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Beware of Relying on Fake Social Media Followers. Ever Heard of 'Shadowbanning'?




A few months ago, Mediakix ran an experiment by creating two new Instagram profiles, one using photos of a local model and one using stock photos. The company then filled both accounts with purchased followers, likes and comments. Before long, each account had secured paid influencer deals with brands, despite reaching a grand total of zero real people.

Related: Forget Hacks — Here Are the 2 Things You Need to Do to Grow Your Following on Social Media

On the one hand, this shows how easy it is to grow your numbers rapidly if you’re willing to resort to fake traffic. But on the other hand, it shows just how big the problem of bot accounts and illegitimate traffic has become for everyone involved — marketers, brands and social media platforms.

While marketers might feel good to see their follower count rise, those who rely on empty traffic will inevitably suffer the consequences. By relying on the automation of inauthentic engagement, including automatic likes, comments, follows and unfollows, the only thing you’ll gain in the long term is frustration. Here’s why.

The new social media standard

Although sniffing out bot accounts remains challenging, Instagram closely monitors services that claim to help users game the system, and it punishes all those involved, users and third-party services alike. Brands that rely on spam accounts to boost followers, or even “like” other content pages to strengthen their own followings, are at risk of being shadowbanned (a Instagram penalty that makes your hashtags undiscoverable).

If that happens, targeted companies have to rebuild their pages from scratch, setting back any new engagement and potentially losing genuine legacy followers while their pages remain hidden.

Social platforms are cracking down — and they aren’t alone. Companies such as Fohr Card are moving to take the initiative. Fohr Card identifies which influencer followers are bot accounts, then reduces its fees to ensure that companies pay only for engagement with real followers.

Related: 5 Tactics To Build Your Social Media Following

This type of monitoring isn’t new. Instagram did a major spam purge in 2014 that impacted even major brands such as Nike, National Geographic and Forever 21. That’s not to say these accounts paid for followers, only that fake followers make up a larger proportion of the Instagram population than you might expect — about 8 percent, according to a Fohr Card press release.

Some social platforms have in place plans to shut down your account f they detect fake followers. While there aren’t currently any legal regulations on this issue, things could move in that direction as social platforms feel increased pressure to prove their credibility.

Even President Donald Trump, who uses his controversial Twitter account to rally political support, fell under scrutiny this summer for suspected fake followers. According to Newsweek, @realDonaldTrump received a suspicious spike in followers in May 2017, which may explain why nearly half of the president’s followers appear to be bot accounts.

Three organic tactics that are tried and true

Despite the obvious drawbacks, some brands continue to drink from the well of fake engagement and continue to suffer blows for that decision. Only real followers help brands build long-lasting engagement — not to mention the fact that only real people will spend real money with your company.

So, if you want to avoid this quagmire, there’s hope; You don’t have to buy followers from Russian vending machines. Thankfully, you can employ the following strategies to inspire organic engagement.

1. Send influential followers free products.

Daniel Wellington, a watch-making brand, relies exclusively on influencer marketing. It began by sending watches — no strings attached — to select influencers with smaller, qualified followings. The watchmaker netted a profit of more than $220 million by sticking to its influencer strategy, even when new paid options were made available by Instagram.

Nothing gets people excited like free swag. You can promote your product, grow your social accounts and inspire followers to talk about your company all at once, just by sending free products to influencers and other people with relevant (real) followings.

Related: 15 Steps to Building Your Online Tribe

2. Promote seeded hashtags.

Herschel Supply Co. created the #WellTraveled hashtag to inspire users around the world to share photos of cool places. Although the company doesn’t provide any consumer travel services, people love the opportunity to share their experiences with others, naturally growing a hashtag that traces back to the brand’s backpacks and luggage.

So, develop a hashtag, associate it with the brand and get people talking — even if the hashtag doesn’t strictly refer to your product. Keep branded hashtags simple and catchy — short, creative and easy-to-spell phrases work best. Once you’ve landed on a hashtag, apply it to a careful curation of posts so that as new followers discover it, they are exposed to a consistent style or aesthetic and start to get a sense of your brand identity.

