What No One Tells You About Your Career When You’re 22

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I don’t know about you, but I rarely feel like I’m 22. I do, however, work with a lot of 22-year-olds who are smart, interesting, dynamic, and absurdly high-energy.

While it depresses me they don’t understand my Saved by the Bell references, their ideas and achievements are truly remarkable.

And approximately once a week, I get a request from one of them to talk about “careers” -- a topic that they know they should care or think about, but don’t know what to actually do with. 

Below is a compilation of the advice I'll usually give them. (And even if you're not 22, the advice can still apply.)

1) Solve for growth. 

Early in your working life, you’re defined by the company you keep, so choose wisely. It’s very easy to pick the company with the biggest name or the biggest paycheck, but I recommend following our Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah’s advice: Solve for growth.

How does the company you’re working for (or considering joining) prioritize growth, both personally and professionally? How does the team you’ll be working for plan to grow in the coming year, and what do the prospects look like for growth for the broader company? Far too many people pick companies based on their current reputation rather than their possible growth, but you get far more career credit for being the fifth employee at LinkedIn after its explosive growth than you do for being the 5000th employee at Radio Shack before it stops growing entirely.

2) Always be learning. 

In my opinion, people overthink the role of formal mentorship in building their career. Instead of identifying one person to learn from and ask questions of, make that your daily practice. Write down what you see, know, and observe about what works and what doesn’t: You don’t think you’ll forget it as you evolve in your career, but you will, and having it written down somewhere will help you maintain perspective. Identify people you admire and learn from them, but don’t wait for a formal mentorship relationship to do so.

3) Lean in to your weaknesses.

At any part of your career, you need to learn new things -- and for that to be relatively painless later in your career, you need to build that habit now.

So instead of running away from things you’re not good at, lean into them. Great writer but not very technical? Learning even a little bit of code or the ins-and-outs of Photoshop will help you significantly. Fantastic at detail but have trouble seeing the big picture? Ask one of your peers who is great at project management how she juggles priorities. It’s very easy to fall back on your natural talents or training, but you’ll be well served if you invest the time and effort to push yourself on your greatest areas of weakness early and often in your career.

4) The best way to network is delivering remarkable work.

Far too many people treat networking as an extracurricular activity like running or playing guitar. In reality, the best form of networking is absolutely crushing results in your job -- doing so pays dividends for the rest of your career. That’s not to say networking isn’t important; it absolutely is -- just don’t be so fascinated with climbing the corporate ladder that you’re not delivering what it takes to get up there.

5) Rack up results, not recognition.

The biggest complaint I hear from folks new to the workforce is that another person got credit for their work and “that’s not fair.” It is incredibly frustrating when other people get credit for your blood, sweat, and tears, but guess what: Life isn’t always fair, and neither is work. However, I can tell you that over time, fortune rewards those who rack up results instead of focusing on getting credit. Instead of obsessing over recognition and credit, obsess over results: Your career will thank you for it later.

6) It's not your manager's job to manage your career. 

Your boss is your manager at work, not a mind reader, fortuneteller, or psychologist. He or she can and should support you in your professional goals, but the only person in the driver’s seat of your career is you. Manage it proactively by asking for what you want, making it clear what interests you, and eating up feedback for breakfast, lunch, and dinner--doing so will make you a better employee and a better leader, regardless of whether you stay at a company for ten months or ten years.

7) Tackle the big stuff.

Develop a nose early for what’s important in your business -- what’s a top priority, why, and what projects can actively support that priority. Raise your hands for those projects: They are high risk, but high reward, and the work you do on them can impact your career for decades to come. Be thoughtful, diligent, and tenacious: Managers notice employees who aren’t afraid of the big stuff, and your teammates will always want to be in a bunker with someone who can tackle a big challenge.

8) Use social to your advantage.

Most 22-year-olds think of social media as a way to connect with friends, but it’s a powerful lever in getting future employers to notice you. First and foremost, delete or make private any photos or comments about how great your years of partying in college were. Second, set a calendar reminder every quarter to update your LinkedIn profile with recent results so your online resume is always current and fresh. Finally, share content from companies and people you admire: If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, social sharing is a close second -- it can go a long way to getting you noticed.

9) Learn to rebound. 

