Image Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Image link building is a delicate art. There are some distinct considerations from traditional link building, and doing it successfully requires a balance of creativity, curiosity, and having the right tools on hand. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s own SEO and link building aficionado Britney Muller offers up concrete advice for successfully building links via images.

Image Link Building

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to go over all things image link building, which is sort of an art. I’m so excited to dig into this with you.

Know your link targets

So first and foremost, you need to know your link targets:

I. Popular industry platforms – top pages

What are those top platforms or websites that you would really like to acquire a link from? Then, from there, you can start to understand who might be influencers on those platforms, who’s writing the content, who might you contact, and also what are the top pages currently for those sites. There are a number of tools that give you a glimpse into that information. Moz’s OSE, Open Site Explorer, will show you top pages. SEMrush has a top page report. SimilarWeb has a popular page report. You can dig into all that information there, really interesting stuff.

II. Old popular images – update!

You can also start to dig into old, popular images and then update them. So what are old popular images within your space that you could have an opportunity to revamp and update? A really neat way to sort of dig into some of that is BuzzSumo’s infographics filter, and then you would insert the topic. You enter the industry or the topic you’re trying to address and then search by the infographics to see if you can come across anything.

III. Transform popular content into images

You can also just transform popular content into images, and I think there is so much opportunity in doing that for new statistics reports, new data that comes out. There are tons of great opportunities to transform those into multiple images and leverage that across different platforms for link building.

IV. Influencers

Again, just understanding who those influencers are.

Do your keyword research

So, from here, we’re going to dive into the keyword research part of this whole puzzle, and this is really understanding the intent behind people searching about the topic or the product or whatever it might be. Something you can do is evaluate keywords with link intent. This is a brilliant concept I heard about a couple weeks back from Dan Shure’s podcast. Thank you, Dan. Essentially it’s the idea that keywords with statistics or facts after the keyword have link intent baked into the search query. It’s brilliant. Those individuals are searching for something to reference, to maybe link to, to include in a presentation or an article or whatever that might be. It has this basic link intent.

Another thing you want to evaluate is just anything around images. Do any of your keywords and pictures or photos, etc. have good search volume with some opportunities? What does that search result currently look like? You have to evaluate what’s currently ranking to understand what’s working and what’s not. I used to say at my old agency I didn’t want anyone writing any piece of content until they had read all of the 10 search results for that keyword or that phrase we were targeting. Why would you do that until you have a full understanding of how that looks currently and how we can make something way better?

Rand had also mentioned this really cool tip on if you find some keywords, it’s good to evaluate whether or not the image carousel shows up for those searches, because if it does, that’s a little glimpse into the searcher intent that leads to images. That’s a good sign that you’re on the right track to really optimize for a certain image. It’s something to keep in mind.

Provide value

So, from here, we’re going to move up to providing value. Now we’re in the brainstorming stage. Hopefully, you’ve gotten some ideas, you know where you want to link from, and you need to provide value in some way. It could be a…

I. Reference/bookmark Maybe something that people would bookmark, that always works.

II. Perspective is a really interesting one. So some of the most beautiful data visualizations do this extremely well, where they can simplify a confusing concept or a lot of data. It’s a great way to leverage images and graphics.

III. Printouts still work really well. Moz has the SEO Dev Cheat Sheet that I have seen printed all over at different agencies, and that’s really neat to see it adding value directly.

IV. Curate images. We see this a lot with different articles. Maybe the top 25 to 50 images from this tradeshow or this event or whatever it might be, that’s a great way to leverage link building and kind of getting people fired up about a curated piece of content.

Gregory Ciotti — I don’t know if I’m saying that right — has an incredible article I suggest you all read called “Why a Visual Really Is Worth a Thousand Words,” and he mentions don’t be afraid to get obvious. I love that, because I think all too often we tend to overthink images and executing things in general. Why not just state the obvious and see how it goes? He’s got great examples.


So, from here, we are going to move into optimization. If any of you need a brush-up on image optimization, I highly suggest you check out Rand’s Whiteboard Friday on image SEO. It covers everything. But some of the basics are your…


You want to make sure that the title of the image has your keyword and explains what it is that you’re trying to convey.

