• Background Image

    The Communication Hackers Blog

    Laura Hsu

February 25, 2018

How to Make Social Media Videos That Get Liked and Shared

How to Make Social Media Videos That Get Liked and Shared

On ocean-going ships, lifeboats are painted a very particular orange. They are designed this way to stand out against the ocean which is so vast and dull colored that this color is the only way to have a hope of being spotted by rescuers, even when they are specifically looking for the lifeboats. The noise of our digital world is, in many ways, like the ocean and if you want your brand to have a chance of being noticed, you really need to work on standing out. Today, one of the best ways to stand out is to use video. In particular, social media videos stand out from static content like photos and text  – just like orange colored lifeboats stand out from the ocean.

Social media videos get far more attention than any other form of communication. In fact, I read a Forbes article that said social media videos generate 1200% more shares than text and images combined. The catch here is social media video – not just a video housed solely on your website. Video is, by nature, a social experience — and your audience wants to engage socially with the videos you create. They want to respond to it with “likes” and if they really like it, they want to be able to share it with their friends! Thankfully, technology has made it easier and cheaper than ever before to create compelling social media videos for your small business. You no longer need a film degree to create killer social media videos to raise your brand’s awareness and grow your following. So today let’s talk about tips, hacks, and best practices for creating DIY social media videos that will get likes and shares. This is one of the most affordable ways to market your business, gain brand awareness, and grow your following.

Social media videos generate 1200% more shares than text and images combined.

Successful Social Media Videos Start With a Story

This article is part 2 of a 5-part series. In part one we discussed ways to create a compelling story as the basis for your small business’ short marketing videos. I started the series with the topic of storytelling because it really is the foundation for the success or failure of a video. Without a strong hook and an interesting story, the video will tank. So once you’re confident that you have a story that others will be interested in watching, you’ve got to choose which social media platform(s) you want to share it on. Here’s the catch— you can’t create one video and then simply dump it onto every single one of your accounts. Each social media platform has its own quirks unique requirements and best practices for getting engagement from your audience. If you’re like me, you’ll find this frustrating. You might even pout for a while. Then you’ll slowly succumb to the fact that you can’t avoid video forever; your competition is already making cool social media videos and it’s ticking you off; and finally, you’ll grit your teeth and start hustling harder to understand how to hack social media videos. So, let’s begin.

So Many Social Media Platforms to Choose From

I hope your company isn’t on every single platform. We’re not. In fact, we’re finding that our ideal audience has been shifting away from Twitter and turning more towards Instagram and the “old standby” Facebook. For some of you reading this, Twitter might still make sense. But I’m not going to spend time today discussing how to make social media videos for platforms that:

  • I perceive as dying,
  • Are geared for youngins who likely aren’t your target market, or
  • Tend to appeal to a smaller subset of businesses within limited niches (Tumblr, Flickr, etc.).

We’re going to focus on creating social media videos for the following platforms and for these reasons:

  1. Facebook. I can’t think of any business that shouldn’t have a company Facebook account. It’s literally the #1 performing social media platform out there today.
  2. Instagram. Since Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, they’ve been integrating the two platforms. In fact, if you create a marketing video on Facebook, and then pay to have it sponsored, it actually gets automatically sponsored on Instagram as well. Two for one! Plus, we’re seeing major growth every month in the number of new Instagram users. If your customers are getting on Insta, you should too! Here’s our free webinar of tips to help small businesses leverage Instagram to grow their following and earn customers.
  3. YouTube. Everybody uses YouTube. If there’s anything your customers want to know or see, they likely visit YouTube first. It’s like the Wal-Mart of social platforms—it has everything! From how-tos to just pure entertainment, YouTube is the one-stop shop for most consumers. Although we at Communication Hackers aren’t using it to grow a huge fan base of ‘tubers, we do use it as a cool free place to park our videos, edit clips, and ultimately to hold them so that we can play them from our company website. This means the videos appear nicely on our site, but YouTube is actually doing all the work to hold them so that our website’s load time doesn’t suffer and deter our site visitors. If you don’t have a company YouTube account, you need one.
  4. LinkedIn. Again, you need to be on LI. LinkedIn is a horse of another color, however, because it was created for B2B, not B2C. Sure, it’s great for networking, collaborating, and helping educate your connections—but I can’t stress enough that your videos on LI better be a lot different than what you post on the other platforms. I triple hate it when my LI connections try to sell their crap to me. We’re on there to share ideas, not make purchases. Rant over.

