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No Scientific Evidence That Probiotics Improve Anxiety Symptoms In Humans, Finds Study – David DiSalvo

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A new review and analysis of several studies has found that probiotics do not improve self-reported anxiety symptoms in humans, although there was evidence of minor improvements in rodents.

The study reviewed 36 preclinical studies in total, 14 involving humans and 22 involving rats and mice. That’s a decent-sized sampling of the research covering a variety of probiotic strains, and it turned up zero evidence that humans with self-reported anxiety symptoms benefited from taking any of them.

“Probiotics did not significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety in humans and did not differentially affect clinical and healthy human samples,” the study concluded.

One of the strains, Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus, did appear to reduce anxiety symptoms in rodents, but further analysis showed that effects were most pronounced only for the sickest of the specimens, and even in those animals the results weren’t dramatic.

Probiotics are one of the strongest selling nutritional products in the world, with annual US sales exceeding $3.3 billion in 2016. That market size is predicted to more than double by 2025. Clearly a large chunk of the supplement-buying public has confidence in these products, and the marketing push is only intensifying. But this study, like others turning up similar findings, suggests caution is warranted.

“I think people should wait — that’s the best takeaway here,” said lead study author Daniel J. Reis, a doctoral student of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas. “We’re in the early days of this research into probiotics. I’ve seen a lot of stories hyping probiotics as helpful for anxiety. We’re not saying they do nothing, but we have a lot to figure out before we know if they can be used therapeutically.”

Why some effects were found in rodents and not in humans isn’t clear, but the researchers noted that the differences in dosage between humans and rodents were significant.

“If you control for the weights of animals versus humans, animals are getting much larger doses of probiotics in these experiments by one or two orders of magnitude. Sometimes the doses were hundreds of times higher than we see in human studies,” said Reis in a press statment.

The researchers also noted that while this study didn’t find anxiety-reducing benefits for humans, it’s still possible that a pathway exists for certain strains to yield therapeutic effects. And they were clear that the anxiety levels among the human participants in the reviewed studies weren’t necessarily “clinically elevated.” Future research has an opportunity to delve more deeply among that expanding population.

“We see a lot of pathways between our digestive systems and our brains,” Reis said. “We see nervous system connections, the inflammation response — these microorganisms seem to be able to influence the human brain through this gut-brain axis. We wanted to know if changes to the microbiota could improve mental health. But in terms of research, it’s all at a very preliminary stage.”

And that, for the moment, is the big takeaway on probiotics – the research is still very preliminary, despite marketing claims of conclusive results. Evidence supporting the claims just isn’t there, at least not yet.

Scientific research is nearing a consensus that bacteria in our digestive systems affect our brains. The microbiome in our guts, populated by billions of bacteria, appears to play a significant role not only in our digestive health, but also our mental health. Exactly how this happens is still being worked out, with each new study turning over another proverbial rock of possibilities. Despite these advances, we don’t yet know how, or if, probiotic supplements can improve our mental health by influencing gut bacteria. The marketing of these products is far ahead of the facts, as a quick review of what we know will show.

First, a brief sampling of the latest bacteria-brain research, which includes a study that found specific hormonal exchanges enabling communication between gut bacteria and the brain. This is especially noteworthy because the hormone in question is cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone”– a well-established indicator of stress levels in humans and other mammals. The study was conducted in pigs, which share several physiological similarities with humans, and it identified a possible communication pathway between gut bacteria and the brain that uses cortisol as a channel to send “messages.” The implications of this research will take some time to unravel, but one initial takeaway is that our stress-response system may play a key role in how gut bacteria communicate with the brain.

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Another recent study suggests that gut bacteria may influence anxiety and depression. This study was conducted with mice raised in a sterile, germ-free environment devoid of bacterial influence. Researchers exposed these mice to gut bacteria and watched what happened compared to mice that were raised in a normal, germy environment.  The germ-free mice exposed to bacteria developed anxiety and depression symptoms on par with the human equivalent. The researchers identified a specific brain region influenced by the bacteria, and suspect that our early-life exposure to bacteria may predispose us one way or another to anxiety and depression later on. Again, the conclusions are speculative, but the research is exciting because it moves us a little closer to figuring out what’s going on.