Alt text

This was first and foremost designed for the visually impaired, so you need to be mindful of visually impaired screen readers that will read this to people to explain what the image actually is. So first and foremost, you just need to be helpful and provide information in a descriptive way to describe that image.


Compression is huge. Page speed is so big right now. I hear about it all the time. I know you guys do too. But one of the easiest ways to help page speed is to compress those huge images. There’s a ton of great free tools out there, like Optimizilla, where you can bulk upload a bunch of large images and then bulk download. It makes it super easy. There are also some desktop programs, if you’re doing this kind of stuff all the time, that will automatically compress images you download or save. That might be worth looking into if you do this a lot.
You want to host the image. You want it to live on your domain. You want to house that. You can leverage it on other platforms, but you want sort of that original to be on your site.


Source set attribute is getting a little technical. It’s super interesting, and it’s basically this really incredible image attribute that allows you to set the minimum browser size and the image you would prefer to show up for different sizes. So you can not only have different images show up for different devices in different sizes, but you can also revamp them. You can revamp the same image and serve it better for a mobile user versus a tablet, etc. John Henshaw has some of the greatest stuff on source set. Highly suggest you look at some of his articles. He’s doing really cool things with it. Check that out.


So, from here, you want to promote your images. You obviously want to share it on popular platforms. You want to reach back out to some of these things that you might have into earlier. If you updated a piece of content, make them aware of that. Or if you transformed a really popular piece of content into some visuals, you might want to share that with the person who is sharing that piece of content. You want to start to tap into that previous research with your promotion.

Inform the influencers

Ask people to share it. There is nothing wrong with just asking your network of people to share something you’ve worked really hard on, and hopefully, vice versa, that can work in return and you’re not afraid to share something a connection of yours has that they worked really hard on.

Monitor the image SERPs

From here, you need to monitor. One of the best ways to do this is Google reverse image search. So if you go to Google and you click the images tab, there’s that little camera icon that you can click on and upload images to see where else they live on the web. This is a great way to figure out who is using your image, where it’s being held, are you getting a backlink or are you not. You want to keep an eye on all of that stuff.

Two other tools to do this, that I’ve heard about, are Image Raider and TinEye. But I have not had great experience with either of these. I would love to hear your comments below if maybe you have.

Reverse image search with Google works the best for me. This is also an awesome opportunity for someone to get on the market and create a Google alert for images. I don’t think anyone is actually doing that right now. If you know someone that is, please let me know down below in the comments. But it could be a cool business opportunity, right? I don’t know.

So for monitoring, let’s say you find your image is being used on different websites. Now you need to do some basic outreach to get that link. You want to request that link for using your image.

This is just a super basic template that I came up with. You can use it. You can change it, do whatever you want. But it’s just:

Hi, [first name].
Thank you so much for including our image in your article. Great piece. Just wondering if you could link to as the source.

Something like that. Something short, to the point. If you can make it more personalized, please do so. I can’t stress that enough. People will take you way more seriously if you have some nugget of personal information or connection that you can make.

From there, you just sort of stay in this loop. After you go through this process, you need to continue to promote your content and continue to monitor and do outreach and push that to maximize your link building efforts.
So I hope you enjoyed this. I look forward to hearing all of your comments and thoughts down below in the comments. I look forward to seeing you all later. Thanks for joining us on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. Thanks.

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from The Moz Blog


9 Proven Tactics of a Successful Local Facebook Marketing Strategy

With 2.2 billion active users, it might seem like turning followers into paying customers on Facebook would be easy. At least a few of those users will want what you’re selling … right? Unfortunately, targeting a local market on Facebook is a little more challenging than that.

Building a local Facebook marketing strategy is challenging, but extremely rewarding when executed correctly. Here are nine proven Facebook marketing tactics you can use to drive foot traffic, build brand awareness, and increase revenue potential.

9 Tactics for Your Local Facebook Marketing Strategy

1. Share Reviews

Standing out can be difficult when you’re surrounded by hundreds of other businesses all vying for attention. The key often lies in using social proof. People trust businesses that can prove what they say is true — especially if that proof comes from a customer.

Here are two review tactics we use:

  • Share screenshots of positive reviews from other social sites.
  • Ask customers to share the experience they’ve had with your business.