How To Make a Winning Facebook Video

Facebook is my favorite platform to create social media videos for because it’s so flexible. With 2.2 billion active monthly users, your audience is likely very diverse. Tweens, professionals, moms, even grannies are all potential viewers of the videos you make for Facebook. If your video tanks with one audience, no worries ‘cuz other sects of your audience might love it.

Facebook Video Tips

  • People use Facebook for entertainment. Therefore videos here should be emotionally engaging.
  • Aim for just 2-4 minutes. Although FB allows for a maximum of 45 minutes, I highly discourage making marketing videos which venture anywhere close to the maximum time limit. Your audience most likely watching your video on a mobile device; they are there to stroll and scroll (with itchy thumbs). Don’t expect them to sit through a 20-minute video; unless you’re hosting a Facebook Live TV program (like Dave Ramsey’s very successful daily The Dave Ramsey Show), in which case do yo’ thang.
  • Add captions. This seems like a minutia detail, but your audience is likely watching your social media video on their smartphone. Captions will allow them to keep watching even if they’ve turned off their sound. Without captions, you may lose viewers who aren’t in a position to turn their sound on.
  • Share natively. Rather than uploading your video to YouTube and simply linking to it from Facebook, upload it natively. Why? Because the Facebook gods have given priority to native videos. This means that their algorithm is rigged to show preference for Facebook native videos and will give those more and better placement in your audience’s feeds.
  • Do this every time: add a call-to-action and a link to the end of every video you post. Even if your link simply sends them to your Facebook page or to your company website, take advantage of that feature.
  • Try using Facebook videos for shareable content such as interviews, training, reviews, and to promote your company’s events that viewers might be interested in.Social media videos

How to Rock an Instagram Video

Instagram currently appeals to a young-ish audience. Teens, millennials, and 30-somethings are drawn to the candid nature of Instagram videos. They’re We’re also drawn to the artistic nature (beauty, intrigue, freshness) of content that succeeds on Insta. The upcoming generation of thought leaders is tired of impersonal, boring brands. Instagram will allow you to showcase your brand’s human side and connect more intimately with your viewers. Keep that in mind when you create Insta social media videos. (Hint, no one wants to see dudes in suits handing out company awards and shaking hands. Gag!)

Instagram Video Tips

  • Stories keep you at the top. Instagram allows for two types of videos: regular feed stories that are located in the general feed, and video stories that you pin to the top of the feed and that only remain up there for 24 hours before they magically disappear. Make both. But keep in mind that regular video posts max out at 60 seconds, while Insta stories (the kind pinned at the top) have a max of ten seconds.
  • Experiment with the free tools. Instagram was made for social media videos! As such, there are tons of free apps out there designed exclusively for making cool Insta videos. For example, I use Boomerang for my iPhone to create super-short videos that really aren’t much more elaborate than a 2-second GIF. Here’s a list of rad apps compiled by Sprout Social to help you create eye-catching Insta videos (#13 through #20 on the list pertain to videos).
  • Get your fans involved. Instagram stats show that user-generated content does really well. Basically, that is where your fans themselves upload content for you. Tint goes in-depth about UGC (here) and examines campaigns that have gone viral on it. Anytime you can encourage your followers to respond to your video by uploading their own content, you’ve hit the jackpot.
  • Here’s what Insta is a good fit for: behind-the-scenes tours, quick how-tos, and product launch videos.
  • Here’s what sucks about Insta videos: lack of ability to use links. You literally get to insert one clickable link…the one you provide in your profile.

Social media videos

I use Boomerang for my iPhone to create super-short videos that really aren’t much more elaborate than a 2-second GIF.

How to Create a Killer YouTube Video

YouTube is the second greatest social sharing platform, only behind Facebook. Perhaps you want to be a famous YouTuber. Perhaps you don’t. Either way, you’ll likely want to create video content for YouTube. As I mentioned above, it’s a terrible idea to upload (house) videos on your company website. It slows it down immensely. Instead, you can upload directly to YouTube and then simply provide the embedded link into your website. So whether you want to host a poppin’ YouTube channel, or if you’re like me and using it as a means to an end–this is a platform you’ll want to consider because it has so many slick free video editing & video creation features already built in.