More studies like these are underway and another wave is in the planning phase. So why, with all of this research, can’t we make grand claims for the promise of probiotics? After all, if we have even an inkling that gut bacteria affect our brains (and we certainly have more than an inkling at this point) then why not jump onboard the probiotic supplement express?

The reasons can be boiled down to a few big ones.

The probiotic philosophy is to blast the gut with billions of allegedly “good” bacteria, in hopes of populating out the bad ones. While re-populating the gut with good bacteria sounds plausible, there’s little scientific clarity around which gut bacteria are objectively “good” or if that qualification is even valid. Bacteria can be “good” or “bad” depending on a slew of variables. Even less clear is which bacteria influence the brain and how they’re exerting their influence.

But let’s say we could achieve perfect clarity on that point, there’s still an enormous gastric obstacle ahead. Whether you’re ingesting a probiotic with one billion or 30 billion live bacterial cultures, they still have to survive your stomach acid to do anything worthwhile. Only a couple types of bacteria have proven resistant enough to survive that peril (lactobacillus and bifidobacteria), which means almost everything else in your pricey probiotic capsule is toast.

But let’s say that problem is solved by a fantastic pill coating – what will this army of bacteria do once they arrive in your gut?  We simply don’t know enough to know for sure. Last year a review of probiotic trials in humans concluded that the research “demonstrates a lack of evidence for an impact of probiotics on fecal microbiota composition in healthy adults.” In other words, we don’t know precisely what probiotics are doing in the gut – and there’s at least a possibility that they aren’t doing much to make a difference.

Given how little we understand about what probiotics can accomplish in our guts, jumping to a further conclusion that they can improve our mental health is really reaching. That hasn’t stopped those marketing these products from making outlandish claims, but that’s standard operating procedure for a large chunk of supplement marketing.

Where actual science is concerned, we don’t yet know if probiotics can achieve the promises made for them, or what sort of probiotic formula will prove effective. We may eventually find out that probiotics need to be tailored to a given person’s microbiome like bespoke clothing. Once that’s established (if it can be established), then perhaps we’ll have a better opportunity to understand how probiotics might improve our mental health – assuming the underlying theory holds up over time.

Right now, we don’t know enough to justify the claims made for probiotic supplements. The marketing is leagues ahead of the evidence, and we’d do well to view these claims with skepticism. Perhaps one day probiotics will give our brains a boost, but we’re just not there yet.

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How To Boss It Like With Claire Davenport – Kitty Knowles

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There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures who are changing the world.

We’ve previously asked CEOs, founders and thought leaders like Alex Klein (the cofounder of Kano), Clare Gilmartin (CEO at Trainline), and Justin Rosenstein (cofounder of Asana), how they get so much done in an impossibly short amount of time.

Today we find out “How To Boss It Like” Claire Davenport, CEO at HelloFresh UK, the meal-kit company based in Berlin.

Davenport cut her teeth working in banking at Goldman Sachs and JPMorganChase, before going on to work for digital leaders like Skype, FutureLearn and VoucherCodes.

Today, when she’s not heading up HelloFresh’s British division, she’s sharing her knowledge at pivotal events like this week’s Etail Europe.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

Most mornings I get up at 7 a.m. and have breakfast with my two daughters before cycling down the canal from my house to Oxford train station. I pick a quiet carriage so I can catch up on emails and news and prepare for the day on my commute into London.

Two mornings a week I have breakfast blocked for mentoring or networking. Doing everything I can to level the playing field for people from different backgrounds—to realize their full potential in their career or with their startup—is very important to me. I try to help with introductions or advice or just giving a confidence boost where needed.

Saturdays and Sundays I run on Port Meadow in Oxford with my running buddy, Alison. We run 4-5 miles to stay fit and catch up on the week.

What smartphone do you have?

iPhone 7 with 128 GB capacity (lots of photos and videos). Normal black with a HelloFresh cover.

What apps or methods do you use to be more productive?

I have tried various productivity apps over time but find having a system I stick to with my emails and trusted Moleskine notebook works best for me.

Sometimes I like to be offline or away from my phone. Okay, that’s not true.