Jack Welch, who I was lucky enough to have as a professor at MIT Sloan, is famous for having failed early in his career at GE. His quote, which I come back to often is, “Your career isn’t always linear. But what matters is how well you get back on the horse.” If a project didn’t go your way or an internship didn’t turn out as planned, don’t get down on yourself -- get on with it. Your success is heavily predicated on your ability to bounce back from challenges, so the earlier you learn to reset your attitude after a setback, the better.

10) Get the gratitude bug early. 

I realize I sound ancient saying this (I’m cool with that), but people remember gratitude in a way that outperforms other emotions or motivators. Take the time to thank people who interviewed you, people who made time to share what they know with you, and people whose influence helped you succeed. Be gracious in your praise of others and your kindness toward people who help you: People notice and remember this for years to come.

It used to be that signing on with a new company meant years (if not decades) of your life, but now that people switch jobs every few years, managing your career has become both more important and more challenging. Options seem infinite, grad school seems necessary, and far too early you start comparing your career trajectory to that of others, worried that you're being left behind or left out. Instead of overthinking your next job, your next decision, or your next networking event, focus on being remarkable at your job, tackling your weaknesses head-on, and being someone who isn't afraid to take on tasks that other people find terrifying. The rest of it will work itself out, I promise.

What other advice would you give to someone starting out in their career? Let us know in the comments. 

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17 SEO Myths to Leave Behind in 2015 [Free Ebook]

seo_myths_2015SEO is an evolving science. While some of the core principles will presumably stick around forever (e.g. creating high-quality content), the nuanced aspects of it are subject to continuous change. And as a result, many of the "proven" tactics people have used in the past (keyword stuffing, link schemes) are now stuff of legend.

Unless your organization benefits from having a dedicated SEO person who can work on this stuff day-in, day-out, keeping up with the latest changes in the world of SEO can be a struggle. But in the end, adjusting your strategy based on search ranking algorithm updates or changes in the way search results are displayed visually can benefit your business. 

In our new guide, 17 SEO Myths to Leave Behind in 2015, we reiterate some of the best practices that should continue to guide your strategy through 2015, while also highlighting how SEO has changed over the course of 2014. 

Here’s an example of one those changes: Did you know that Google has completely abandoned its Google Authorship program? Yep, we're serious.

The traditional advice had always been, “Oh, you totally need to get Authorship set up on your blog. Cause then you get your byline in the search results. And you get your headshot in the search results. And it'll improve search visibility and clickthrough rates …”

Welp, it’s all over. So I guess the main takeaway here going into 2015 is ... you have one less thing to worry about! And now that you have some free time, feel free to catch up on some other SEO insights with our SEO Myths guide. ;)

(Feel like sharing this new ebook with your Twitter followers? Use the click-to-tweet link below!)

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Former Google+ designer slams the service for being ‘Facebook lite’

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Google+ is a social network "adrift at sea," representing a big missed opportunity for the company, a former Google employee who worked on the service says.

Chris Messina, who worked on Google+ user experience design before leaving the company over a year ago, wrote a long post on Medium, in which he criticizes the service for not delivering on its initial vision of empowering users with the vast amount of data that Google collects about them. He also calls out Google+ for not having any meaningful differentiators over its more successful competitor, Facebook. "Most people would likely describe Google+ as a newsfeed, a kind of Facebook-lite," he wrote. Read more...

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The Top 50 Marketing Blogs on the Internet Right Now (+ Advice From #1)

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If you're anything like me (and my apologies if you are), you like lists. And, if you also happen to work in marketing, you've probably heard of the old AdAge Power150 list -- it was a list of the top marketing blogs in the world. I use the past tense, because a few months ago AdAge said they were "powering down" the list. As the folks from Monty Python would say ... the Power150 has ceased to be. (Video link here -- you're welcome.)

Ever since that initial announcement, I've thought to myself: "Self, you should totally go build that." Well, it took me a while (and it's by no means done yet), but we now have the Inbound 50: The Top Marketing Blogs list. I hope it will become the definitive (and dynamic) list of top marketing blogs on the internet.  

This list draws on a few different criteria to determine the highest "score," but the most important element is that it's a dynamically updating list -- which means the ranking will change automatically over time. Right now, the plan is to update every Sunday night.  