Screenshot positive reviews on sites like Yelp and Google+, and then share them on your Facebook page. Tag the reviewer’s business in your post with a sincere “Thank you,”, or just happily boast that you have the best customers. Sharing screenshots of emails from happy customers works too, just be sure you ask permission first.


If you’re just starting out and your business doesn’t have any reviews yet, give your audience an incentive to leave positive feedback. Ask your followers how their last experience was at your business. Offer a product giveaway to the first five people that leave a comment describing why they love your company. Even if you don’t get an official Facebook review, someone will probably comment on their experience. That’s social proof.

2. Create an Event

Having a live band perform at your restaurant this weekend or throwing a big sale at your retail store? Facebook events are a great way to notify your followers and generate some buzz for your business. Even if people can’t attend in person, it shows that your business is actively engaged with the community.

Creating an event on your Facebook page is easy. First, navigate to the “Events” tab.

Select the blue “Create Event” button.

Fill in the details:

  • Date and time
  • Event category
  • Event keywords
  • A link to the ticketing website

Finally, add a compelling photo, and you’re good to go.


A few tips to improve the reach of your Facebook event:

  • Add directions or a map to make it easy for people to find your event.
  • Invite up to 500 people.
  • Share your event and/or promote it as an ad.

3. Use Groups

Groups offer a wide variety of local Facebook marketing advantages. Some of the best include:

  • Listing and selling products
  • Building a community
  • Establishing expertise
  • Networking
  • Offering great customer service

The possibilities for creating and managing a group on Facebook are only limited by your imagination. Groups are the perfect place to create a controlled community within your target audience. As the admin of the group, you can approve or reject all posts, accept or block members, and direct the commentary.

Groups allow you to build a micro-community that is hyper-focused on the subject of your choosing. For example, a business that sells laptop cases could create an entire Facebook group centered around laptop cases and their various uses, the best kinds, how to determine product quality, and humorous customer stories.

4. Share Local Content

One thing that’s consistent across Facebook is that people love to celebrate local pride. Align your business with famous events, history, people, landmarks, sayings, and other nuances that are part of your city’s identity. Share content from local organizations that captures the essence of your locale and will interest to your audience.


These are examples of good local content topics:

  • 13 Things Keeping Austin Weird
  • How Boston’s “R”-less Accent Became So Famous
  • The Best Festivals to Attend this Summer in San Diego

Make your Facebook page an extension of the culture and traditions surrounding your location.

5. Mention Local Businesses, Events, and Groups

If you’re looking for ways to build engagement and gain traction, tag accounts that share content which aligns with your audience’s interests. As with all things on social media, tagging can be overdone, so don’t start tagging pages in every post. Rather, choose the ones that will have the greatest impact and provide value to your audience.

Tagging is another great way to support local marketing efforts. Build hype for an event your company is hosting using a Facebook live video, or showcase company culture with a group photo at the next conference you attend. One word of caution: if you decide to try Facebook live, write a script. The last thing you want to do is live-stream without a plan.

In addition to page tags, groups can also be tagged. This is especially effective when you’re attending industry events or working on collaborations. Athletic wear brands, such as Puma, do an exceptional job promoting their collaborations on Facebook.

6. Tag Locations & Events

I’m not talking about tagging your latest check-in at Olive Garden, I’m talking about event marketing, company outings, and business development trips. Manning a booth at Comic-Con? Post a group picture that tags the event and location. Taking the team out for someone’s Birthday lunch? Tag the location and upload a boomerang. Checking out your latest digital billboard downtown? Tag the location and upload a picture.

Add some variety to your Facebook page by tagging locations and show off your company’s personality at the same time.

7. Run a Contest

Everybody likes to win things. There are many different ways to run a Facebook contest. The two most popular include hosting a promotion on a Facebook app or on your Page’s Timeline.

Pay close attention to Facebook’s content rules because disregarding them could get your contest shutdown. Here are just a few things you can’t do:

  • You can’t require participants to share a page or post on your Timeline to enter
  • You can’t require participants to like a page to enter
  • You can’t require participants to tag themselves in pictures to enter

The list goes on. Review a thorough breakdown of what you can and can’t do when running a Facebook contest here. Helpful hint: even though you can’t require page likes, photo tagging, and timeline posting, you can still encourage the audience to complete those actions.

