Thursday, June 2, 2016

4 Techniques to Optimize Your Nonprofit Newsletter


The monthly or bimonthly newsletter is a well-known pillar of nonprofit communications. Organizations use this content piece to educate supporters about their latest achievements and projects, keep donors engaged over time, and lead them to deeper levels of support.

With the outrageous number of messages that the average person receives online, organizations need to optimize their emails or risk ending up in the trash folder. Here are several tips to make sure your nonprofit newsletter reaches supporters and keeps them engaged.

1) Establish the Right Frequency

The frequency of your nonprofit newsletter can make all the difference between staying in subscribers’ inboxes and ending up in their trash—or, worse yet, being unsubscribed from altogether. The key is to send consistent, relevant content often enough to stay top of mind without annoying readers.

Unfortunately, there’s no single correct frequency for all newsletters. Every organization’s subscriber lists have different makeups, so you’ll need to perform tests to understand how often to communicate with your audience. A good starting point is to send an email at least once a month, or once every two weeks. You can then continue to conduct tests on samples from your subscriber list to determine an emailing frequency that generates the highest open and click-through rates.

2) Focus on Subject Lines

Without a great subject line, all of the hard work you put into crafting a fantastic email can go to waste. A generic “January/February/March Newsletter” likely won’t cut it; it’s crucial to invest the time and effort to come up with an intriguing subject line for each of your emails that will make readers want to click.

Your subject lines should be clear, descriptive, and tell readers exactly what they need to know and why it matters. Brevity is also key. Always aim for under 50 characters, but given that the majority of email opens occur on mobile, you may want to focus on subject lines that are 20 characters or less to account for smaller screens. 

In any case, you want to deliver the most important information at the beginning of your subject line so that it can’t be missed. With such little real estate, make sure to cut out any words that don’t add value or let readers know why your email is worth their time. Also consider playing with subject lines that create a knowledge gap, intriguing readers to click through to learn more.

Here’s a snapshot of three nonprofit emails that all play with some of these tactics. The first and third emails listed here create a knowledge gap in their subject lines that makes readers want to find out what they’re talking about. The second email’s subject line is succinct while delivering the most important information right away.


Also notice how these emails all approach their “from” name differently. Whether you use your organization’s name, throw in the word “team” or “staff,” or use the name of a staff member, test different sender names to see which performs best.

3) Prioritize Attractive Design

Your email design should be clean, simple, and easy to read. Its design should guide the reader’s eye linearly from top to bottom, and it should be easy to quickly scroll and read through on a mobile device. For this reason, opt for a single-column layout. This will keep smartphone users happier, since readers on smaller screens would have to scroll horizontally to see a full multi-column email. In any case, you should be delivering responsive emails that adapt beautifully to any screen size in order to accommodate readers who are on the go.

All of your nonprofit newsletters should reiterate your visual branding elements, such as fonts, logo, and signature colors. When you keep these elements consistent across your communications, you reinforce your brand identity, boost your professionalism, and help readers recognize your messages.

Check out how Shining Hope for Communities begins their newsletter with a header image displaying their logo. A high-quality header image is also a great way to quickly capture your reader’s attention as soon as they open your email.  


4) Make It Scannable 

Your readers are typically on the move, especially if they’re reading from their mobile device. Combine this with the fact that the average attention span maxes out at eight seconds, and this means that most people will only spend a few moments reading your email. To sustain their attention and increase your chances of readers clicking through to your website, your messages need to be scannable.

Here are a few tips:

Use bullet points and subheadings where possible. This visually organizes your information and helps readers quickly scan and pick up the main topics. Also determine which information is most important to include in this email. Remember that you can link out to more details and facts with a “Learn More” button, so avoid packing your nonprofit newsletter with unnecessary text.

Use enlarged font sizes. Your text should be legible across mobile devices. To accommodate for small screens, HubSpot recommends using 14 px as a minimum font size for body copy, and 22 px for headlines.

Weave images throughout your newsletter. Not only do high-quality images enhance the overall look of your email and keep readers engaged, they also help break up walls of text and make your newsletter easier to skim. Consider using images of your donors, fundraisers, volunteers, beneficiaries, or photos from the field to delineate each section of your email. 