Below is a screenshot of the top 10 blogs on the Inbound 50. I don't think you'll be surprised to see who sits at #1 today. With over 332K followers, 175K Facebook fans, and (predictably) incredible search authority, the Moz.com blog has long been heralded as an industry guidepost for how business blogging (and SEO) is done.

I thought it would be appropriate to sit down with Rand Fishkin and Moz's founder, to solicit some words of wisdom as the original man behind the blog. Meet me below the top 10 list to see what he had to say. (To see the entire Top 50 list, visit inbound.org here.)

Full disclosure: Rand is a long-time friend and co-conspirator and instigator for the inbound.org site but I developed the algorithm independently. Besides, I dare you to argue that the Moz blog doesn't deserve to be on this list. I DOUBLE-DOG DARE YOU! 

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 Because the list is based off an algorithm that updates the rankings in real time, the list in the image above may look different than the list that appears on inbound.org. Click to see the full list of all 50 blogs.

1) When did you launch the Moz (formerly SEOMoz) blog, and why did you decide to do it?

I launched it in October of 2004, primarily with the goal of sharing what I was learning around SEO. I hoped, mostly, to be able to share ideas that wouldn't fit comfortably on the SEO forums of the time (where I was doing a lot of my content creation and community participation). That turned out to have lots of positive, serendipitous, but unintended effects, including launching our business!

2) You made the decision to switch the focus of your blog from SEO to broader inbound marketing topics. What precipitated that shift?

A few things -- one big one was a desire to help SEO-focused marketers with other tasks, challenges, and data. We also felt that SEO was expanding so much in scope that it seeped into arenas like social media, content marketing, public relations, and even email. As the engines advance and as the web's influencers expand how they discover and share content, SEOs have had to follow suit. Thus, they needed tools, data, and educational content to help with these new job requirements. SEO isn't just SEO anymore!

3) You have an incredibly engaged reader community -- what role did they play in the growth of your blog?

Our community has not only been the backbone of our blog, but also the backbone of our business. It's almost entirely thanks to the amazing people who contribute on Moz (in the comments and through other channels of all kinds) that we have the business and the community we have today. People found our content, helped it spread, and introduced new readers and contributors to our work. That pattern, over the course of the last decade, has made Moz into what you see today.

4) Is there a standout piece of content on your blog that you're particularly proud of?

I did a piece many years ago about how to create the "perfectly optimized page," and I've updated that resource many times since (including an all-nighter I pulled last year to entirely revamp it and create new graphics from the ground up). My last edit was small, but since I made it recently, that post is particularly fresh in my mind.

5) The Moz blog is an industry standard for top-notch marketing content today. What advice do you have for blogs in other industries that want to elevate their blog content?

I've found a few things to be true:

  • Conversations and ideas that resonate in person are far more likely to perform well on the web. When I've made content off the top of my head while staring at a screen, it's almost always worse than when I take an idea that I've bounced off others, usually in person, and converted it into web content.
  • Don't expect much in your first few years of blogging -- if you do, you'll be sorely disappointed (often to the point where you give up). Great blogs are built over many years (with very few exceptions). Pay attention to what works, what doesn't, and most importantly -- why. That's the way all the great bloggers I know have built their successes.
  • With every post, be able to answer the question "Who will help amplify this and why?" If you don't have an answer to that, don't bother creating the content. It's totally OK even if you're not in touch or will have a hard time exposing your post to those people you believe would help amplify, but it's not OK if they don't even exist. That's when you're shouting down an empty hallway.

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The 9 Best and Worst Questions to Ask in a Marketing Automation RFP

question-sticky-notesRecently, I came across a really depressing statistic about the marketing automation buying process: According to a study done by VentureBeat, 70% of marketers who purchase a system are either unhappy or only marginally happy with their software. But even though marketers are unhappy with their purchases, they're still pumping serious cash into the marketing automation industry -- it's projected to be a $1.9 billion industry by 2020

So if your company is following industry trends and planning to invest time and resources in marketing automation, how can you make sure you're not going to be part of that unsatisfied 70%?

Part of the answer is to ask the right questions during the software selection process. Too often, Request for Proposals (RFPs) ask hundreds of questions, but don’t actually help marketers choose the best platform for their organization. Here are some examples of the best and worst questions you can ask in a marketing automation RFP. (And if you're looking for more help with your RFP, check out this free RFP template and planning guide.)

The Worst Questions to Ask

1) Does your platform do this in that screen?