YouTube Video Tips

  • Add captions. Here’s a how-to video that explains how to easily get free captions on your YouTube videos.
  • The blur feature is like a magical eraser. Did you know YouTube has a free, built-in, super-simple way to blur out faces or objects from the videos you upload? Yep. It’s easy. If you shoot a video with your camcorder and later realize you need to blur out faces of passersby or perhaps the license plates of cars driving past, no worries. This tutorial will show you how to do it within the YouTube platform itself.
  • Make clickable links. After your viewers have watched your video, you don’t want them to chase the next squirrel. In fact, by default, your video will end and your audience will be offered a follow-up video (likely made by someone other than you)…and poof! your viewer is gone forever. That’s bad. By adding a clickable link right towards the end frame of your video, you can strategically direct your viewers to take action—hopefully by having them click a link to your website, another video of yours, etc. Here’s how to create one.
  • Here’s what YouTube videos can be great for: reviews, training, interviews

Social media videos

By adding a clickable link right towards the end frame of your video, you can strategically direct your viewers to take action

How to Create Helpful Videos for Your LinkedIn Network

LinkedIn is obviously a professional networking platform. Clearly, that means uploading silly cat videos is a no-no here. The videos you post should demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your professional field. It’s also a great way to let your connections see your personality shine through when they’re used to nothing but your polished profile and perfect portrait. Video here is a great way to let connections get to know you better—the real you.

LinkedIn Video Tips

  • 80/20 rule applies. We use this rule for most of your business profiles. That is, aim for creating content that is 80% helpful, 20% promotional. Sure, you might have a great new service to unveil, but make sure you’ve already created the hoopla with 80% of your videos geared toward informing/instructing/educating on the topic before you drop a promotional video on your audience.
  • Here are the specs. LI videos can be between 3 seconds and 10 minutes in length (aim for < 3 minutes). Videos silently autoplay in the feed, so know that your users will need to manually click on the video to engage the sound. Did you know you can download the LI app for your phone so you can film, edit, and upload directly from your phone?
  • Tips for video caption. Before people typically turn on the sound to your video, they’ll first read the text you typed to see what the nature of the video is and to decide if they’re interested before actually tuning in. Here’s a great tip: type a question as your caption; then ask the question in your video itself and use the video as a way to answer the question. This is provocative and makes for dialogue between your connections and you. How much text should you type to introduce the video? Well, one to three sentences is usually enough as that sets the context of the video without giving away all the juicy details.
  • Consider screen sharing. Since your audience is there to network and learn, try creating a video where you teach about a topic in which you’re an expert. You can download Camtasia for a high-quality screen-sharing tool, or go low-tech and free by using PowerPoint’s built-in video recording capability (only in Office 365) so you can record yourself on video talking while you progress through slides.
  • Here’s what LI videos are best suited for: how-tos, to introduce an upcoming webinar, and to answer FAQs in your industry.

Social media videos

PowerPoint’s built-in video recording capability (only in Office 365) allows you to record yourself talking while you progress through slides.

Final Tips for Creating Engaging Social Media Videos

Nike was right. Just do it! You’re not likely to create a social media video that goes viral on your first try. But you’ll never get likes and shares on your social media videos if you never produce any. I always say, “Perfection is the enemy of execution.” Just start making videos, listen to feedback from your followers, take cues of what when well and what went wrong. Then refine and try again! You can do this!  Now stay tuned ‘cuz I’m already working on the next article in this DIY video series. The next article will be chocked full of tips as I explain the various (dozen or so) types of DIY marketing videos from your small business you can easily create yourself. Not all videos are created equal. From animated explainer videos, to talking-head videos, to instructional how-to videos…I’ll give you the skinny on each type, when to use, where to post each type, and other insider tips from someone (yep, me) whom has tried them all and lived to tell the tale.

February 1, 2018

How to Use Storytelling to Make a DIY Video Like a Marketing Pro

How to Use Storytelling to Make a DIY Video Like a Marketing Pro

If you’re a small business, you’re likely feeling the pressure from the world to create more DIY video. In fact, I bet that’s why you are reading this article. Video is so hot that 2017 statistics revealed one-third of online activity is spent watching video. Whether you’re a 10-person small business or a solopreneur, you can make DIY video easily and affordably. Honestly, you can.

Because there is so much to learn about DIY video, I’ve decided to break this up into a 5-part series. After years of researching DIY video, investing in dozens of DIY video-making software programs and mobile apps, and using them in my own small business, I want to share what I have learned with you. After all, Communication Hackers is all about learning the “hacks” and sharing them with you— so you don’t have to painstakingly figure this all out on your own.