Keep in mind that some desktop clients and mobile email apps block images by default. To get around this issue, make sure to add alt text, or alternative text, to your images. When images are disabled, the alt text appears in their place, giving readers context that would otherwise be lost.

Balance your text-to-image ratio. Emails with a lot of images may trigger some of your donors’ spam filters, so be sure to balance your images with live text (rather than only using images that display the text). Opt for a 1:1 ratio.

Use whitespace. Whitespace is the blank space between graphics, text, images, and other visual elements on a page. It’s a key component of effective design that draws readers’ eyes to important items in your email—like your CTAs, key text, or images—as well as keeps your newsletter from feeling cluttered. Think of it as giving your readers’ eyes some “breathing room” between your different content pieces.

A well-crafted, beautifully designed newsletter can be a powerful tool to keep supporters engaged with your work. As you optimize different elements of your email, it’s important that you continue to run tests to find what content, delivery schedule, and design work best with your subscriber list. Some extra attention can improve the overall open and engagement rates of your nonprofit newsletter and ultimately power your success.  

A Guide to Growing and Engaging Your Member Base

from HubSpot Marketing Blog via web video marketing
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Beyond .COM, .ORG & .NET: A Beginner's Guide to Brand Top-Level Domains


For marketers, the domain name system (DNS) can be a little tricky to navigate.

If you’ve ever been tasked with buying a domain name, you’ve probably heard of terms like hyper text transfer protocol, subdomains, top-level domains, and more. Now, whether or not you remember the function of each part is an entirely different story …

So before we dive into anything technical, let’s start with a quick deconstruction.


This address is made up of three main parts: before, between, and after the dot. Before the dot, you’ll find the subdomain (www). Between the two dots, you’ll find the domain name (HubSpot). But what we’re going to dive into below concerns the text that comes after the dot: the top-level domain (TLD).

Back in the 1980s, the internet was introduced to a handful of generic TLDs: .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .int, and .mil. Since then, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has expanded the domain name system, and introduced a new wave of TLDs known as Brand TLDs.

What’s a Brand TLD? Who has one? And how are they using them? Keep reading.

What Are Brand TLDs?

A Brand TLD is like any other TLD (think: .com, .org, or .net), but instead of a generic term, it is the brand’s trademark (think: .bmw, .apple, or .google).

A Brand TLD is proprietary, meaning only the brand can register second level domains such as,, or

In terms of security and innovation opportunities, there are many considerations. It starts with understanding that the DNS is the very foundation of the internet. Without the DNS there is no Internet. Everything runs on the DNS. Owning a proprietary space at the root of the DNS offers opportunities for innovation, security, trust, and control that are entirely new. Never before have brands been able to own a proprietary slice of the Internet at the root level.

In terms of SEO, “early use cases indicate no negative search impact, and even potential benefits,” according to Neustar. “New TLD holders should (as now) focus on building highly relevant content on their .brand and .generic to earn search visibility,” they went on to explain.

However, it’s important that marketers that are considering a switch continue to monitor the impact that these new TLDs have on the brands currently employing them, as it’s too soon to determine the long-term effects.

Why Now?

ICANN is the governing body that sets rules for the internet. In 2008, ICANN approved a program to radically expand the domain name space with the introduction of new TLDs. In 2011, ICANN began accepting new TLD applications from entities across the globe. Any entity could apply to own and operate a new TLD, however, the application fee was a steep $185K.

In 2012, ICANN announced they received 1,930 new TLD applications of which approximately 1,400 were unique, separated into five categories: Generic, Geographic, Community, Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and Brand. Just over 600 brands applied in Round 1. (You can check out the complete list of brands here.)

What does the program status look like today?

By February 2014, new TLDs began to rollout. As of May 1, 2016, there were 17.2 million new domain names registered across 978 delegated new TLDs. In comparison, this represents approximately 13.5% of the entire .com population (around 125 million), which took 30 years to reach.

As of December 2015, there were a total of 314 million domains registered. As 2016 progresses, we expect to see the remaining 300 to 350 new TLDs delegated to the internet. In fact, ICANN just recently announced the program’s 1,000th delegation, stating that there are nearly 50 times as many generic TLDs now as there were in 2013. It’s expected that the pace of change will accelerate as public awareness and usage grows.