There are so many forms of this question. A favorite of mine is: “Do you have drag and drop functionality in (insert screen here)?”

This questions is like the “Pick a Side” ads from Twix, where the company supposedly splits in half, one making the right side of the bar and one the left. They satirize the difference between being “cloaked” vs. “covered” in chocolate and “flowing” caramel on to the cookie vs. “cascading” caramel on to the cookie. In one ad, a young executive suggests a merger between the two halves because they make the same thing and the obtuse executive interrupts him -- “No, cloaked in chocolate, totally different process.”

Of course you want the software to be easy to use and the UI does impact that. But when evaluating RFPs, too many focus on asking if the software can do something in a very specific way. Being this prescriptive about the design or getting into a feature war between one vendor and another won’t lead to selecting the right marketing platform.

Instead, ask about ease of use and how the software will help you meet your goals -- like driving leads, conversions, and customers. Even better, ask for a trial so you can see how firsthand how the tools work.

2) What percent of revenue do you invest in product development?

This question does not help you choose the right vendor. A company can invest 100% of their revenue in product development and release new features once a year. And they might not be features that you need or want. Getting an arbitrary percentage from each vendor is not the right question for an RFP.

Instead, what you really want to know is how the vendor decides on new product features, if they are forward-looking, how their vision aligns with your goals, and how often they release new features.

Knowing how customer input is handled will also tell you a lot. Imagine you're looking at software and the company says they've implemented changes based on customer feedback over the past year -- and has given you specific examples of those features. That tells you that they listen to their customers and if there is a popular feature request, you likely won’t be waiting around for years to get it.

3) How many reports can I create?

We’ve all heard the adage "It’s about quality, not quantity." This is especially true in the reporting features of marketing automation software. In some systems, you can create literally thousands of reports that measure just about anything. But most marketers have limited resources and don’t have the time to spend pouring through endless reports. Besides, it’s what you do with the data that really matters.

So instead of focusing on the number of reports you can create, find a platform that enables you to make decisions about the success of your programs and channels. A good marketing software platform should help you understand where to invest your marketing resources, the ROI of your marketing programs, and the impact your marketing programs have had on revenue.

A great way to test this is to identify your biggest reporting problem area, and ask your vendor to show you an example report from their software that could deliver actionable insights to overcome the issue.

4) Can you do real-time personalization?

You’re probably thinking … wait a minute. Personalization is important, right? Yes. At HubSpot, in a study of over 93,000 calls-to-action (CTAs), we found that personalized CTAs performed 42% better than standard, static CTAs. A Janrain study found that nearly 75% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when the content has nothing to do with their interests.

But ‘real-time personalization’ is an industry buzzword, and this question doesn’t get you the information you need. If you want to personalize a CTA, for example, of course you want it to be ‘real-time’ in the sense that you want the personalized content to show up on the page when the person gets there. What’s the alternative?

You should find out, instead, if the platform offers personalization capabilities. You also need to know how easy they are to implement (Do you need to code? Get IT involved?), what attributes you can personalize on, and what type of content can be personalized. For example, can emails, landing pages and CTAs be personalized? Can the solution personalize your website for first-time visitors? 

The Best Questions to Ask

1) How will you help us grow our database?

23% of all email lists expire every year. So even if you have a big list to start, it’s critical to continue to grow that list. How do you do that? Through content creation, blogging, SEO, and robust social media tools that help spread your message throughout the web. Ask if these tools are included or integrated with the potential marketing platform. Find out how the platform will help you grow your database, not just market to the existing one.

2) How easy is it to create assets for my marketing programs and make changes to them (emails, landing pages, etc.)? Do I need to know HTML or CSS? What about for mobile optimization?

This is a critical topic. The more landing pages you have, the more leads you can bring in and the more you can learn about those leads. If it takes hours to build a single landing page, or you need coding skills to make it look beautiful or be responsive, you won’t have time to focus on your goals. Or, you won’t end up using the system to it’s full capability because it’s too hard. One HubSpot customer talked about waiting until the end of the day to log into his marketing automation system because he “dreaded” logging into it.

And if you're building landing pages and emails that aren’t optimized for mobile devices, you’re missing out on conversions, and you could be hurting your SEO efforts. It’s now being rumored that Google will soon be incorporating mobile user experience into its ranking algorithm. One Google study found that 52% of consumers are less likely to engage with a company if they’ve had a bad mobile experience.