8. Encourage Foot Traffic

Retail companies often struggle to make Facebook work in their favor. The biggest problem is getting people online to come into the store. Here are a few tips to start turning Facebook followers into foot traffic that have revenue potential:

  • Create polls and contests centered on popular products and their uses
  • Run regular in-store events your customers are interested in
  • Promote in-store coupons, giveaways, and sweepstakes
  • Build a shop directly on Facebook where your customers can purchase your products
  • Align your page with causes your audience cares about

Think of Facebook as your marketing email and your store as the landing page. In order to get people from the digital universe to visit your physical business, you need to have a compelling message and offer they can’t refuse. For example, if there’s a large sales conference in town you could create a set of Facebook ads that are focused on the area surrounding the conference center and targets sales professionals over the age of 21. Offer a lunch discount and provide all the details they need to make a quick meal grab before heading to their next session.

9. On-Site Promotion of Your Facebook Page

Try to convert the foot traffic your business attracts into online brand advocates. Use signage, receipts, business cards, flyers, coupons and more to ask for page likes, check-ins, reviews, and posts on your Facebook Timeline.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Give away a $200 gift card that requires participants to post a picture taken in front of a branded mural, sign, or display that tags your Facebook page.
  • Offer a 20% off discount for everyone who checks-in at your store on a Wednesday.

Executing successful Facebook local marketing tactics requires consistent testing and experimentation. What works for a retail business might not work for a restaurant, and vice versa.

Take the time to figure out what your audience responds to the best and what generates the most business for your company through Facebook. Successful Facebook local marketing can take time. Be patient, detail oriented and persistent.



from Marketing

How technology can guide your business through a crisis

In order to thrive in the digital world, it is vital that your business is using technology to its full advantage. Otherwise, you could end up wasting your time, money, and energy. You could also face being left behind by your industry peers. Understanding the benefits of using technology in your business, will help you [more…]

from TheMarketingblog

PRs and SEOs – Break down The Walls And Start Working Together

If you’re the director of marketing or the office manager I want you to do something for me. It will take just 5 minutes of your time and it will be well worth it.  Get two post-it notes and write on each one. “Tell me what you’re working on and your top three objectives.” Hand [more…]

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Moz the Monster: Anatomy of an (Averted) Brand Crisis

Posted by Dr-Pete

On the morning of Friday, November 10, we woke up to the news that John Lewis had launched an ad campaign called “Moz the Monster“. If you’re from the UK, John Lewis needs no introduction, but for our American audience, they’re a high-end retail chain that’s gained a reputation for a decade of amazing Christmas ads.

It’s estimated that John Lewis spent upwards of £7m on this campaign (roughly $9.4M). It quickly became clear that they had organized a multi-channel effort, including a #mozthemonster Twitter campaign.

From a consumer perspective, Moz was just a lovable blue monster. From the perspective of a company that has spent years building a brand, John Lewis was potentially going to rewrite what “Moz” meant to the broader world. From a search perspective, we were facing a rare possibility of competing for our own brand on Google results if this campaign went viral (and John Lewis has a solid history of viral campaigns).

Step #1: Don’t panic

At the speed of social media, it can be hard to stop and take a breath, but you have to remember that that speed cuts both ways. If you’re too quick to respond and make a mistake, that mistake travels at the same speed and can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating exactly the disaster you feared.

The first step is to get multiple perspectives quickly. I took to Slack in the morning (I’m two hours ahead of the Seattle team) to find out who was awake. Two of our UK team (Jo and Eli) were quick to respond, which had the added benefit of getting us the local perspective.

Collectively, we decided that, in the spirit of our TAGFEE philosophy, a friendly monster deserved a friendly response. Even if we chose to look at it purely from a pragmatic, tactical standpoint, John Lewis wasn’t a competitor, and going in metaphorical guns-blazing against a furry blue monster and the little boy he befriended could’ve been step one toward a reputation nightmare.