ICANN has committed to future rounds to allow brands and other entities to apply for additional new TLDs. Industry insiders expect Round 2 to be heavily participated by Geographic and Brand TLD applications.

Why Many Big Brands Are Making the Move

According to Neustar’s FAQs of New TLDs list, “new Brand TLDs offer a unique and significant opportunity to drive brand affinity, build trust, enhance security, and engage customers.” And that’s largely why we are starting to witness leading brands deploying initial use cases.

Business leaders are engaging and beginning to understand the new Brand TLD capabilities that can improve business performance. To help illustrate these benefits, let’s take a look at a couple of key selling points:

1) Cost Benefit

Naysayers about these new TLDs complain that applying for and operating a Brand TLD will add significant cost burden to the business, and offers little benefit. And they’re partially right: the initial investment is up there. However, it’s important to consider what it means for the future of brand digital identity management.

For this reason, you should quickly unpack the relative value of a Brand TLD compared to current domain market conditions and status quo domain portfolio practices.

What are domain names worth?

Due to scarcity and the power of language, one word domains can be valued in the millions of dollars. On Wikipedia’s list of most expensive domains, you will find market values ranging from $35 million for to $3 million for

One-word domains – also referred to in the industry as “category killers” are extremely valuable. Why? Because they are short, memorable, and mean something to audiences.

Now compare that to the cost to acquire and operate a Brand TLD priced at a few hundred thousand dollars and offering an unlimited number of one-word branded properties that are authentic and trusted. The comparative cost vs. benefit to acquire and operate a Brand TLD is nominal.

What does it cost to protect a brand?

It’s not uncommon for a brand to hold multiple domains for defensive purposes. However, doing so results in significant costs – including registrar outside counsel and internal administrative costs. Layer on legal fees to monitor, file, and administer rights protection such as UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) to recover infringing domain names, and the cost of brand protection is massive.

Then, consider the efficacy of defensive domain activity spend today – and in the future with thousands of TLDs to guard your brand against. It becomes unsustainable from a cost and efficacy point of view.

Brands who own a Brand TLD will educate audiences to trust websites using their Brand TLD. As this education permeates the market, the active use of a Brand TLDs will begin to reduce the expenditure required to protect your brand.

2) New Capabilities

When it comes to Brand TLDs, there are as many use cases as there are business problems. For brands choosing to make the investment, it’s important that they are designing and deploying use cases that specifically address their unique priorities and objectives.

To give you a better sense of how brands are benefiting from the variety of use cases, let’s check out three potential initiatives.


“customer.brand” is a customer-centric initiative that can help brands create advocacy-generating experiences.

Brands can leverage new Brand TLD technology to power customer engagement, motivate peer influence, and harness customer intelligence data. For example: An affinity brand like Nike could permit their best fans to use, under certain terms and conditions, a “” web presence.

Here brands can harness user-generated content and capture customer data to better serve that customer. Brands could even reward customers with points accumulated by the traffic they generate through social influence.


“channel.brand" is a channel initiative to leverage Brand TLD technology to distribute consistent content experiences across their points of sale with the intent to lift channel performance.

For example: Insurance firms use brokers to sell and service customers. If each of those brokers had their own “” domain, it’s likely that they would not only feel supported by the organization, but they’d also be able to encourage trust from their clients.


“marcom.brand” is a use case for marketers to create simple, elegant, memorable campaign messages, and deliver engaging web experiences that fulfill the message and brand promise.

This is the simplest use case to implement – and the easiest to measure ROI for. To determine the success rate of a campaign on vs. one using, you’d simply compare campaign KPIs such as response, engagement, and conversion rates.

Considering the Brand TLD is easy to communicate and remember, it presents an excellent opportunity for brands to see increased campaign performance.

(Note: Marcom is an all-encompassing abbreviation for “marketing communications.”)

5 Examples of Brands Getting Involved

In the first quarter of 2016, we saw a big jump in the number of brands deploying use cases for Brand TLDs. Most brands are undertaking simple test-and-learn initiatives, but several are more aggressive with full digital transformations.