But sometimes I happen to be offline (train or tube or once I have gone to bed or when I am trying to set a good example for my daughters) and I still have ideas and thoughts I need to get down, so a paper notebook is essential.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

Every day is slightly different. On any given day, there are normally around 100-200 people working at our Shoreditch office or around 200 at our distribution center in Oxfordshire.

Both workspaces are sociable places, and I sit in a different seat most days so that I can really understand what all the teams are up to. I like the variety of sitting in our customer-care area and listening and speaking to customers on the phone one day to spending time with our marketing team the following day.

We keep meetings short at HelloFresh so I have in-depth conversations with 20 people a day roughly. I regularly meet customers as we like to host events at our office to learn more about their experience with HelloFresh.

A couple of evenings a week, I like to meet up with friends or people in my network.

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What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

The Emotionally Intelligent Manager by David Caruso and Peter Salovey is a book I return again and again. It really changed my thinking on EQ and people management. I’ve bought copies for our offices because I think it’s a book everyone can benefit from.

I also like Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader by Herminia Ibarra, which is great for people thinking about their leadership style and is lovely and practical.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

Go for it. It’s better to take an opportunity and get the experience it gives you rather than procrastinating and losing time. You can always pivot when you see what you enjoy about the opportunity.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind-down routine?

Most evenings when I don’t have events, we eat a HelloFresh meal together as a family around 8 p.m.

My husband or daughters often start cooking while I am commuting home—I am guilty of emailing or reading news or Facebooking until late, but then I listen to audiobooks to wind down before I fall asleep.

I have a history of waking up with an idea at 3:30 a.m. and, at one time, I had quite a reputation for the 4 a.m. email among my colleagues.

After a while, I learned how scary it is for my team to receive a 4 a.m. email from me, and now I just save it as a draft and, if it still seems as important in the morning (about 10% of the time), I send it then instead.

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

I’d ask Barack Obama for his best piece of advice on leadership and his awesome public speaking.

What do you think your industry will look like in 10 years? 

I think more and more people will rely on meal kits in the future as it’s just such a convenient way to cook and enjoy nutritious food. Personalized nutrition will become a bigger trend as consumers are able to access data and food that meets their specific needs. And delivery will continue to develop, and we’re likely to see more and more automation in this area.

I believe my grandchildren will be bemused by the idea of owning a car or going to a supermarket to shop for a week’s meals in advance!

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What It Takes To Make IoT Implementation A Success – Robert Plant & Cherie Topham

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Organizations around the globe understand the importance of IoT. In fact, in a recent Forbes Insights/Hitachi survey of more than 500 executives worldwide, over 90% said IoT will be important to the future of their business. What’s more, of all emerging technologies, executives said IoT would be the most critical, ranking it above others like artificial intelligence and robotics.

While executives acknowledge the importance of IoT, 49% remain in the early stages of planning or are only operating pilot programs. We spoke with John Magee, Hitachi Vantara’s vice president of product and solutions marketing, to get his perspective on this state of development and how organizations can make IoT a larger part of their strategy and operations going forward.

If an executive is looking to invest in IoT and understand the economics behind it, what does he or she need to know?

Most organizations are looking to IoT projects to either improve operational efficiency or drive new revenue streams. A lot of organizations are seeking to use the data they can get from IoT sensors and connectivity to provide better visibility and help them understand what’s going on in their operations. For product companies, they’re often looking to optimize how their products are being manufactured or used, and to offer new data-driven services with those products.

The goal for most of these companies is to transform the way they operate and the way they compete. For business leaders looking to take advantage of IoT, the most important thing is to begin with the business outcome goals first and then determine what data IoT can provide that can help deliver those outcomes. It’s the new data that delivers the business value. So that should be the starting point for any project. Then you can work back from there to the technology required to meet the objective.

For example, manufacturers might want to understand why quality issues are creeping into one of their manufacturing lines but not the other. Logistics companies may want to understand the location of parts and deliveries to optimize scheduling. Product companies may want to sell new value-added software services that help customers get more value from their products. Whatever the goal, by understanding what data you need to collect and who needs access to it, the technology requirements will fall into place more easily and you won’t over- or underspend for success.