Step #2: Respond (carefully)

In some cases, you may choose not to respond, but in this case we felt that friendly engagement was our best approach. Since the Seattle team was finishing their first cup of coffee, I decided to test the waters with a tweet from my personal account:

I’ve got a smaller audience than the main Moz account, and a personal tweet as the west coast was getting in gear was less exposure. The initial response was positive, and we even got a little bit of feedback, such as suggestions to monitor UK Google SERPs (see “Step #3”).

Our community team (thanks, Tyler!) quickly followed up with an official tweet:

While we didn’t get direct engagement from John Lewis, the general community response was positive. Roger Mozbot and Moz the Monster could live in peace, at least for now.

Step #3: Measure

There was a longer-term fear – would engagement with the Moz the Monster campaign alter Google SERPs for Moz-related keywords? Google has become an incredibly dynamic engine, and the meaning of any given phrase can rewrite itself based on how searchers engage with that phrase. I decided to track “moz” itself across both the US and UK.

In that first day of the official campaign launch, searches for “moz” were already showing news (“Top Stories”) results in the US and UK, with the text-only version in the US:

…and the richer Top Stories carousel in the UK:

The Guardian article that announced the campaign launch was also ranking organically, near the bottom of page one. So, even on day one, we were seeing some brand encroachment and knew we had to keep track of the situation on a daily basis.

Just two days later (November 12), Moz the Monster had captured four page-one organic results for “moz” in the UK (at the bottom of the page):

While it still wasn’t time to panic, John Lewis’ campaign was clearly having an impact on Google SERPs.

Step #4: Surprises

On November 13, it looked like the SERPs might be returning to normal. The Moz Blog had regained the Top Stories block in both US and UK results:

We weren’t in the clear yet, though. A couple of days later, a plagiarism scandal broke, and it was dominating the UK news for “moz” by November 18:

This story also migrated into organic SERPs after The Guardian published an op-ed piece. Fortunately for John Lewis, the follow-up story didn’t last very long. It’s an important reminder, though, that you can’t take your eyes off of the ball just because it seems to be rolling in the right direction.

Step #5: Results

It’s one thing to see changes in the SERPs, but how was all of this impacting search trends and our actual traffic? Here’s the data from Google Trends for a 4-week period around the Moz the Monster launch (2 weeks on either side):

The top graph is US trends data, and the bottom graph is UK. The large spike in the middle of the UK graph is November 10, where you can see that interest in the search “moz” increased dramatically. However, this spike fell off fairly quickly and US interest was relatively unaffected.

Let’s look at the same time period for Google Search Console impression and click data. First, the US data (isolated to just the keyword “moz”):

There was almost no change in impressions or clicks in the US market. Now, the UK data:

Here, the launch spike in impressions is very clear, and closely mirrors the Google Trends data. However, clicks to were, like the US market, unaffected. Hindsight is 20/20, and we were trying to make decisions on the fly, but the short-term shift in Google SERPs had very little impact on clicks to our site. People looking for Moz the Monster and people looking for Moz the search marketing tool are, not shockingly, two very different groups.

Ultimately, the impact of this campaign was short-lived, but it is interesting to see how quickly a SERP can rewrite itself based on the changing world, especially with an injection of ad dollars. At one point (in UK results), Moz the Monster had replaced in over half (5 of 8) page-one organic spots and Top Stories – an impressive and somewhat alarming feat.

By December 2, Moz the Monster had completely disappeared from US and UK SERPs for the phrase “moz”. New, short-term signals can rewrite search results, but when those signals fade, results often return to normal. So, remember not to panic and track real, bottom-line results.

Your crisis plan

So, how can we generalize this to other brand crises? What happens when someone else’s campaign treads on your brand’s hard-fought territory? Let’s restate our 5-step process:

(1) Remember not to panic

The very word “crisis” almost demands panic, but remember that you can make any problem worse. I realize that’s not very comforting, but unless your office is actually on fire, there’s time to stop and assess the situation. Get multiple perspectives and make sure you’re not overreacting.

(2) Be cautiously proactive

Unless there’s a very good reason not to (such as a legal reason), it’s almost always best to be proactive and respond to the situation on your own terms. At least acknowledge the situation, preferably with a touch of humor. These brand intrusions are, by their nature, high profile, and if you pretend it’s not happening, you’ll just look clueless.