Will the platform you choose offer landing pages and emails that are mobile-optimized or responsive by default? Can you preview content across various devices? A system that is built responsive can save you time, dollars, and help increase your conversion rates.

3) What is the CRM integration process like?

CRM integration is important for marketing and sales alignment and for supporting the sales process. You want a bi-directional sync between the two systems. Also, ask about what it takes to integrate your CRM. Do you need technical knowledge to do so? How much help does the vendor provide? This is a critical part of the process and you want to make sure you are fully supported.

4) How easy is it to measure the effectiveness of your marketing -- and quickly act on it?

Understanding the platform’s reporting capabilities is key to ensuring that you can make data-driven decisions about marketing spend and show your leadership team actionable results. This can get tricky because with the sheer amount of data available to you in most systems, you can lose time analyzing metrics that don’t actually help you make decisions. Instead of focusing on every report you could ever possibly want to build, focus on your top goals and find out how quick and easily you can report on success.

Here are some examples of what you should be able to do in your marketing automation system:

  • You’re marketing across multiple channels -- paid, social, email, events, etc. You should be to understand which channels are driving the most visits, leads, and customers.
  • If you're using campaigns, you should easily be able to tie assets to a campaign and report on individual assets and the overall campaign -- both at the end and while the campaign is running.
  • Tie your marketing efforts back to the deals and revenue generated for the company.

And here is where ‘real-time’ is important. You shouldn’t have to wait until the end of a campaign, export data, build Excel formulas, figure out what happened, and then take action on your next campaign. You should be able to see which channels/initiatives are working (and which ones aren’t), and fix them mid-campaign.

5) When you have issues, how easy is it for anyone on your team to get support?

I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Does the vendor provide unlimited and free access to web, phone, email, and Twitter support? Or does that cost extra? How many people on your team can engage with support? Is it limited? How long can you expect to wait on hold if you call in with an issue? Are you given a single point of contact for your entire customer lifetime? If you bring on new team members, do you have to pay extra to train them? Does the vendor offer personalized training?

A marketing automation system or software platform can be very powerful -- as long as you’re actually using it. Having quality customer support from the platform vendor is critical to this. Too often, this costs extra, or it takes too long to find the answer you need. You’re implementing marketing automation so you can generate results. Don’t let a poor support experience get in your way.

In general, remember to stay focused on what your goals are -- they’re probably around driving more visits, leads, customers, and revenue -- and on how the system you’re putting in place will help you get there. To help with this, we’ve put together an RFP template and planning guide that asks the right questions about growing your database and nurturing your leads, so you can choose the vendor that makes the most sense for your organization.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Colors for Marketing Designs

paint-bucketsApplying color is one of the most enjoyable parts of graphic design, but it can also be incredibly difficult to get right. Which colors look good together? How many should I use? How do I create a color palette?

These questions are asked all the time by people starting out with design. In this article I’ll take you through everything you need to know to start using colors effectively. Whether you’re choosing colors for a new brand or creating graphics for your social media pages, learning this essential skill will help you improve your visual strategy and create beautiful designs.

Get familiar with the color wheel. 

The color wheel is an incredible tool you can use to apply different colors to your designs -- from black and white, to the deepest and brightest greens and blues. There are two main aspects of the color wheel every beginner should know about: how to select different colors and how to identify them.

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When choosing different colors, the brightest colors can be found toward the outside of the color wheel. These colors are the most vibrant, and can be thought of as the most intense version of a color. Toward the middle are pastel colors, which are soft and neutral.

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Every color on the color wheel can be identified by a unique hex code. This is the six-digit code that appears underneath the wheel when you select different colors. Hex codes are incredibly useful if you want to reuse the same colors in multiple designs -- which is an essential skill for consistent branding.

Change the intensity of your colors using the brightness slider.

The brightness slider is a tool which allows you to find lighter and darker versions of the same color. By moving it to the left, the color lightness will increase, while moving it to the right will make it decrease. Using this tool is a great way to different various shades of the same color.

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Explore color relationships.

Ever wondered why some colors clash together and some just work? It’s largely due to the way that they’re related.

