these images fits into the brand consistency we keep mentioning, complementing the brand’s logo and creating a sense of cohesiveness throughout its Twitter presence. But there’s a lot of psychology behind color, too. Roland Berger mostly uses blue, which is known to invoke brand trust.

There’s also a clear call-to-action in the tweet below: “Explore our new website.” Using actionable language in Tweets has been known to boost engagement, especially when used with a bold, attention-grabbing image. The word “download,” for example, is particularly effective: when used correctly, it’s shown an 11% increase in clicks.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Create myth-busting content about your line of business, then tweet it out with rich colors and visuals.
  • Understand the psychology of color, and design your Twitter visuals accordingly.
  • Include a clear call-to-action in your tweets.

10) Poo~Pourri

Yes, another toilet-themed brand. I know.

From the beginning, Poo~Pourri has managed to un-taboo poo, especially for its target female audience. That makes its presence on this particular platform imperative, as 21% of online women use Twitter.

Since joining Twitter in 2009, Poo~Pourri has achieved a type of brand authenticity that is unapologetically honest and, for its 14,300+ followers, relatable. Just look at this exchange with one follower:

While, the customer above didn’t actually request a product replacement, and the incident described wasn’t the brand’s fault, that didn’t stop Poo~Pourri from going above and beyond to make that customer happy.

Most of Poo~Pourri’s responses to followers are tailored to their recipients in this way. And while many of them are inherently hilarious, they’re also really smart: People who have a personalized customer service experience on Twitter are 83% more likely to be satisfied.

Imagine if Poo~Pourri’s service was limited to phone or email? It’s highly unlikely that the customer would have shared this story through either of those methods, and the brand wouldn’t have been aware of it. So here’s a stellar example of a golden social media rule: An active and involved Twitter presence creates a huge opportunity for brands to delight customers.

Takeaways for marketers:

  • Know your audience, and don’t be afraid to start a conversation about something they might be too shy to bring up.
  • Even if it’s not your fault, use Twitter to improve a customer’s less-than-positive experience with your products.
  • Personalize your Twitter interactions with customers.

What are your favorite brands on Twitter? Share with us in the comments.

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