Here are a few examples:

1) America Automobile Association:

AAA launched a Brand TLD site to help website visitors find a club in their area.


2) Bloomberg:

Bloomberg is using to forward visitors to their login portal for Bloomberg Anywhere – a digital service to keep financial professionals current with the latest business news, data, and analytics.


3) BMW:

BMW designed a website using its Brand TLD to celebrate its 100th anniversary.


4) SEAT:

SEAT – a Spanish automobile manufacturer – has set aside nearly one hundred Brand TLD domains to represent its various car dealers. This serves as a great example of the “channel.brand” use case we mentioned above.


5) Canon:

Canon has begun redirecting traffic from their original domain to


(For even more brand TLD examples, check out

Should Everyone Make the Switch?

A digital paradigm shift is underway with the expansion of the domain name space. And it’s important to remember that we are in the very early days of this. As the next round is processed, the domain name space will only continue to expand.

A Brand TLD serves as an effective way to secure a brand’s place in this increasingly complex digital ecosystem, where consumers demand authentic and trusted web properties to transact with businesses.

A Brand TLD is not just another domain like your current flagship URL. It is also not just another tool to build a website and engage with audiences. Brand TLDs provide a platform to increase digital trust and innovation at the root of the internet’s infrastructure.

But is a Brand TLD right for your business? Is it really worth the investment? Is it necessary for businesses in every industry? In short: It all depends. And it’s probably too soon to make a definitive determination.

Here’s what we do know: 41% of Brand TLDs were applied for by Fortune 500 companies – mostly financial services, retails, technology, and transportation. For a more detailed look at the current Brand TLD landscape, check out the following chart.


Image Credit: Neustar

Regardless of whether or not your brand falls into one of these verticals, it’s important that you’re (at the very least) aware of the changes going on. At Authentic Web, we recommend you take the following steps to help you begin thinking about the shift:

  1. Dig in to understand the market activity and digital implications.
  2. Set up a small and empowered working team.
  3. Seek out advice from industry experts.
  4. Learn from early use cases and ideate on your own.
  5. Audit and grade your own domain name lifecycle change management processes.
  6. Develop a plan to differentiate and lead in your market.

What do you think about Brand TLDs? How have you seen them used? Do you think it’s the right move? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

25 website must-haves

from HubSpot Marketing Blog via web video marketing
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The Essential Guide to Sales & Marketing Alignment [Free Kit + Templates]


Back in 2011, the Aberdeen Group released a study that claimed highly-aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth, while their less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease. Today, smarketing continues to serve as one of the largest opportunities for improving business performance.

While aligning your sales and marketing teams sounds like a no brainer, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It’s likely that both sides realize the need to work together to meet their demand and revenue goals, but the two teams are notorious for their complex, and sometimes even contentious, relationship.

To help you navigate this complex relationship, HubSpot has teamed up with Prezi to bring you The Essential Sales and Marketing Alignment Kit. The hope is that as you get closer and closer to total alignment, you’ll find dramatic improvements in your marketing ROI, sales productivity, and overall growth.

In this three-part kit, you’ll get everything you need to align your sales and marketing teams each month, quarter, and year. More specifically, you’ll receive:

  • An agenda template for monthly “smarketing” alignment meetings to ensure effective communication.
  • A template for service-level agreements (SLA) between marketing and sales.
  • Four foundational tips on working and communicating better with your sales team.
  • Tips on how to promote collaboration between teams to improve ROI and sales productivity.
  • Information on how to open up the right lines of communication to promote healthy, regular teamwork.

Download your copy of The Essential Sales and Marketing Alignment Kit now.

free sales and marketing alignment kit

from HubSpot Marketing Blog via web video marketing
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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How to Write Good Instagram Captions: 8 Tips for Perfecting Your Copy


At the end of the day, Instagram is all about the visuals. The quality of your photos will be the differentiating factor when it comes to gaining Instagram followers, getting them interested in your brand and what it’s about, and showing off the human side of your business.

But the hard work doesn’t end once you’ve taken that beautiful photo and edited it to perfection. The caption of your post is where you can give a voice to that visual content.

It’s where you can explain what the photo is about, tell your followers to take action, or crack a joke that makes your content all the more delightful and shareable.