The Breakdown of This 5-Part Series

Today, as part 1 of this series, we’re going to focus on storytelling, the foundation of a good video. Every DIY video must begin with a compelling story– otherwise, why bother? Here’s what the rest of this series will contain:

  • In part 2 of this series we’ll talk about DIY video-making tips for the leading social media platforms (including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn).
  • Then in part 3 we will discuss the hottest types of DIY video that small businesses can incorporate into their online marketing strategy and how and when to use each type.
  • For part 4 I will share my favorite five DIY video tools, such as super-affordable DIY video creation software and mobile device apps.
  • Finally, we will wrap up part 5 with practical tips for making DIY video (think lighting tips, best practices for audio and music, the ins and outs of using captions, and video editing tools we use and recommend).

The First Question to Ask Yourself

As I mentioned, you need a compelling storyline. Each time you create a video you are, in essence, a storyteller. We’ve seen effective storytellers take an otherwise boring topic, yet turn it into a compelling video because they were able to expose an interesting vantage point about the topic. For example, blenders. Yes, kitchen blenders. They’re boring. However, when Blendtec came out with the “Will it blend?” marketing campaign, it soon went viral. I still can’t get my kids to shut up about Blendtec blenders destroying everything from baseballs to silly putty.

Before we create anything— whether that’s a video, article, some web copy, whatever— the first thing we must ask ourselves is, “Is this interesting, compelling, or useful?” If the answer is “no,” then I wouldn’t waste my time creating the thing from the get-go. Because, in the words of my 13-year old kid, “#NobodyCares.”  That’s right, your story isn’t much of a story if nobody cares.

What Topics Suck for DIY Video?

Not everything we find interesting is actually interesting to the outside world, particularly your customers. If you’re going to make a DIY video about a mid-level promotion of a staff member, an award, internal changes, or something similarly uninteresting, I beg you to reconsider. A good story must suck in the viewer, make them feel connected to your brand, and evoke emotion from them.

Criteria for a Compelling DIY Video

Occasionally unexpected videos go viral causing nearly every awkward teenager, exhausted mother, and jovial grandpa to views/share/like the video. Sometimes these outrageously popular videos don’t even seem to fit the mold for good cinematography. But life is weird and unexplainable, so… whatev. Thankfully, just like criteria for judging a breathtaking piece of Renaissance period art, there are criteria we can use as a guide to make a DIY video that will help you raise brand awareness and build trust with viewers.

Here are some DIY video criteria:

  1. Opens with a Strong Hook. The hook (the first 5 seconds of the video) literally suck your viewers in and compel them to keep watching. (More on this in the next section of this article because I really feel like this is the #1 most important criteria [criterion??] for making a DIY video that people will actually watch in its entirety.)
  2. It’s Brief. Appropriate length varies some depending on the use and which platform it will be hosted on, but typically a video to promote your brand and gain trust from your “tribe” should be less than 2 minutes. Pretty short, ay? In fact, 60% of online viewers will stop watching a video after 2 minutes. Hubspot has got a 3-minute read here providing specifics for the ideal length of a video for each of the major social media platforms. It’s a bit scary that our attention spans really aren’t much greater than that of a goldfish. In part 2 of this article series, I’ll go into tons more detail about what works for each of the leading social media platforms, far beyond just length specificity. So stay tuned!
  3. It Uses a Full Story Arc. What’s a story arc? Have you ever watched a movie and at the end you were like: “What’s the point?” Yeah, me too. I hate those. Since the dawn of time, man has craved stories. And many intellectuals claim that every story follows one of the six basic story types (plots). Rather than get into the weeds of historic literature (I have an English background and could really geek out on this topic), let’s think about storytelling in general. The story arc is the progression of either events (or emotions) from the hook, to the climax, to the ending. In a bit more detail, a good story requires an emotional hook, rising action (like conflict), a climax (where the tension is highest), a falling resolution (where the solution to the conflict is employed), followed by a resolution (the triumph at the end).

How to Craft an Engaging Video Story Hook

I could tell you that there are dozens, no hundreds, of hooks you can use to start a video. But that would no doubt be overwhelming and might make you hate me. Instead, what if I told you that we’ve got two hooks that we use all the time for Communication Hackers videos. These are our go-to hooks. Like a pair of tried-and-true aces up our sleeves.