(3) Track the impact

As soon as possible, start collecting data. These situations move quickly, and search rankings can change overnight in 2017. Find out what impact the event is really having as quickly as possible, even if you have to track some of it by hand. Don’t wait for the perfect metrics or tracking tools.

(4) Don’t get complacent

Search results are volatile and social media is fickle – don’t assume that a lull or short-term change means you can stop and rest. Keep tracking, at least for a few days and preferably for a couple of weeks (depending on the severity of the crisis).

(5) Measure bottom-line results

As the days go by, you’ll be able to more clearly see the impact. Track as deeply as you can – long-term rankings, traffic, even sales/conversions where necessary. This is the data that tells you if the short-term impact in (3) is really doing damage or is just superficial.

The real John Lewis

Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to someone who has felt a much longer-term impact of John Lewis’ succesful holiday campaigns. Twitter user and computer science teacher @johnlewis has weathered his own brand crisis year after year with grace and humor:

So, a hat-tip to John Lewis, and, on behalf of Moz, a very happy holidays to Moz the Monster!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from The Moz Blog

bigdog launches ‘Prize Burst’ Facebook Live giveaway for Sky Bingo

Full-service, integrated advertising and marketing agency, bigdog, today announces plans for the next Sky Betting and Gaming Facebook Live prize giveaway. The activity, taking place today – Wednesday  13th December – marks the first time Sky Betting and Gaming has partnered with Amy Nickall – presenter, entertainment journalist, parenting author, children’s entertainer and interviewer. Amy [more…]

from TheMarketingblog

10 Hard Truths About Management No One Tells You

I remember talking with an acquaintance a few years back who had recently graduated from college about how she envisioned her career progressing. Here’s how she broke down the steps:

  1. Get a job.
  2. Master that job.
  3. Manage other people doing that job.
  4. “Run sh*t” (her exact words).

I find that this is often how management is perceived by individual contributors (myself included before I became a manager). “Running sh*t” sounds pretty awesome, right? And I felt confident that once I was handed this ultimate power, I would become a new enlightened version of my individual contributor self. The vision for my team would be revealed to me! I would know exactly how to execute on said vision! I would coach my team to success and would be positively drowning in progress and praise!

Today, I’m cringe-laughing as I write these sentences. The perception I had of management turned out to be quite different than the brass tacks realities. Spoiler: I did not ascend to a higher plane of enlightenment when my title changed. I was still myself, with all my faults, and dealing with a totally new set of challenges.

Don’t get me wrong — for all the missteps and pitfalls and uncomfortable realizations, being a manager is easily the best job I’ve ever had. The phrase “the best hardest job” that often gets applied to parenting also holds for management in my opinion. The fulfillment I get from watching my team learn, grow, and ultimately kick ass is second to none.

This post is not intended to dissuade anyone from management. Instead, it’s an attempt to provide a glimpse into the not-so-glamorous parts of “running sh*t” that don’t get talked about as often as the pros. It’s my hope that this information can help people considering management make a fully informed decision — and let current managers know that if they’re experiencing any of the things on this list, they’re not alone.

10 Hard Truths About Management No One Tells You

1) Management can be lonely.

When you’re an individual contributor on a team, you have a built-in support system. You’re naturally grouped with people who do the same thing you do, or if not, at least have deep context into your work. And this network comes in handy when you need a sounding board, a brainstorm partner, or just someone to vent to.

But when you’re the manager of a team, there’s by definition only one of you. There’s no one else in the same role who you can turn to when you’re stuck, or confused, or frustrated — and that can sometimes leave you feeling lonely.

This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to find support as a manager. The key word is “find.” As a manager, you have to intentionally seek out fellow leaders and actively build a support network (and I guarantee that you will need it).

2) You stop practicing your craft.

You probably got your job as a manager because you were particularly good at whatever you were doing as an individual contributor … but in your new role, you actually stop doing that thing. The manager’s role is to help their team execute their craft particularly well. And because you’re playing an enablement role instead of actually doing the work, your skills are probably going to get a bit rusty.

For example, content is my craft, but I haven’t actively been in the weeds for a few years now. A peek at entry-level content creation jobs reveals that employers are now looking for video and design skills in addition to writing … of which I have neither. I could probably get a job as a manager of a content team, but as a creator? Maybe not.