If you think of the caption on your Instagram posts as an afterthought, then you’re losing out on an opportunity to engage and delight your followers in ways you can’t with just a visual. Here are some tips to help you write better Instagram captions.

8 Tips for Writing Great Instagram Captions

1) Write several drafts first.

Ever thought of the perfect joke after it was a liiiittle too late to tell it? We’ve all had a similar feeling when we come up with the perfect Instagram caption once we’ve already published the post.

The lesson? Don’t rush the process. Instead, write a few ideas for captions down, sit on them for a bit, poll coworkers on which one is best, and generally take your time.

You might be asking yourself at this point, “But aren’t timeliness and chronology important on Instagram?" They can be, depending on the subject of your post. For example, professional Instagrammer Patrick Janelle says he uses Instagram as a kind of chronological journey of his activities and lifestyle. He likes to post in real time to document what he’s doing at a given moment.

But thanks to the impending Instagram feed algorithm change, the level of engagement your posts receive will soon matter more than chronology. Soon, our Instagram feeds will be ordered to show the moments Instagram thinks we’ll care about the most. The visibility of your posts in your followers’ feeds will depend on the number of Likes and comments a post has, your relationship with the user posting, and other factors.

That’s why it’s important to take your time constructing a great caption that’ll keep your followers around, delight them enough to share with their friends, and encourage them to engage with your content.

2) Front-load the important stuff.

The maximum character count for an Instagram caption (2,200 characters) is basically a formality. But the important thing to note is that captions cut off in users’ feeds after three to four lines of text.


That doesn’t mean you should keep your captions super short so users can see 100% of it without having to click "more.” Instead, frontload your captions with the important content or text calls-to-action – and leave any hashtags, @mentions, or extraneous information for the end.

Here’s an example of an enticing, front-loaded caption from coffee-based skincare company Frank Body:


3) Include a call-to-action.

The best way to increase the shareability of your Instagram post and engage your followers is to have some sort of call-to-action in the captions of your photos. That means using action verbs to prompt people to do something, instead of just passively scrolling by. We found that verbs generate more shares on Twitter than nouns and adjectives – the same can be true for Instagram.

For example, you might say, “double-tap if you find this funny” or “share your story in the comments.”

Here are a few other action-based ideas to get you started:

Ask a question.

Encourage people to comment with their own experiences. You might be able to draw on these experiences to shape your Instagram strategy moving forward, or to come up with new content ideas. To increase engagement and delight your followers even more, respond to users’ answers to make it like a conversation.

H&M: “All you need for a weekend get-away. Where would you go?”


Lorna Jane: “Be you, everyone else is taken. Today’s inspo inspired by our leading lady @ljclarkson - how are you finding your BELIEVE today?”


Direct people to a link in your bio.

Clickable URLs aren’t allowed anywhere except the single “website” box in your bio. That’s why optimized Instagram profiles update that URL frequently to point to their latest blog content, YouTube videos, products, or offers – and then refer to that link in their Instagram captions.

For example, are you running a contest, or want to increase subscribers to your blog? Just change the link, and then post a photo that mentions the new link in its caption.

Pro tip: Use shortened links that include UTM tracking codes so you can see how much of your traffic came from your Instagram page. (Learn how to create UTM codes to track your URLs here.)


To change the link in your bio, go to your profile page and click “Edit Profile.”


Then, simply insert the URL of your choosing into the URL box.


Invite people to tag their friends.

Encourage your followers to share your post with friends by inviting them to tag their friends. Here are a few examples of fun, clever ways brands have asked followers to tag friends.

Frooti: “It’s scrabble day! Tag some friends you’d like to play with.”


H&M: “Planning for a luxe escape with your bestie? Tag your travel partner in crime!”


HubSpot: “Coffee with coworkers make Friday mornings that much brighter. Tag your office coffee buddy - and better yet, take a break!”


Invite people to enter a contest.

Contests are great for increasing engagement and brand exposure on Instagram. 

Simply invite people to post their own pictures and tag them in the caption using a hashtag, like BuzzFeed Tasty does below.


Consider including the contest's official rules in your caption for folks who are interested, and even a link in your bio.


4) Limit yourself to 0-4 hashtags.