Try These Two DIY Video Story Hooks

  • You’ve got this problem, I’ve got the solution. This might sound obvious, but it’s actually a great way to begin a video. Think about how often you yourself visit YouTube. You’ve broken something (perhaps it’s a 404 website error, or a broken do-dad around the house)— so you visit Dr. YouTube and begin typing “How to…” You’ve got a problem, and you’re desperately seeking a solution. A good video will suck your viewers in because they can identify with it. Perhaps they can identify with the frustration you’re highlighting. Starting with a problem and quickly letting your audience know that this video is gonna provide the solution is perhaps the #1 way to score an audience. Here’s a “problem —> solution”  example video by Mailchimp, where the problem isn’t explicitly stated, but rather implied. In this 30-second video, Mailchimp identifies with people who run online businesses who struggle to get it all done with “just one brain.” Between doing ads, sending emails, and communicating with customers, the video explains that the struggle is real. However, Mailchimp’s video here provides the solution— their Mailchimp marketing automation platform.
  • Imagine a world where… Everybody likes make-believe. But what is even better is true magic in the making. Sometimes your product or service isn’t addressing a gaping problem at all. Sometimes your product or service is visionary or your customers don’t even know they need it yet. Want a concrete example? Here’s the ultimate “image a world where” storyline: Apple’s unveiling of the first iPhone. You see, people weren’t sitting around with a problem on their hands waiting for someone to develop a solution. We already had laptops. We already had cellular phones. Our needs were met. But then along comes Apple with this visionary product that suddenly had nearly every American (okay, nearly every person with a pulse on planet Earth) lined up for hours prepared to trade their first-born for this device. Apple introduced the first iPhone with an “imagine if” scenario. The scenario came across as: Imagine a world where you can have the power and functionality of a computer in a device so small that literally fits in your hand….introducing the iPhone. Not only was the product great, the marketing of the product was great too! If you’re selling a good or service that you know people need even though they might already seem content, this hook might be your best choice.

DIY video

Here’s the Bottom Line

Behind every successful marketing video, storytelling has been strategically crafted and weaved into the fabric of the viewer experience. Although not always obvious or blatantly stated in the video’s dialogue, I find that most videos follow one of these two hooks I shared above. The first connects to peoples’ fears and frustrations, while the second example evokes excitement and imagination. Both are timeless emotions that can form a solid foundation for a compelling DIY video. As I’ll explain in part 3 of this series, there are dozens of different types of DIY video that small businesses can use to tell their stories so be sure to read that one when it comes out. Sure, you’ll have to decide for each video what style would be most appropriate (such as explainer video, how-to video, whiteboard animation, or perhaps a testimonial video), but before considering the style of video, I suggest you first consider your story and then craft a hook that will appeal to your viewers.

June 13, 2017

6 Surprising Reasons a Side-Hustle will Make You a Better Employee

Diversity in the workplace is all the rage.

But what about the celebration of diversity of talents within each employee?

I believe we’re each a multi-faceted being – with a natural desire to exercise various (often seemingly unrelated) talents within our daily lives.

After more than a decade of being more or less a cubicle dweller, I’ve listened as countless numbers of my colleagues admit that they spend their evening and weekend leisure time embarking on activities completely different than their day jobs.

Why is this so common?

Perhaps we – as complex beings – are innately wired to crave a variety of experiences.

In the workplace, these outlet experience allow us to flex all our muscles, exercise many different talents, and delve into areas of interest that we might not otherwise be able to do at our day jobs.

Nothing has been quite as rewarding on my career path as my side gig (what millennials call a “side hustle”) of Communication Hackers.

Sure, I have a 9-5. And I’m eternally grateful for such a solid professional career.

But I felt like professionally (career-potential wise) I was a Ford sedan driving around stuck in second gear meanwhile having a V8 hemi under the hood.

That is… until I sucked it up and took a risk to invest my nights & weekends pursuing something more, something different, but in addition to the 9-5.

It’s not about the Benjamins.

Since starting this endeavor, I’ve learned that the benefits gained from a side hustle FAR exceed simple monetary increases and financial diversification.

Most people only talk about the increase in their checking account.

But I want you to hear about the really deep life-changing impacts that a good side hustle can bring.

So here goes.

Six benefits of having a side hustle that have nothing to do with money:

1. Networking.

From discussions at a locally-owned coffee shop, to mind-blowing phone convos with like-minded ambitious individuals, a side hustle allows us to broaden our network of relationships. And it’s often entrepreneurial-minded professionals we might not have otherwise been able to connect with at the 9-5. How does this affect your day job? Well, as they say you never know when opportunity will knock. By having a large, diverse network outside the day job, you are bound to find ways to leverage those connections in ways you never envisioned.

2. Bigger Perspective.

Ever stand up from your cubicle (or metaphorical cube) expecting to gain a greater perspective of the world, only to find a sea of more 4-walled cubicles? Having an outside business allows you to veer into other fields, look at other perspectives, and generally just see how the rest of the business world operates. By looking at other models/practices/fields, we have a better shot at remaining current on emerging trends, evolving business models, etc. It reminds me of why I enjoy volunteering my time mentoring teenagers. As I get older, I lose sight of what’s new, what’s emerging, what’s become passé. Being around teenagers (who think and live very different than me), I get to glean from their knowledge. This is similar to how networking through a side hustle can show us a bigger picture of business than hunkering down inside our 9-5 allows.