If you already have a branded hashtag established when you send swag to influential followers, you can encourage them to use it when they post about your product. This will help your branded hashtag spread among the right circles.

Related: 13 Expert Tips to Help You Build Your Instagram Following

3. Create Instagram Stories.

Chipotle recently achieved an astonishing 70 to 75 percent completion rate on a 100-post Instagram Story, according to AdWeek. With the promise of free queso for a year for five lucky viewers, the burrito restaurant chain incentivized viewers to work through all 100 posts, combining reach and engagement to form a highly successful campaign.

Like Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories streamline content delivery to users, making it easy to put relevant content in front of people who are actually eager to consume it. And now that it’s possible to link back to your website within Stories, they’re a great tool to drive people directly to your ecommerce store. By optimizing Stories to get featured on Instagram’s Explore page, you can gain even more exposure and more followers.

Growing a social media following through authentic engagement is harder than buying fake followers, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Don’t take the easy way out. Not only could you get burned by platform policies, but you might also end up torching all of your past marketing efforts into dust. Use these strategies to build a sustainable following that will drive your brand’s social reach to new heights.

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Steve Jobs Shares the Secrets to Successful Team Leadership in This Throwback Video




Though Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died six years ago, his outsized influence is certainly still felt. A recently surfaced video interview with the late CEO — which based on his haircut seems to place him in the mid-1980s — shows him sharing his views about best practices for hiring and what makes a great manager.

Up front, he says that the greatest employees are the ones who have the ability to manage themselves. But they can only do that if the leadership at the top is clear about what they want. “What leadership [is] having a vision, being able to articulate that so the people around you can understand it and getting a consensus on a common vision,” Jobs says.

Related: Steve Jobs Systematically Cultivated His Creativity. You Can Too.

Jobs goes on to explain that one of the most important jobs of someone in his position is recruiting new employees. He notes that he isn’t necessarily looking for someone who is an industry veteran, but rather someone who understands where technology is and where it could go in the future. He also recalls a moment when as the company was growing, that he and others executives thought they needed “professional managers,” but that ultimately turned out to not be the case.   

“We went out and hired a bunch of professional management [and] it didn’t work at all. Most of them were bozos,” Jobs says with his characteristic brutal candor. “They knew how to manage, but they didn’t know how to do anything. If you’re a great person, why do you want to work for somebody that you can’t learn anything from?”

Related: What the Creation of Apple’s iPhone Teaches Us About Innovation

Ultimately, he notes that the best team leaders are the ones that aren’t angling for power for power’s sake. “They are the great individual contributors who never, ever want to be a manager,” Jobs says. “But decide they have to be a manager because no one else is going to be able to do as good a job as them.”

Do you agree with Jobs’s assessment? Let us know in the comments and check out the full video below.

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How to Keep Introverted Employees From Quietly Leaving Your Company — in Droves




The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been around for decades. Employers use it to uncover job candidates’ personality strengths and place them in the right role. MBTI results also help identify natural leaders and great communicators.

Related: Introversion Is Not A Weakness, So Why Are You Treating It Like One?

Yet, there’s little talk about how people’s results impact their satisfaction once they’re in a job. When leaders ignore employees’ happiness, it’s hard to keep productive talent around.

Interestingly, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based publisher of the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, CCP, Inc., conducted new research that dove into how personality impacts workplace well-being. It looked at five aspects of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments.

After surveying 3,113 participants, the company, in a September report, revealed that introverts have lower well-being in all of these areas. This isn’t all that surprising: An introvert is less likely to speak up about what’s negatively impacting him or her.

It is shocking, however, that employers aren’t being more proactive. If leaders don’t find a way to improve the workplace happiness of introverts, those people will leave and take all their unique skills with them.

Want to avoid that happening to you? Here are some ideas to help connect with the introverts in your office and better understand their wellness-related needs in the workplace:

Be a chameleon.