On Instagram, a hashtag behaves the same way as it does on Twitter and Facebook: It ties the conversations of different users into one stream. As long as your account is public, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Instagram post. (Read this blog post to learn more about how hashtags work on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.)

Hashtags are great for connecting users who aren’t otherwise connected to one another, but who are talking about – and interested – in the same topics, events, brands, and so on. They’re also a great way to add some fun and coy humor to your posts, like FOMU did below.


But: Use hashtags sparingly.

Some Instagram users include a string of searchable hashtags as a way to get more followers – but the fact is, it looks spammy to the followers you dohave. If you use a ton of hashtags, people will notice, and they will think it's lame. Limit your hashtags to three or four, tops.

And remember, you don’t have to include any at all if you don’t want to. You don’t need a hashtag to have an awesome Instagram caption. Here’s an example of a good caption with no hashtag from Starbucks:


Use hashtags at the end of your caption.

Unless the hashtagged phrase fits naturally into a sentence, don’t list any hashtags until the very end of the caption. That way, the part of your caption that’s more appealing to humans will come first, making it more user-friendly.

Plus, if your caption is long enough to get cut off, the hashtags that are there to connect people (as opposed to delight people) will be hidden. So the hashtags in this caption:


Will be hidden from folks scrolling by in their Instagram feeds – which is totally fine, since they’re just there for search reasons.


Pro tip: Need inspiration for a hashtag that’s already popular? Instagram will suggest hashtags to you based on their popularity when you open up a new post and type out the # symbol followed by an incomplete search. Here’s an example of that in action:


5) Meld your brand voice with Instagram’s lighthearted tone.

Every social network has a different tone that works best. While serious, jargon-heavy copy may work well on LinkedIn, for example, that same copy won’t work as well on Instagram. The best Instagram posts tend to have a lighthearted, fun tone, showing off the more authentic, human, and personable side of brands. 

That’s why you’ll want to adapt your brand voice for Instagram’s more lighthearted tone. This’ll be easier for brands whose brand voices are already lighthearted and fun, like Wistia’s.


For others with a more serious brand voice, find a balance between sincerity and relatability.


Being relatively consistent in your Instagram voice can help you build your brand on the channel. For example, think about how long you’ll typically want most of your posts to be. Do you want to be a storyteller who writes a paragraph or more?


“I grew up in India where a woman got married, settled down, and kept a house. I never thought I’d do anything different. I lived a very sheltered existence. I went to a British school, then a women’s college, and then I met my husband. I assumed that I’d be taken care of for the rest of my life. But shortly after we came to America, my husband slipped into a coma and lingered for another fifteen years. We had a small child at the time. I’d never worked before, except for a part-time job in the bookshop at the Met. I was a very quiet person. And suddenly I had to make all of the decisions. I had to get a full time job. It was empowering. I learned that I could be fearless, I could be angry, and I could fight. These were three things that I’d never had to do before. I was thinking recently, that if my husband had lived, he might not have liked who I’ve become.”

A photo posted by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on May 3, 2016 at 9:15am PDT

Or do you need the space to write out instructions, or a recipe?


Spinach And Artichoke Cups Here’s what you will need: Yields: About 16 Dip Cups For dip: * 8 oz cream cheese * ¾ cup frozen spinach, defrosted and drained of excess liquid * ½ cup mozzarella * ½ cup romano * ½ cup parmesan * 14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered * ¼ cup chopped bacon * ¼ cup sour cream * 1 tsp minced garlic * ½ tsp red pepper flakes * 1 tsp dried basil For Cups: * 1 box puff pastry, thawed according to box instructions For Toppings (Optional): * Parmesan cheese Instructions: 1. Preheat your oven to 400˚F/ 200˚C. 2. Combine cream cheese, drained spinach, mozzarella, romano, parmesan, artichoke hearts, bacon, sour cream, garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried basil in a large bowl. 3. Mix until the ingredients are well combined and set aside. 4. Roll out the puff pastry using a rolling pin. 5. Take a jar and press down on the dough to create perfect circles. 6. Once you have all your circles, remove excess dough and repeat steps four and five until you have enough to fill your muffin tin, or until you run out of dough! 7. Take your dough and place it in the muffin tin to create a cup for the dip. 8. Spoon the dip into each cup until they’re ¾ full. 9. Top with parmesan cheese (optional). 10. Bake for 20 minutes at 400˚F/ 200˚C (temperature and time may vary based on the oven) 11. Remove from muffin tin and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. 12. Serve & Enjoy!