This is why I think it’s dangerous to think of management as a promotion — it’s actually a totally different job. When you take a step towards management, you take a step away from your functional area of expertise. It’s a trade-off that I’ve been personally very happy with, but a trade-off nonetheless.

3) GSD turns into GTD.

At HubSpot, we’re fond of the acronym GSD, which stands for “get sh*t done.” We love people who love to cross things off a to-do list.

But considering that managers are enablers of people who execute tasks instead of executing those tasks themselves, “GSD” really doesn’t fit anymore. Instead, I think “GTD” more appropriately describes the work of managers, where “T” has two meanings:

  1. Get Thinking Done
  2. Get Talking Done

The first definition of “GTD” refers to strategic planning, which requires quite a bit of reflection and rumination. The second definition refers to enabling team members through coaching, providing feedback, and training. Neither of these “GTD” modes lend themselves to crossing items off a to-do list.

I’ve often heard new managers accustomed to executing tasks fast and furious remark that they feel like they’re not “doing anything” in their new role. This isn’t true — their work is just as vital and important — but it happens on a more ongoing cadence and isn’t neatly completed at the end of a day or week.

4) You don’t get as much feedback.

As an individual contributor, you (hopefully) get feedback on a timely and consistent basis. Do something awesome, and you’ll get near instant validation. Fumble on a project, and you’ll get constructive criticism soon after.

When you’re a manager, the feedback loop slows thanks to the nature of the GTD grind. Your manager doesn’t have as much visibility into your “thinking” and “talking” work as they do with more task-oriented output, and this means you’ll probably get periodic packages of feedback at certain milestones rather than an ongoing stream.

On the flip side of the equation, it can feel uncomfortable to give your direct manager feedback. To encourage your reports to weigh in on your performance, consider putting anonymous mechanisms in place, or ask them to share their thoughts with your manager.

5) You have to do hard things (and you still have the same feelings).

Giving constructive criticism, conducting performance reviews, resolving conflicts, making sometimes unpopular decisions — managers have to do a lot of things that aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs. And remember when I said I didn’t become a magically different person when I took on a team? I was also surprised to discover that I had the same feelings I did when I was an individual contributor.

Telling someone that they made a mistake or that their work isn’t up to par sucks — manager or not. Personally, I struggle with nerves when delivering constructive criticism. Even if I know a certain piece of feedback will be beneficial to the person long-term, I still have to contend with a pounding heart and sweaty palms when the moment arrives. But, I force myself to get the words out, because I know it’s what I need to do to be effective in my role.

Being a manager means signing up to feel the feelings and do the hard things anyway. Which brings me to a somewhat related point …

6) Management is emotional.

In addition to contending with your own feelings, as a manager, you’re also more frequently on the receiving end of others’ emotions. Work is emotional, and if you have a good relationship with your reports, they’re going to express frustration, stress, worry, anger, and a whole host of other emotions to you. Tears will be shed. Voices will be raised. Eyebrows will be crinkled. Sometimes all at once.

What I didn’t understand before I became a manager is how hard it can be to be the person on the other side of the table in these situations. Because you’re a human with empathy, your reports’ feelings will probably rub off on you to some extent.

On one hand, this is good thing — to foster trust with your employees, you have to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. But be wary that you don’t go overboard and cross into sponge territory, or start to feel responsible for others’ emotions. Managers have to remain objective to make sound decisions, and you can’t let someone else’s anger or frustration or guilt cloud your view on a situation.

When you feel like you’re crossing into “emotional burnout” zone, have a few coping mechanisms on hand that you can employ in a pinch — and don’t feel guilty about using them. If a walk to clear your head will help you gain perspective and shake off emotional baggage, it’s not a sign that you’re bad at your job; on the contrary, it’s what you need to be good at your job. Don’t forget that.

7) Self-regulation, all day, every day.

I’ve just spent several paragraphs talking about all the emotions managers contend with, both their own and others’. The kicker? You actually need to be far more careful about how you express your feelings as a manager than as an individual contributor.