When executives are thinking about what data is most important to achieving their desired outcomes, what do they need to know? How should they approach this?

IoT is essentially a rich source of new business data. Data that comes from machines and devices, and from the spaces and environments those machines operate in. In many situations, just having access to real-time data about what’s going on—in a manufacturing plant, on a remote oil rig or in a city train station—can be transformative. In most situations, though, some analysis of the data is going to be needed to gain the insights that lead to business value.

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This is where technologies like big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence come into play. Analytics is the key to not just understanding what is happening but also learning and getting smarter so that your IoT solutions can predict when a problem will occur or find the root cause of product quality issues that would have been unsolvable without analyzing the mountains of data that IoT can deliver.

The right way to think about IoT is as an extension of the business analytics that your organization is probably already doing in other areas. At the end of the day, IoT is a means to accessing and interpreting more data. And data management, data integration and data science are all key enabling technologies for IoT, just as they are for most other areas of business today.

One new twist on IoT data that differs from traditional business data is the idea of a “digital twin.” The digital twin is the software representation of a physical device, such as a pacemaker, an elevator or a dump truck. As data streams in from the physical device, it is collected and stored in the corresponding digital twin. The digital twin knows everything about that asset: where it was manufactured, how it has been operated, when it was last serviced.

By using software to analyze hundreds or even thousands of these digital twins, data scientists can build powerful analytic models that can optimize the corresponding physical assets. Organizations are using this approach to enhance asset uptime and performance, extend the useful life of critical assets and optimize maintenance and operations.

Once you’ve aggregated data into a single version of the truth and are drawing conclusions, how can companies best integrate that information into broader networks?

There’s a sort of stairway to value in many IoT scenarios. The first step of the stairway is the physical devices themselves. The second step is the operations around those devices. And the third step is the business processes and ecosystem around those operations.

Think of a manufacturing plant. If you use sensors on critical plant equipment, you can get data that can help you operate that equipment more effectively. If you collect enough data, you can even start to predict when it will fail so you can service it before that happens. So that’s the next step – using the data insights about the equipment into optimizing your maintenance and repair operations.

But that data can also be useful at the next step in the stairway, which is how your supply chain responds to requirements for parts or materials being delivered based on the performance of the equipment and operations in the factory. The more data you have, the more visibility you have, and the more opportunity to optimize every part of the operation. Sort of like air traffic control for the factory.

This stairway, or hierarchy, of value—from asset to operations to business process—is one we see play out in industry after industry.

When it comes to IoT, which is a complicated endeavor, research shows that it’s best not to go at it alone. What should executives be looking for in a partner when they’re considering making this transformation?

Working with a partner who understands your industry and has a methodology to help you think through your data strategy are the real enablers for success. IoT is a hot technology right now, and it is easy to get caught up in the hype and invest in the wrong areas. Working with an experienced partner who has a pragmatic approach that starts with understanding how IoT data and analytics will drive the desired business outcome is the key to success.

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How Many Extra Calories Are You Getting From Food At Work – Bruce Y. Lee

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Apparently a fair number of people take a lot of %#$% at work and eat it too.

Yesterday at the Nutrition 2018 meeting in Boston, Stephen Onufrak, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), presented what he described in a press release as “the first national study to look at the food people get at work.” Nutrition 2018 is the American Society of Nutrition’s annual meeting. Onufrak also indicated that “our results suggest that the foods people get from work do not align well with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” This is a polite way of saying nutritionally some of it may be %#$%.

For the study, Onufrak and his colleagues analyzed data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Acquisition and Purchasing Survey (FoodAPS), administered to a nationally representative sample of American households. The data included what food and beverages 5,222 employed adults had indicated they had purchased and “acquired” for free at work over a 7-day period.

During the week, 8% of respondents had purchased food or beverages at work during the week, and 17% had acquired it for free. Those of you skilled in the art of acquiring food for free know that potential sources include the communal coffee machine, catering for meetings, birthdays and other celebrations, and that person or persons in the office for whom baking is a hobby or emotional outlet.