Many leaders make the mistake of managing everyone the same way and assuming the results will equate across the board. But there’s a huge flaw in that logic: Every person, in fact, perceives and processes guidance differently. Some need more help in certain situations; some need less. So, it’s up to leaders to customize their approach.

Leaders ignoring the needs of their introverts can hurt their overall workplace well-being. The reason: Introverted employees will feel less engaged and have a harder time reaching their goals. This may then lead to feelings of isolation and disappointment, negatively impacting these workers’ mental health.

Related: 6 Truths on Why Introverts Make Great Leaders

When managers recognize introverts’ differences, on the other hand, they can help those employees succeed, and feel more accomplished. For example, as New York-based co-founder of the digital agency Ready Set Rocket, Aaron Harvey, pointed out, introverts have trouble speaking in front of people. “If someone struggles in brainstorming sessions, simply stop by their desk in advance and ask them to be prepared with a few ideas around a specific topic,” Harvey advised in an email. “This can help them feel confident, joining a conversation that organically leads to real-time ideation.”

Consider other situations when introverts might feel that they are out of their element. For instance, consider ways in which shy employees might meet new people.

Talking with new clients, after all, probably makes them nervous. So, reduce their stress by having an extrovert they’re comfortable with tag along. Having a familiar face present will help get them through the situation.

Scrimmage employees’ skill sets.

Extroverts’ strengths are obvious. They’re good communicators, enjoy building relationships and freely share their ideas — all skills that contribute to their well-being. These traits make it easier for them to create a support system at work and to speak up about what skills they have to offer.

Introverts’ skills are more hidden, so leaders don’t always see what they bring to the table. Since introverts are less likely to communicate what responsibilities they’d like to take on, they’re left feeling unfulfilled.

Skills-assessment tools, like the MBTI, are a great solution. They reveal natural strengths and help managers assign introverts more meaningful work.

After realizing your introverts’ skills, give them more opportunities to use them. Assign tasks and projects that allow them to maximize their strengths. Fully and effectively contributing to the team will improve their feelings of meaning and accomplishment.

Arlington, Va.-based Greg Wester, senior vice president of marketing and business development at the mobile content discovery platform Mobile Posse, likes to mix it up with his employees. To help everyone on the team develop his or her skills, Wester told me, the company poses team challenges that mix introverts and extroverts.

“We’ve found that people are super competitive about winning,” he said by email. “The different types of exercises give people a variety of ways to participate, get involved and hopefully boost their well-being.”

Currently, Mobile Posses’ employees are working as teams to create themed videos. Each team has eight cross-functional, cross-personality employees. They’re all challenged to use their individual skills to create a video representing their perspective on a company core value or vision.

This approach to skill-building, Wester said, helps introverts connect with the entire team and gives them more confidence about their value in the organization.

Keep kindred spirits together.

While it’s good to have both types of personalities working together, introverts may become stressed if they’re paired only with extroverts.

For instance, imagine walking into a room where everyone is talking loudly and the words don’t make sense. The situation is overwhelming. This is how introverts feel when they’re surrounded by extroverts. It’s as though no one is speaking their language, and they feel isolated as a result.

What’s more, iIntroverts and extroverts communicate differently. To maintain well-being, introverts need to find like-minded people they can connect with and recharge their energy with.

Rick Gibbs, a performance specialist at the Kingwood, Tex.-based HR services company Insperity, pointed out that following personality assessments, introverts can find people who are like them and make healthy connections. “The process itself can help improve communication, build teams, and expand office friendships,” Gibbs said in an email. “More introverted employees will be able to identify others with similar communications styles.”

Related: How Thinking Like an Introvert Can Help You Get Ahead in Business

So think about conducting personality testing at your workplace. Then, hold a meeting where everyone can discuss his or her results. This will show introverts that they are not alone. They’ll be able to communicate better and deepen their relationships — and with them their personal well-being — at work.

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Hard Work? It's Not All It's Cracked up to Be. It May Even Be Irrelevant. Here's Why.