Color relationships are determined by their position on the color wheel. These three well known color relationships can be a great basis for an original color palette:

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  • Monochromatic colors: A monochromatic color palette includes dark, medium, and light versions of a single color.
  • Analogous colors: Analogous colors are located next to each other on the color wheel, which gives them a seamless, low contrast harmony.
  • Complementary colors: Complementary colors are located on opposite sides of the color wheel, allowing for the most dramatic contrast of all color relationships.

Evoke emotions with color. 

There are two types of colors on the color wheel: warm colors and cool colors. Warm colors are found on the right, and include reds, oranges, and yellows. These colours are great to create energy and emotion in your designs.

Cool colors, ranging from blues and greens to pinks and purples, can be found on the left. Cool colors are considered more calm and soothing in nature.

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Compare the difference between the cool pink used by Benefit Cosmetics on its Instagram account and Corona -- which use an iconic warm yellow filter over its images. The Benefit graphic is feminine and delicate, while the Corona graphic is warm and inviting.

Create an effective color pallette.

The first thing to know about choosing a color palette is not to choose too many colors -- limit your selection from two to four. First, choose a single vibrant color that will stand out in your design. In this example, the dark green color is the most prominent. White and a lighter shade of green have been chosen as the additional colors, creating a low contrast harmonious palette.

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Make sure the colors you choose are relevant to your design subject. In this example, the olive green color matches the earthy tones of the photograph.

Match color with images.

To create visual harmony, match your text color with a prominent color from your background image. You can find the exact color using a color picker tool. See here how the vibrant pink color of the flowers matches the text.

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Explore different color schemes.

When choosing your color palette, it’s a great idea to explore different color schemes. For example, if you’re creating a social media graphic for a ladies boutique, a pastel color scheme could provide a feminine touch. Here are two great color schemes for you to try in your designs:

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Use colors consistently for branding. 

Using the same colors repetitively is an essential skill for branding, as it helps create recognition. See how Tiffany and Co. has used its iconic turquoise color on its Facebook page. A bit of variation is great too -- see how there are lighter and darker versions of the same color visible.

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Apply a color palette to everything in your design.

When people start designing it’s not uncommon for them to think their color palette is just for their background and text. In fact, you color palette should be applied to everything in your design, including text, text holders, images, shapes, icons, and more.

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In the design above, an orange color has been applied to the transparent shape to match the clementine fruits. All of the text and the dotted line are also a light cream color to suit the style of the design.

Create a mood board for inspiration. 

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Whether you’re trying to find the right color for anything from a new brand to a social media graphic, creating a mood board is a great way to find inspiration. Consider these questions when putting together a mood board:

  • What kind of images spring to mind when you think of your brand or design subject
  • What kind of feelings do you want to evoke?
  • If there are other similar brands out there, what kind of colors do they use in their branding and marketing?

Put these skills into practice.

When used effectively, colors can evoke emotions and change the meaning and mood of your designs. Next time you create a marketing graphic for your social media page or even put together an original birthday card for a loved one, be sure to pay careful attention to the colors you use.

With a little practice, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can improve your eye for choosing amazing colors!  

If you’re eager to learn more, check out Canva’s Design School! It has everything you need to learn design like a pro.

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What to Buy Everyone at the Office: An Essential Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

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Twinkling lights. Festive parties. Warm get-togethers with families and friends. There’s a lot to love about the holidays -- but gift giving isn’t always on the list.

Truthfully, giving and getting gifts can be tricky. There’s a lot of thought and guesswork that goes into picking out the right present. When you add in good old office dynamics, holiday gift giving can become incredibly stressful.

Well, we’ve got your back. We’ve put together pin boards chock full of gift ideas for every person in your office, from your coworker who can’t start the morning without her cup o’ joe to your resident cosmopolitan. Be your office’s holiday hero with personal (but not too personal) gifts at every price point. Check 'em out below, and don't forget to pin your favorites for later to your own holiday shopping boards.

1) The Wine Lover

Always the first at Happy Hour, the wine lover appreciates a good swish-sniff-taste like no one else. Treat the oenophile in your office to a bottle of their favorite wrapped in a festive tartan wine bottle tote. Or, help her take her nightcap to the next level with a hand-painted, winter-themed wine glass. Or, if you’re REALLY aiming to impress, go all out with a personalized mini oak wine barrel, designed to “properly age your chosen beverage.” Now that’s classy.