3. Entrepreneurial Mindset.

It’s hard to be a true free-thinking entrepreneur when you’re workinBenefits of a side-hustleg for someone else and processing assignments day in and day out. That “think outside the box” mentality comes when you start engaging with professional entrepreneur-types who aren’t afraid to take a risk, try something crazy, color outside the damn lines. And every entrepreneur knows that business is primarily driven by providing solutions to urgent, big problems. A problem-solving mindset…without having to go back to school to get an MBA for it. And it costs your 9-5 boss nothing. This could save you from incurring between $26K-$125K for tuition in a 2-year MBA program according to 2016 statistics from the US News & World Report. How many hours of cube life would you need to sit to pay for that??

4. Stretch Your Creative Wings.

If you work in a data processing cubicle job tirelessly typing 40+ hours per week, you might find yourself searching for a creative outlet. Choosing a fun side hustle allows you to build up your skills in your favorite creative outlet, such as starting a consulting business, house flipping, decorating cupcakes, or selling Mary Kay. Maybe your creative outlet gig is something really emotionally fulfilling such as teaming with your coder buddy to make your dream of that novel video game —you’ve been mentally crafting since you were a pimply-faced 12-year old— become a reality. If you have a creative itch that you just can’t seem to scratch at the 9-5, what I am saying rings loud and clear. Just look at funnyman Ken Jeong—a Duke-alumnus medical physician who pursued his passion for acting & comedy on the side. He’s now making bank in Hollywood after spreading his creative wings. Life is short; scratch the itch.

5. Diversify Your Skills.

Maybe your side gig isn’t necessarily a creative one. That’s cool too. Maybe it just allows you to diversify and exercise professional skills you might not be able to use at your day job. My side hustle has forced me to learn new skills in order to make progress. For example, I’ve had to become savvy with multiple social media platforms that I don’t use at my day job. To thrive in this crowded environment I spend my nights and weekends absorbing all I can about website bounce rates, WordPress programming, digital sales funneling, and the list goes on. I’m a Gen X’er. That means I spent the majority of my formative years without the internet. Business was taught to me by taking traditional, predictable, mostly risk-aversive routes. But by jumping into a side hustle both feet in and my “X” eyes wide open, I’ve quickly had to adapt to the new way of the business world. Having a strong foundation in the ways of yesteryears, but realizing that nothing operates likes it did in our parents’ time, many of us Gen X’ers have found that business is not like we were told it would be. My side hustle has taught me that this diversity of self can make or break us out there. Side hustlers adapt to making on-the-fly decisions, chasing emerging trends, and self-induced learning routines. Therefore, we carry that same initiative back to our day jobs.

6. Hustle. 

This brings me to entrepreneurial sensation GaryVee’s favorite word. Hustle. As one of the most sought after public speakers alive today, Gary helps Fortune 500 companies slay the competition by making things happen. Carefully. Immediately. Simultaneously. Innovatively. In order to successfully operate a side hustle while simultaneously kicking ass at your day job, you need to learn the art of hustle. Hustle isn’t the same as the illusory concept of multitasking. Hustle doesn’t mean doing one thing half-ass while simultaneously working on another. Hustle requires us to figure out the main thing, then weigh other choices up against that main end goal and decide which to keep and which to ditch. It keeps us focused, clear, and not so likely to wander down wascally wabbit trails. As a side hustler entrepreneur, time really is money. Time is currency. A good hustler is conscious of every precious second. Every decision I make either earns me money or steals my money. It’s easy to dillydally on superfluous tasks when you’re on someone else’s dime. But the side gig runs on limited time (and budget) and so we must move quickly and with laser precision. Trim the fat, ignore the “wouldn’t it be nice if…” thoughts, and execute on what will help your business succeed. After running my own business on the side I’ve turned into a problem solver. I can no longer look at problems or gaps in my 9-5 and pessimistically murmur “someone should do something about that.” Rather, I analyze the problems I see that might be within my sphere of influence and I start formulating solutions. I’m no longer just bitching about them. This has been the most life-changing mental shift and direct benefit of the side hustle way of life.

Both is better.

I’ll close with this final thought that changed my paradigm towards success and fulfillment.