From a young age, we’re raised to believe that we can accomplish pretty much anything so long as we work hard enough to achieve it. And, for the most part, that makes sense, at least intuitively. If you study for three hours while your roommate studies for one, you’ll probably do better on the test. If you spend 50 hours at work every week while your peer spends 30, you’ll stand a better chance of getting a raise or a promotion.

This idea follows us at every stage of our lives, and it echoes a cornerstone belief of Western culture: As long as you work hard, you’re going to be successful. But there’s a problem with this philosophy: Hard work isn’t always enough.

The Netflix approach

This idea is hard to accept at first, if you’re a hard worker who invests major time and effort to get what you want in life. Perhaps then, it’s best to introduce the alternative notion, using a corporate example.

Netflix (yes, the company responsible for those late-night television binges) has found success in part because it abolished the idea of hard work being the sole determining factor in an employee’s progression within the company.

Netflix formally introduced this idea in a 2009 slide deck explaining the company’s culture, but the idea dates back to 2001. Since her departure from Netflix, the company’s former chief talent officer, Patty McCord, has been on podcasts and spoken in interviews about the rather different work ethic Neflix evolved.

After experiencing financial trouble in 2001, the company made a bold move to lay off a third of its employees — not based on how long they’d worked there or how hard they’d worked, but solely on what they contribute, and how they impact the company’s bottom line. This infuriated some long-time, hard-working employees, but those who remained ended up getting more done because they didn’t have to correct others’ mistakes, or work around unnecessary teammates.

Even after that initial layoff, Netflix paid almost no attention to employees’ hard work. It allowed unlimited vacation time and flexible hours, focusing on results and innovation instead of the number of hours worked or the effort spent. This system resulted in the letting go of many employees who’d worked hard and performed well. But it also resulted in the better performance of the company (and, in many ways, in less stress for the remaining employees).

The problems with hard work

The Netflix example may seem harsh, especially if you’ve based your career around working hard. What if you too were fired after a decade of putting in long hours and genuinely trying your best?

Still, there are three main problems with hard work that an alternative culture or approach could correct:

“Hard work” doesn’t equal “results.” First off, hard work doesn’t necessarily correlate with results. For example, it doesn’t matter if you put 100 hours in to the design of your landing page; if your site doesn’t convert,you may as well have spent one hour.

Hard work isn’t efficient work. Next, consider that hard work isn’t necessarily efficient work. If it takes the person next to you three hours to complete a task that you could have completed in an hour, that extra hard work may have actually cost the company unnecessary time and money.

Hard work doesn’t encourage innovation. Finally, focusing on hard work doesn’t encourage innovation or novelty. Instead, it encourages repetition and persistence. Those factors can be good, but you also need some drive to try new tactics, incorporate new ideas and learn new things in your life.

What to focus on Instead

None of this is meant to imply that hard work isn’t valuable — only that your hard work should be reserved for when it counts the most. So, as an individual (whether you’re a professional or an entrepreneur), what should you be focusing on instead?

Efficiency. Focus on your efficiency. Instead of spending more hours, emphasize doing more with the hours you already have. For example, you could automate certain processes, delegate work beneath your paygrade or find new strategies to accomplish more within a set time frame. You can also work on eliminating redundancies in your workflow, or on abandoning tasks, meetings, and projects that eat up your time unnecessarily.

Results. Focus on results, prioritizing the work that seems to yield the highest return on your time investment. What’s really going to help you succeed? Reduce or eliminate anything that doesn’t fall in line with that vision, and don’t be afraid to make cuts.

Improvement. Focus on improving yourself and your surroundings. Instead of working hard on level one, spend some effort trying to get to level two. Invest in yourself, learning new skills and gaining new experiences, and invest in your environment by training your employees and making sure you have the best tools available for the job.

Hard work is incredibly valuable, but we shouldn’t keep thinking of it as the most important factor for success. Instead, we should see it as one of many factors that can help us, but won’t, in itself, necessarily save our businesses.

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