Free food may sound good but it accounted for 71% of all of the calories acquired at work. (Those who got food or beverages at work, got an average of 1277 calories from work). Also, food from work, whether purchased or obtained for free, tended to be “high in empty calories, sodium, and refined grains and low in whole grains and fruit.” And surprise! The leading foods were “pizza, soft drinks, cookies/brownies, cakes and pies, and candy.” Not exactly broccoli florets and kale.

Thus, with all the pizzas and pies around, what this study suggest is that you may want to shut your pie (you know what) at work. There are a lot of distractions around you such as the conversations that you are having, the other people that are walking around, the cat videos on your computer screen, and oh, of course, the work that you have to do. You may not realize or be keeping track of the extra calories, salt, fat, sugar, and other bad stuff that is going into your mouth.

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Remember, you spend a lot of your waking hours (and in some cases sleeping hours) at work. Thus, workplace food can really affect your diet. What, then, do you do besides convincing the baker in your office to find a different emotional outlet? Here are some possibilities:

  • Don’t talk to or interact with anyone: You can reduce your chances of getting free food by hissing at everyone when they see you. Of course, this could have other negative consequences.
  • Eat selectively: When food comes around, pay attention to its nutritional content.
  • Don’t position yourself close to food: If your desk is in the office kitchen, then that not only is a bit odd (assuming that you don’t do kitchen-related work) but also makes you more likely to eat unconsciously.
  • Convince your workplace to bring or offer healthier options: It may not seem appealing to be known as “that kale guy who took our pizza away” or the woman who “made the workplace grapes again instead of cakes the workplace again.” But in the long run people may thank you.
  • Be careful about drinking at work: Not just drinking alcohol but anything sugar-sweetened. Beverages can be a prominent source of empty calories and sugar.
  • Eat when you are not at work: Don’t regularly rely on free food for your meals.
  • Pack and bring your food: This requires some time, planning, and organization. That’s why fast food is called fast food. One possibility is to form a “foodpool” with some co-workers and take turns preparing food for each other. Just make sure that your “foodpool” doesn’t have more than a hundred people because it may be overwhelming when it is your day to bring the food.
  • Scout out places around the workplace that serve healthy food: This could also get you to walk around more.

Finally, keep in mind, you often get what you pay for nutritionally. Workplaces may try to save money by getting cheaper and more convenient foods and beverages, which tend to be highly processed and higher in salt, sugar, fat, and artificial ingredients. You may still be able to find healthy food at work but may have to work at it.

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Labstep Wants to Fix The Way Science Experiments are Recorded & Reproduced — TechCrunch

Labstep, an app and online platform to help scientists record and reproduce experiments, has raised £1 million in new funding, including from existing investors. The company, whose team has a background in commercial R&D and academic research, including at Oxford University, is backed by Seedcamp and says it plans to use the new capital to…

via Labstep wants to fix the way science experiments are recorded and reproduced — TechCrunch

25 Sure Fire Ways to Boost Twitter Engagement – Brendan Schneider

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As a school marketer, you already are aware of the opportunity Twitter presents to you as a tool for reaching out to parents and prospective parents. With more than 330 million users on Twitter, it’s easy to see why it is one of the platforms most school marketers say benefits their school.

But here’s the challenge – how do you get the right Twitter users (also known as Tweeps) to engage with your posts and click on your content?

Almost every school marketer has been in the position where they are churning out a mountain of content, and no one ever seems to want to interact with it. It’s easy to get frustrated when the last three tweets linking to your latest genius blog post don’t get noticed.

In this post, I’m going to take a deeper dive into Twitter engagement. We will look at what Twitter engagement is, how to measure it and why it matters. I will also give you 25 strategies you can use to increase your engagement and click-through-rate (CTR) on Twitter.

Types of Twitter Engagement

Twitter engagement is when someone engages with the content that you post in your tweets. To be considered engagement, Twitter users can:

  • Reply to your Tweet
  • Engage with someone who replied to your Tweet
  • Retweet your Tweet
  • Like your Tweet
  • Direct Message you
  • Add you to a List
  • Add your Tweet to a Moment
  • Follow and unfollow you
  • Mention you in a Tweet by using your Twitter Handle
  • Click on your link

Engagement is one of the main purposes of having a Twitter account – to send interested, engaged traffic to your website and/or blog. Just remember that if someone isn’t following you, they can’t see your postings.