A video posted by Tasty (@buzzfeedtasty) on Feb 8, 2016 at 2:06pm PST

Or do you favor a minimalist approach with just a few words?



A video posted by New England Patriots (@patriots) on May 27, 2016 at 10:57am PDT

When in doubt, be punny. Cleverness tends to perform quite well on social media, especially Instagram. People love when brands crack a joke or include a play on words. JetBlue, for example, is always an excellent source of puns:


Here’s another one from Chobani:


If you’re experience caption writer’s block, the Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Holmes suggests playing a word association game or brainstorming with a friend.

6) Use emojis.

Emojis, the cartoon-like emoticons available to most smartphone users, can add some personality to an Instagram caption. That’s why a lot of brands use them in their captions – even the more “serious” brands.

There are a lot of different ways to use emojis in your posts. For example, you can use them at the beginning of post to catch people’s eye, like this:


You can also use them in the middle of sentences to replace words, or at the end of a post as a sort of “punchline,” like this:


7) Cross-promote your other social channels.

You can also use your caption to cross-promote your other social media accounts. This is a great way to let your followers know where else on social media they can find you – so that your Instagram followers can become your Twitter followers, your Facebook fans, your Snapchat audience, and so on.

For example, you might promote a campaign that’s taking place on another channel, like Coca-Cola did here:


Pro Tip: If you have a Snapchat account, Snapcodes are perfect for cross channel promotion on your other social media profiles. Every Snapchat user has a unique Snapcode, which is an image that looks like the Snapchat logo but with a unique pattern of dots. To follow you on Snapchat, all users will have to do to is open the Snapchat app, take a photo of your Snapcode, and tap their screen.

Here’s an example from WeWork:


8) When in doubt, keep it brief.

Depending on your audience, your captions might need to be longer than a few words or a sentence. For example, if you’re a food company, you might post entire recipes in your captions – and that’s OK, as long as you’re front-loading the caption with the most important information (like the name of the recipe) so it doesn’t get cut off.

But if you’re not sure what your brand voice is yet, a good rule of thumb is to keep it brief. Some of the best Instagram captions are short punchlines, or in some way make their point quickly and let the visual content do most of the talking.

Coca-Cola: “Goodbye, tan lines. Hello #SpringBreak.”


WeWork: “Every day.”


BuzzFeed Tasty: "Whip it good.“


Whip it good.

A video posted by Tasty (@buzzfeedtasty) on Mar 2, 2016 at 6:15pm PST

As you test out different types of posts on Instagram, keep track of how different post types work – including your captions. Instagram doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of analytics, so you’ll have to do this manually. Try listing each post on a spreadsheet and keeping track of its URL, the time it was posted, how many Likes and comments it got, and the types of feedback you’re getting from your followers.

What are your tips for writing the perfect Instagram caption? Share them with us in the comments below.

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7 Ways Leaders Can Inspire Innovation Across Teams


Innovation in the workplace poses a unique challenge: Growth requires your employees to take risks, yet chasing unproven ideas can often mean fundamentally risking your job.

While many companies find success confining innovation to specific departments or innovation labs, this can often limit the flow of ideas and constrain the development of new products.

When it comes to tackling innovation, leaders must carefully build a culture that tolerates change and provides the freedom to explore big ideas. To help you get started, check out the seven tips below. 

7 Ways Leaders Can Inspire Innovation Across Teams

1) Find your tolerance for growth.

Let’s hit the obvious truth first: Not all companies are built for explosive growth.

While enterprise leaders (and employees) may envy the nimble, adaptable cultures of early stage companies, legacy structures and processes provide tremendous value for many corporations. Unfortunately, strict frameworks can end up stifling innovation rather than fostering it.

To combat this, leaders of all types need to fully understand their growth journey and what it takes to get there. To do so, it’s helpful to have CEOs and boards collaborate to establish a tolerance for growth and create cadences for employees to work within.