Follow HubSpot's board The Wine Lover | #HolidayHero on Pinterest.

2) The Caffeinator

Does the whole office know not to talk to this person until he’s all the way through his first cup of coffee? You may have a caffeinator on your hands.

Take his coffee habit from survival tactic to luxe treat with homemade coffee syrups! Not so handy? Do the whole office a favor with this mug that indicates whether or not your coffee lover has a full cup o’ joe -- if it’s “Off,” you may want to wait to ask that favor. If you're feeling generous, wake up your caffeinator’s inner designer with a Pantone-colored set of espresso mugs.

Follow HubSpot's board The Caffeinator | #HolidayHero on Pinterest.

3) The Pet Parent

If your coworker has more iPhone pictures of their furry friend than people (guilty!), you may be in the presence of a Proud Pet Parent. Delight her with a stylish paw-footed feeder, or these adorable scarf-wearing dog ornaments.

(Want to really pam-”purr” the Pet Parent? You can actually have an oil painting made of their pet in people clothes.)

Follow HubSpot's board The Pet Parent | #HolidayHero on Pinterest.

4) The Foodie

What is that heavenly smell? Why, it’s the foodie’s lunch, of course. His creations are the envy of the office potluck, and he deserves something special this year, just like the rest of your fabulous team. Help them find their new favorite organic snack with a NatureBox subscription, or inspire their next homemade creation with a culinary classic, The Joy of Cooking. 

Follow HubSpot's board The Foodie | #HolidayHero on Pinterest.

5) The Bookworm

Who doesn’t love reading? Unlike the kids in a typical high school literature class, the bookworm’s passion remains unsullied. Help her display her books proudly with a concealed floating bookshelf, or light her nighttime reading with a book light that lights up BOTH pages simultaneously. If you're really looking to thank the Bookworm for a job well done in 2014, give her the newest evolution of Amazon’s best-selling Kindle Paperwhite so she can take her whole library with her wherever she goes.

Follow HubSpot's board The Bookworm | #HolidayHero on Pinterest.

6) The Techie

If you work at a software company like we do, then you probably have plenty of techies to please this holiday season. Indulge the techie’s love of gadgetry with a USB mini-fridge, or get punny with a lightning-bolt-shaped power strip. 

Follow HubSpot's board The Techie | #HolidayHero on Pinterest.

7) The World Traveler

If she’s gazing off the window, she’s not bored -- she’s just planning her next great adventure. Dress up her well-worn passport with a cute, handmade travel cover, or make her next international flight more comfortable with the BioSense Neck Travel Pillow. Want to send her over the moon (the only place she hasn’t visited ... yet)? Help her decorate her desk with a framed map pin of her favorite place on earth.

8) The Fitness Enthusiast

When he’s not breaking productivity records at work, he’s beating his own personal records at the gym and on the trail. “Om”-press him with a high-performance yoga mat, or fuel his post-workout snack with a Black and Decker Juice Extractor.

Follow HubSpot's board The Fitness Enthusiast | #HolidayHero on Pinterest.

9) The Workaholic

Maybe she’s your boss, maybe she’s your office’s unsung hero, but the workaholic deserves a break this holiday season. Since you probably won’t be able to convince her of that, try a productivity gift instead. She’ll love writing down every meeting and task in this stylish Kate Spade agenda, and sitting all day is easier when you have a Kiss My Back! Ergonomic Mesh Back Support. 

Hopefully, these boards will help make your holiday gift giving a little less painful. At the very least, you'll get some ideas for what to put on your list. ;)

To make gift giving even more painless, we’re giving away two $100 gift certificates per pinboard above -- one for you and one to give to your coworker. After all this holiday stress, you deserve it! You can enter here to win.

enter to win a pair of $100 gift certificates

Game reviewer received rape threats from boys, contacted their mothers

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An Australian game reviewer got sick and tired of young boys trolling her and threatening to rape her, so she did what any self-respecting adult would do — she told their parents.

The 21-year-old journalist Alanah Pearce normally reviews video games for local radio stations and television in Brisbane, Queensland. She also has a YouTube channel. But recently, she has made a name for herself by smacking down trolls that send her vile rape threats for no apparent reason. Pearce is using a method not tested before, but appears to be having some luck.