What You Should Know About Twitter Engagement

Before we get into the specific Twitter engagement strategies, it’s a good idea to understand the Twitter environment in which you are trying to engage. (Source: 61 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark for 2018)

  1. Twitter users prefer content and engagement

15% of Twitter users will unfollow a brand within three weeks if they are not making an effort to engage them, such as posting relevant content and engaging with them

  1. Active Twitter users are on Twitter every day

Out of all active Twitter users, 81% are active at least once a day, 15% access Twitter more than 10x a day, and 60% tweet at least once a day

  1. Twitter users like to engage with brands

49% of Twitter users are following brands

  1. Twitter users prefer to use Twitter for customer service

19% of active Twitter users seek customer support on Twitter

  1. Twitter users prefer visuals

Visual content (i.e., images, graphics, infographics, and videos) get 150% more engagement on average than text-only tweets

  1. Twitter users prefer to use their mobile devices

82% of active Twitter users accessed it through a mobile device

  1. Millennials are active Twitter users

81% of millennials in the U.S. view their Twitter account on a daily basis

Why Twitter Engagement Matters

Interaction on Twitter offers a great deal of benefits to your school.

Engagement on Twitter (except when it goes really wrong) will enable you to build and foster relationships with parents and potential parents. If they are interacting with your content, they are interested in your school, and may even be sharing it. This is especially true if you’re responding to them and having conversations, even if they are brief.

Once you start getting click-throughs to your website and/or blog, you will be gaining more visitors, inquiries, and enrollments.

Also, when you garner retweets or mentions, you’re expanding your reach – for free.

Twitter engagement can drive results, so it’s worth measuring the results and adjusting your campaigns to improve the performance of your Twitter campaigns.

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How to Increase Twitter Engagement and Link Clicks

Here are 25 strategies you can use to increase Twitter engagement for your school. You will want to test these strategies to determine what will work best for your school.

  1. Build an audience by following others

You want to consistently grow your followers by following others. Find the best followers by using Twitter Advanced Search to laser-focus your search criteria. Just remember to thin out your Followers (I use ManageFlitter to do this) because you want to maintain a balance between the number of people following you and the number of people or brands you follow. One strategy I like to use to build my Twitter audience is to find local influencers and search through their followers to find potential followers.

  1. Engage with other content

Yes, the Golden Rule works on Twitter. If you want others to engage with your content, you need to engage with theirs first. Like, reply to and retweet others content. When you engage with other Twitter users’ content, they will be more likely to pay attention to your content. This can help to build social proof over time, which is valuable on all social channels.

Not only will this increase engagement, but it will also help you build relationships with your followers, expanding your reach both on – and off – Twitter.

  1. Retweet other users’ tweets

Another golden rule and retweets are golden in the Twitterverse (yes, it’s a thing!)  Retweeting is a form of engagement that Twitter users value a great deal – not only are you saying you Like their content, but you value it enough to share it. Reciprocity is an important part of why people choose to follow and engage with your school. By retweeting, you will have a better chance of connecting with them.

  1. Keep your tweets short

Twitter only allows 140 characters in each tweet, to begin with, but the best practice is to keep your tweets really short – like 80 – 110 characters. This is for several reasons. Leaving space for more characters allows users the opportunity to add their own tags and @Mentions, making it easier for others to retweet. Several research studies have found that shorter tweets have a higher level of engagement.

  1. Share a variety of content topics that include links

While it is important, of course, to include links to your most valuable content, you also want to share curated content as well. With social media, you never want to make it all about your brand. No one wants to feel they are being “sold” to all the time.

  1. Respond when someone tweets you

This can be especially challenging for large schools that have a lot of engagement. However, it’s best to respond to users that engage with your school as soon as possible. Sending an actual response tweet is usually the most powerful and effective. If you receive criticism or they seem upset, respond to them quickly and make the conversation private (i.e., Direct Message) as soon as possible.

Responding when someone tweets you increases the chances they will engage with your future posts.

  1. Know the best times to post

There are certain times of the day or days of the week when your active Twitter followers are more likely to be online. You will get more views and engagement if you post during your peak hours.