Rich people think ‘both.’ Poor people think ‘either/or’. T. Harv Eker the author of the bestselling book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth

If you’re contemplating about diversifying your skillset with a side hustle on top your 9-5…don’t feel trapped by either/or… do both!

Help for fellow hustlers.

Running a side hustle can be a lot of work. For hacks & tips about how to juggle it all without losing your mind, be sure to follow us on social media.

To your side hustle success,

— Laura

May 31, 2017

Most website content sucks. Here’s how to make sure yours doesn’t.

Most website content sucks.
Here’s how to make sure yours doesn’t.

A tiny goldfish might look at your web content longer than your customers.Most website content sucks

Say what? Yes, studies show that the average reader has a shorter attention span than a standard goldfish.

We typically can focus without distraction for a mere 8 seconds; that’s one second less than Mr. Bubbles.

This means that first impressions of your business’ online presence are more important these days than ever before.

Is your content Hot or Not?

Anyone old enough to remember the #1 superficial dating site of the early 2000’s called Hot or Not? (Later reincarnated as Tinder)

Before any real content about a candidate was revealed, date seekers were simply shown the profile pic of a potential match and enticed to either click the “hot” button or the “not” button.Most website content sucks

That split-second, shallow-minded click would determine if any additional time was spent on the hottie (or nottie).

If the first impression showed them to be a hottie, you could then read their full profile and infer character traits.

This brings us back to customers.

In a busy world, customers (and potential customers) want to see the goods up front.

They want to see if something on your site is worth their time. If it passes what I call the first “sniff test” then they will meander around on your site.

The sniff test is all they need.

Aside from user-accessibility features and site navigation strategies to garner more sustained attention, I know that site visitors are looking for good content.

What makes good content that will pass this sniff test you speak of, Laura?

My method for keeping eyes on your content is two-fold. Both are equally important.

Aesthetic design & appealing content.

Smart academics from Kent State University published this 13-page article in the Elsevier journal Information Processing and Management.

Their research explains how aesthetically-pleasing website design affects perceived credibility.

In short, they found that it is critical to present information in such a way that it does not produce a negative visceral judgment.

This snap judgment can shoo off viewers before they’ve even had a chance to engage the content at a cognitive level.

You have great content, a stellar business model, a life-changing product for customers.

Curious how to suck in an online audience and keep them poking around on your site beyond 8 seconds?

Stay with me.

Sniff test part #1: Is she pretty?

Just like with Hot or Not, your customers land on your site and before they decide if they would ever “do the tango” with your company, they want to see that you meet their basic trust criteria.

Here are a few of the typical design expectations that swarm through visitors’ heads.

Fonts matter. Did you know that fonts can create a first impression as to the personality of your business. For example, this study revealed that users found fonts like Times New Romans and Arial to be more practical, stable, and formal. Script fonts (think Comic Sans) were interpreted as youthful, casual, and modern. If you’re a banking institution with a long proud heritage, your readers are likely expecting a more serious font in your communications. On the other hand, if you are in the bubble tea business, your audience is probably anticipating a more whimsical font on your site and in your social media posts. Be sure to tailor your fonts to match the expectations of your viewers.

Colors matter. The psychology of color in marketing has been a fashionable debate for decades. Forbes neatly summarizes the feelings evoked by various colors in this article. Besides evoking emotion, colors on your site affect readability. Aim for high contrast of colors (think, light font on a dark background) to aid users in the ease of reading your text. Overall, I agree with Help Scout writer Gregory Ciotti that color affects how we view a business/brand and shouldn’t be used haphazardly.

Images matter. Perhaps nothing in design can make or break user trust quite like images. Let’s face it, when given the choice between reading walls of text or looking at a picture—we all opt for the picture. In fact, Kissmetrics reveals that on average, captions under images are read 300% more than the body copy itself. A good picture will attract your reader, and once you have their attention they are very likely to read the caption. Whether your visuals are photos, videos, infographics, or whatev—the bottom line is that your readers expect to see them. Give them nothing but words to read, decipher, interpret, and you’ll not only disappoint them, but you will surely lose their trust, their attention, and ultimately their business.

Most website content sucks

People are already hard-wired to look for these features.

Add in Instagram and Pinterest and your audience is more visually driven than ever before.

Is all this hype about form just hype?

The research doesn’t lie. Most website content sucks.

Audiences really do glance around your stuff looking for specific features before they waste additional time.

In fact, 3M (yes, the tape guys) teamed with University of Minnesota researchers to explore how visuals affect persuasiveness.

Not surprisingly, they found that presentations that used visual aids were 43% more persuasive than presentations without.