Remember: The push for innovation should be tailored to the needs of each particular company and team, not on the performance of a competitor.

2) Craft the right story.

The case for innovation can be made from the C-suite, but employees will drive it forward – and they’ll need a reason to create and chase new ideas.

Inspiring innovation requires a compelling story that resonates across every department in your company. That story starts with company values that reflect a dedication to innovation and real-world impact.

Effective storytelling means giving your managers and staff a big problem to solve, not simply pushing little innovation projects here and there. For example, GE Healthcare pushes the narrative that everything its people do and build is to make the world a healthier, better place. And this notion is reflected across all of their accounts, assets, and efforts:



Once you have a big idea or problem to fall in love with, your innovation projects can be productized. This larger structure offers a way to create strong leaders and gives managers context to approve and encourage new ideas.

3) Rethink your team structures.

Speaking of managers, they’re often the group most likely to derail any cultural shift – particularly one that requires taking risks. While the C-suite might have a tolerance for risk, entrenched management and salespeople may have a much different comfort zone. To break through the management firewall, you need to either incentivize risk, or simply rethink your overall structure.

Nearly four years ago, my digital agency – 352 Inc. – radically altered our team structures and processes. In doing so, we built cross-functional web development teams (designers, developers, and strategists collaborating on a single client project to completion) and adopted a lean startup methodology across the company. While the process was key, we also eliminated most of our management hierarchy – turning project managers into servant leaders.

This shift fully empowered our teams to communicate directly with clients, manage relationships, and build a solution that best fit the needs of the project. By removing the barriers to employee-owned innovation, we’ve seen higher quality work, happier clients, and more productive teams.

4) Measure employees on value-based metrics.

Unfortunately, you can’t expect employees to pursue innovation just because you’ve said it’s important to the business. For innovation to stick across the company, it needs to be a job requirement rather than a suggestion.

While your story should encourage employee buy-in, performance reviews should include a focus on innovation. Employees should be measured and rewarded for the risks they take – even if they don’t necessarily pan out.

Once you have these metrics in place, you’ll need to provide a way for staff to truly pursue innovation. This leads me to my next point …

5) Structure innovation time for maximum impact.

Just like finding your tolerance for growth, most companies will need to find a way to give employees structured time to focus on creating actual, working products.

At 352, we’ve embraced hackathons as a good way to create and validate new product ideas. During our hackathons, we encourage employees to build a functioning product with a marketing plan and launch strategy in just three days. Finished products are judged by industry leaders and their peers within the company for market viability and utility.

In the past two years, we’ve launched three of these products into their own businesses, rewarding employees with ownership in the ideas they build.

The lesson? While brainstorming and whiteboarding have their place in the innovation process, be sure that your teams actually have time to turn those ideas into a reality. 

6) Look outside your own walls.

Even the most nimble organizations can suffer from red tape, compliance requirements, and legacy workflows. And while a large IT structure has obvious benefits, it can also constrain and slow innovation. Luckily, external innovation partners – like startups and agencies – can focus on a single problem and quickly develop a solution.

In 2014, an internal Cox Automotive startup group approached us to help build a web app that allowed anonymous negotiation for a new car purchase. Rather than struggling through internal development red tape, we rapidly built the product with cutting-edge, open-source technology.

Once we’d validated the product with actual end-users, we worked alongside their internal IT team to build compliance standards and infrastructure requirements. This flexibility to work outside the typical chain of command allowed the opportunity for the app to find product/market fit and grow with actual customers much quicker than an internal innovation team could achieve.

7) Celebrate and encourage learning.

The celebration of failure is in vogue throughout Silicon Valley, but that’s often shortsighted. It’s vital to be entrepreneurial, but innovators that come from more traditional industries can quickly fail themselves out of a job unless they focus on the lessons that failure brings.

A culture of learning fast, rather than failing fast, will ultimately drive sustainable innovation. 

Getting Started

At the end of the day, inspiring a culture of change and innovation requires strong storytelling, employee empowerment, and a willingness to look outside your organization to find answers.

Innovation won’t happen overnight, but it will have long-term impact when managed well by visionary leaders.

What do you do to encourage innovation in the workplace? Share you thoughts in the comments below.

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