Most studies have shown that posting between noon and 3 pm Mondays – Fridays is a peak time, while other studies have found that 5 pm Monday – Friday or noon and 6 pm offers the best CTR.

Most social media scheduling tools (I use Buffer and SproutSocial) make it easy to distribute content during the best days and times for your school. It’s always a good idea to test your posting schedule to ensure you are posting during the best times for your social media platforms and audience.

  1. Always provide high-quality content

People don’t want to waste time, especially on a microblogging site like Twitter. Schools should seek to provide value through information, inspiration or entertainment. Providing value, in whatever form you choose, is among the most important factors for success with content marketing. Value will keep potential parents coming back and staying interested, and, best of all, engaging with and clicking on the tweet you’re posting.

  1. Always use hashtags

Hashtags play an important role on Twitter. Just like with Instagram, hashtags are part of the Twitter culture. But they are functional too. Hashtags help people find what they are looking for when they are searching. Hashtags also are used to emphasize core points you want to make.

Tweets with hashtags are retweeted 33% more often than tweets without hashtags. However, less can be more. Tweets with only one hashtag receive 69% more retweets than tweets with two or more hashtags.

For this reason, it is best practice to use only one hashtag per tweet. Also, remember that using a trending hashtag will help increase engagement and impressions.

Want to know how to research the best hashtag for your tweet? Click here to learn more.

  1. Include images

Visuals are important on all social media channels; Twitter is no exception. Images are important on Twitter because you are limited to the number of characters you can use. Case studies have shown that tweets with images receive 313% more engagement.

While you can use up to 4 images per tweet, including at least one image will drive extra engagement.

  1. Post videos

While images can get more attention than plain text tweets, videos will outperform images. Twitter Video allows you to upload an existing video directly from your smartphone. The time is limited to 30 seconds, but you will lose most of your audience after 30 seconds anyway.

Most Twitter users – 82 % – watch videos right from the Twitter platform. Native videos will drive more engagement than videos from third party players.

Video is a great way to share stories about your school, offer a day-in-the-life look, evoke emotion and highlight your Twitter presence. Videos are a dynamic way to boost your engagement.

  1. Ask for retweets

Asking for retweets has been shown to be an effective strategy – as long as you don’t overuse it. When you have something really important you want people to share, say “Please RT” or “Please share” at the end of your tweet. If you use “Please RT” all the time, people will just ignore your request, so use this tactic sparingly.

  1. Don’t over tweet

If you tweet too much – especially if you tweet the same content over and over – you will see your engagement decrease. Most studies show that tweeting 1 to 3 times per day is ideal. Posting more than four times per day will negatively impact your audience.

  1. Space out your tweets

When you’re sending out your 1 – 4 tweets during the day, don’t send them all at once. Be sure to space your tweets out over the day. This will increase the number of people who see it and help to increase your engagement.

  1. Use simple, clear language

You are limited in the number of characters you can use, so don’t try to be clever or speak in riddles. Get right to the point and make it easy for people to grasp what you’re trying to communicate. You do want to pique your audience’s interest, so use language that will make others want to pay attention and take the action you are inviting them to take.

  1. Ask questions

This is a very common tactic for drawing people in. People want to share their opinions and experiences, so ask them! Asking questions will increase engagement and give you valuable insight into the type of content they are interested in and want more of in the future.

  1. Use power words

Using power words and superlatives in your blog will increase engagement. You want to provoke curiosity and evoke an emotional response from your audience. If you’re not sure what power words to use, or you just want some ideas, CoSchedule offers a free download of 500 power word for writing emotional headlines. They also offer a free headline analyzer you can use to evaluate your headline – or tweet.

  1. Talk about important people in your area

When you interact with an influencer in your area (i.e., school board member, mayor, etc.), it can help to get new eyes on you. On Twitter, talking about or tagging an important person can be enough to get more engagement and new followers. Use the @Mention feature whenever it’s appropriate; you might build a stronger relationship with the person you’re mentioning as well as getting more engagement.