"Sometimes young boys on Facebook send me rape threats, so I've started telling their mothers," she tweeted with a photo of the correspondence on Nov. 28 Read more...

More about Facebook, Gamer, Australia, Us World, and Conversations

Facebook, Google, And Twitter’s War For App Install Ads

app-install-ads Big brands aren’t the only ones to suck up to anymore. No one buys a car or Coca-Cola on their phone, at least not yet, so proving the return on investment of mobile ads to these businesses is tough. There is one thing people will instantly plop down a few bucks for on the small screen, though: Apps. Lured by billions in app install ad spend per quarter and hoping to grow that pie… Read More

Boogie Shoes & Musical Fruit: The Strangest Employee Rewards Ever Given

buckets-of-beansThis post originally appeared on the Sales section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

There are a lot of classics in the world of employee rewards. Money. Time off. Restaurant gift certificates. Trips. All oldies, but goodies.

However, sometimes business leaders get a bit more creative ... and occasionally, downright strange. The book 1501 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson is chock full of examples of companies gifting cash, vacations, medals, and food. But every few pages, there's also a more bizarre anecdote. After sifting through the book to find some of the strangest rewards, I compiled my top 10 favorites here.

These examples might inspire you to think outside the box when deciding on your next sales contest incentive or employee reward plan. On the other hand, they might reaffirm the choice to stay comfortably in the box. It all depends on how flexible your definition of "reward" is.

1) The Musical Fruit

For going above and beyond your daily duties at Lands' End, you could win the "Big Bean Award." Each month, one nominee (selected from a ballot box) gets to try their hand at the "Big Bean Machine," aka "Plinko," to determine which bean-themed prize they'll walk away with. Some are pretty neat -- beanbag chairs; beanie hats. Others, such as actual beans ... are less so.

2) Regular Fruit

Outdoor retail company REI is all about maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. Avoiding scurvy is part of health -- so it makes a bit more sense that the location in Ventura, CA rewarded two employees who went the extra mile with whole pineapples. (I hope their next prize was a corer.) 

3) Lawn Decor

Each recipient of the "Standing Tall" award at Synovus gets an extra day of vacation, $100, and ... a pink flamingo lawn ornament wearing a bowtie. Thanks, I think?

4) Fido's Delight

Flight attendants probably feel like they've seen it all until a CUNA Mutual Group "Big Bone Award" winner boards their flight. The leader who takes home the Big Bone one of three times per year literally takes home a big bone: a four foot long rawhide dog bone, to be exact. "If you won, you got to sign the bone, bring it home as an airplane carry-on, and display it in your work area," said Eileen Doyle Julien, a division manager.

What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall when the inevitable argument goes down about whether there's room for a giant dog bone in the overhead bins.

5) Working for Peanuts

At HP, salespeople receive pistachios from the marketing department when they close a significant deal. (I also wouldn't mind if you threw in a steak dinner with those pistachios.)

6) King for a Day

At his behest, Automatic Answer designated a "John Day" when salesman John Gurden reached his monthly goal. And in #AlexFromTarget fashion, the company got really, really into the holiday-for-the-sake-of-a-holiday: putting up banners, creating a dedicated John Day photo album, and even answering the phones with a special John Day greeting. 

7) Hairless Wonder

Ever wonder what your boss would look like with a shaved head? Apparently the sales team at Korry Electronics was dying to know. To incent his reps to beat a record month, the director told them he would shave his head if they could top the goal. They did, and his hair bit the dust at a party later that month. Top-performing reps got a chance to make the first cuts. Victory is bald.

8) Rock-a-Bye-Quota

As an incentive for meeting sales goals, the president of TravelTrust Corporation built a nursery in a sales manager's house for her newborn baby. Pretty sweet ... 

9) Extreme Home Makeover: Work Edition

... until you hear about the prize for one lucky employee at Advanced Micro Devices. As a reward for the company reaching $200 million in sales, Jocelyn Lleno won a house. Suddenly a single room seems a little less impressive.

10) Boogie Shoes

As a nod to the Greek god Hermes' golden winged sandals, employees at 3M in St. Paul, MN are given gold shoes for exceptional achievement. But they might not be as stylish as you'd hope. According to the book, "these tacky, plastic, gold-colored shoes are highly valued by employees." Their words, not mine.

What's the most bizarre employee award you've ever heard of or given?

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