To understand why, consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Manager walks into a team meeting, slams the door, and bangs her laptop down on the table. She is visibly upset, with a scowl on her face. “I just heard that our budget is being slashed by 10% next year, which is total BS,” she huffs. “I’m so pissed; I don’t know why we even bother trying. We always have to deal with this crap and I’m fed up. I guess I’ll try to figure out where we can save money … ugh.”

Scenario 2: Manager walks into a team meeting, closes the door, and sits down at the table. She seems calm and serious. “Hi everyone, thanks for joining. Unfortunately, I have some bad news. I just heard from Finance that we need to cut our budget by 10% next year,” she says. “I’ll be honest — I’m frustrated by this and I’d understand if you were too. That said, it’s the reality of the situation, and I think there are some cuts we can make that won’t negatively impact our work. I’ll share my ideas via email and I’d like to hear yours as well.”

This is essentially the same message, but delivered in two completely different ways. How do you think the team members left the meeting feeling in Scenario #1 vs. Scenario #2? Both are likely to be upset, but I’m guessing that the employees in the first situation are going to be a lot less productive and a lot more worried for the rest of the day than their counterparts in the second.

People take their emotional cues from their leaders. This doesn’t mean that managers can’t be authentic with their direct reports — it just means they have to be deliberate about how they express their feeling so as not to create a chain reaction of negativity and stress.

To me, self-regulation means being mindful to not let your own emotion get in the way of delivering a clear message. It’s not easy, but it’s critically important. Pro tip: Invest in a good stress ball or join a gym with punching bags.

8) You spend less time in the spotlight.

As I said above, managers are enablers, not executors. If a project your team worked on was a smashing success, the lion’s share of the credit goes to the executors (as it should!). As the manager, you’re more likely to be clapping on the sidelines than standing in the spotlight, and that can be hard to swallow for people who’ve recently transitioned from an individual contributor role.

This has been one of the parts of management that agrees with me the most — I actually prefer cheering from the sidelines, and get more enjoyment out of watching my team get recognized than getting recognized myself. I’m not here to judge — neither preference is better or worse than the other — but it’s worth asking yourself where you’d rather stand when the praise starts rolling in.

9) You’re the “sh*t umbrella.”

If you want to “run sh*t,” you have to deal with sh*t. I use the term “sh*t umbrella” to describe two essential functions of managers:

  1. Protecting your team from distractions so they can focus on execution.
  2. Doing the essential drudgery that no one else wants to do.

Let’s start with the first point. One of the reasons I love working at HubSpot is that there are a ton of innovative ideas being discussed at all corners of the company. The downside? At times, these ideas can become distracting or cause confusion. It’s my job to contextualize external information and help triage requests from other departments — sometimes referred to as “blocking and tackling” — so that my team can spend their time actually, you know, doing their jobs.

As for the second scenario — while it’s not good to protect your team from work, it is a good thing to show you’re willing to do the soul-crushing stuff so they don’t have to, at least temporarily. When the buck stops with you, it’s ultimately your responsibility to ensure that what needs to be done gets done — no matter how sh*tty.

10) Your relationships change.

While this one isn’t really a surprise, it can be hard to swallow nonetheless. If your company tends to promote from within, it’s probably a common scenario for people to become managers of their former peers or teammates … and that can be awkward. Because your relation to each other has changed, that means your relationship has to change as well. Peer-to-peer vent sessions and gut checks are suddenly off the table, replaced with formal one-on-one meetings and manager-employee feedback. Even if you’re not directly managing former peers, people have higher expectations of their leaders, which means you have to act accordingly both on and off your team. (Read: shotgunning beers on Friday afternoon might not be the best look anymore).

If you’re currently in this situation, be warned that it will make you feel some feelings (see #1). According to managers I’ve talked to who have been through this, the best way to mitigate the ensuing awkwardness is to address it head on. Clearly setting expectations and creating space for both of you to recalibrate will help you proactively forge the next chapter of your relationship instead of spending time lamenting what you’re leaving behind.

What are your own “hard truths”?

Those are some of the uncomfortable realizations and situations I’ve been through in my relatively short management tenure, and I am not an expert by any others, so I’d love to hear about others’. Tweet me your own “hard truths” or let me know how your perceptions around management have (or have not) changed after reading this post @emmajs24.

from Marketing