They also found that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

Here is an example:

Most website content sucks





First impressions are 94% design related. Using eye-tracking software, Missouri University of Science and Technology researchers found that visuals (logo, main image, navigation bar, etc.) played the biggest role in influencing website visitors.

So, let’s just make our content pretty and forget about quality content? Nonsense.

Keep reading to learn sniff test point #2 to ensure you hook readers with quality content.

Sniff test part #2: She’s pretty but is she smart?

Just like the saying about putting lipstick on a pig…modern audiences aren’t fooled long by pretty design alone.

Customers are looking for the complete package.

#a pretty head(line)

So how do we create quality content while being mindful of the repugnant “wall of text”??Most website content sucks

Did you know that 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy…

but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest?

There’s a learnable craft to writing headlines, so don’t worry if you’re not a word nerd like me.

Follow influencer Neil Patel’s formula for: how to write a stunning headline.

#provide answers

Turn window shoppers into paying customers by creating content that answers their questions.

Anticipate their questions.

This is key to making customer converts.

#make it effortless

While you answer their questions, make sure your content is easy to read.

Make it effortless.

Sure, you want to make sure your grammar and syntax would make your high school English teacher proud.

But more importantly, your content needs to be easily understood by newbies to your site.

I believe the best way to achieve this is by using more visuals, less words.

#less words

Less words??!!

Here’s a dirty secret – I have a degree in English composition. I like words.

But in reality, I know that 65% of the population learns visually.

Customers will scan for visuals that are easy to digest before they will engage with sentences, let alone paragraphs.

Since decoding an image is less work than decoding text, even teachers are finding that it is easier to convey complex information & concepts if they use graphic organizers instead of text alone.

Visual aids are also being stressed more and more at the post-secondary school level.

A head university professor of linguistics is even stressing the use of visual aids for technical reports and articles.

He stresses that you should consider using a graphic if:

  • you are using too many words to explain something
  • you are presenting trends or a lot of numerical data
  • you are doing a comparison over many categories.

Does your website copy discuss a complicated process that might better be digested from a visual aid?

Could a pie chart (or some other type of chart) better convey what your 500-word flyer is trying to say?

Since we know that most people are visual learners, we can tailor the way we talk about our products or services using visuals more than dense text.

#crisp clean cotton copy

If you’re writing for the web or social media, there are many books out on the market to help you write better copy for today’s digital audience.

You could even hire a copywriter.

But if you’re like us and more keen to the DIY content creation, try subscribing to a copywriting feed like copyblogger.com for proven hacks to writing better copy.

Shameless plug: be sure to follow all of our free writing tips by subscribing to our newsletter: Minute-Made DIY Digital Marketing Nab more free content-creation hacks on Instagram and Facebook.

So most website content sucks. But yours doesn’t have to.

Try my sniff test tactics out on your own website.

See if it just doesn’t keep them goldfish swimming around a bit longer.

Let me know what you think. Will you be making any changes to your website? Do you think I missed anything? Let me know by commenting below or on Facebook.


March 12, 2017

How to make your copy irresistible to busy people

Here’s the deal—people are busy. The web is noisy.

The digital world has trained your customers to glance over written text to decide if it’s worth investing additional seconds from our lives.

Time is a limited resource.

Instead of reading from left to right, top to bottom, everyone looks for “sign posts” instead. These signal the general content and interest factor of a written piece.

But, this style of “scanning” isn’t just limited to content we view on the internet.

Scanning is now the litmus test customers subconsciously apply to all written text, including all those thoughts you’ve written to promote your business. Pass this test and you’ll get their attention for a few minutes. Fail and you’ve just wasted your time. Read More

February 1, 2017

If you still rely on bulleted-list slides …this remedy is for you.

plus it’s easy & free!!!

My last blog post briefly indicates my disdain for bulleted lists. Why do I hate them so?  Let me count the ways. Slide decks containing bulleted lists are completely predictable, unimaginative.  Even worse, during your talk the audience will quickly read through your list in top-to-bottom order and see each item as equally weighted—without it being obvious which items are meant to take precedence over others. But the death of your talk doesn’t stop there. After your audience has read through your bulleted list faster than you can explain each item, they zone out and stop giving you their full attention because they already know what’s coming.

Read More

January 18, 2017

5 hacks to clear, visually-appealing copy people will actually want to read

If you’re like me, you don’t write for the joy of pontificating. You want your copy to reach your audience, entice them into reading its entirety, and compel them towards action. Here are five simple hacks that will help you produce copy that gets noticed. Read More