  1. Use Twitter Cards

Twitter Cards are a great way to add more content to your tweet. You can use a summary card, photo card or product card. Twitter Cards are larger, which attracts more attention to it, as well as enriching your post. To learn more about how to set up and use Twitter Cards, link here.

  1. Use shortened links

Twitter has such a limited number of characters; you don’t want to waste them on long, ugly links. Most social media schedulers will have a built-in link shortener. Some WordPress themes come with a link shortener, or you can install a plugin like Pretty Links. Many social media managers use Bitly, Tiny URL, Goo.gl or Bit.do.

  1. Recycle your best content

If you posted content and it performed well, you can extend it by using it again. Many schools recycle their best content, making sure to get more eyes on their high-quality tweets, videos, and links. Most content is missed the first time it is posted; and even if people see it more than once, most won’t even notice the replication.

Many social media schedulers allow you to repost content and offer an easy way for you to change up the tweet. Make sure to stagger your postings when you are reusing content. Repost on different days, at different times and put a few weeks in between your posts as well.

Of course, you don’t want to recycle content that relies on timelines like breaking news, holidays, events or certain trending topics.)

  1. Include a call-to-action (CTA)

People want to know what they should do next after reading your post. Use action words to inspire Twitter users to, well, take action. Some examples include:

  • Learn more
  • Download
  • Follow Us
  • Please Help (good for nonprofits)
  • Visit Our Site
  • Place an Inquiry
  • Shop Our Sale

Use the word “free” whenever it’s appropriate is a good idea. Twitter users love giveaways and freebies!

  1. Alternate between “titles” and “text” copy

Switch up your tweet copy between using headlines and regular copy. If you have an attention-grabbing title, you will attract interest, but don’t forget about interesting statistics and data within your content. Often, that type of copy will increase engagement.

  1. Invest in Twitter Ads

Twitter Ads are a good way to increase your engagement, especially if you want to grow your follower-base. Twitter Ads do cost money, and can be more expensive than Facebook Ads. However, most Twitter users that invest in Twitter advertising have found that Twitter’s click-through rate (CTR) is higher than Facebook advertising. Promoted tweets are the best type of advertising for increasing engagement.

Create a Twitter Ad by locating the tab on the same dropdown menu where you find Twitter Analytics, which you can find by clicking on your logo next to the Tweet button in the upper right corner.

  1. Consider using a Twitter Conversational Ad

Conversational Ads are designed to increase engagement and brand influence. They are similar to promoted tweets, but come with the addition of a CTA that encourages users to tweet with hashtags you can customize and choose.

When a Twitter user clicks on the CTA, the tweet will open with a pre-populated message that users can then customize and share, after which they will be automatically thanked.

Twitter Conversational Ads are a great tool to use to grow engagement for your school.

Besides paid advertising, most of these Twitter engagement strategies are free and only require a small amount of extra time in addition to the content you may already be creating for Twitter. There are millions of Twitter users out there – you just have to find the right strategies to get your target audience to engage with your school.

As you continue to drive engagement and increase your CTR on Twitter, you’ll most certainly increase the number of inquiries over time by sending traffic to your website and blog. Twitter engagement will help you build rapport, trust and positive relationships with your potential parents, and ultimately, your school’s enrollment.

What strategies have worked best for your school to increase engagement on Twitter? Please share with other school marketers in the comments below.

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Tips To How to Master Your Content Curation Strategy – Brendan Schneider

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Do you always find yourself not having enough time to create content for your blog? Or maybe you are short on writers who can publish articles regularly.

Then, it’s time to consider content curation as part of your marketing strategy!

Content curation is the process of discovering and selecting content that is relevant to a particular subject or area of interest for your target audience. Curata defined content curation as:

  • Performed by a person, not simply a computer algorithm.
  • Being discerning, discriminative, and selective.
  • Added value. You offer perspective, insight, guidance.
  • Not a one-time event or activity.
  • Informed by a laser focus on your audience.

If you’re interested in implementing content curation, find out how these experts are doing it successfully.

Create a Curated Newsletter

I position my Weekend Update Newsletter as my reader’s “weekly professional development required reading.” The newsletter is simply a curated email of written content, audio content, and questions from my private Facebook Group that I determine are the most important for my readers to consume.

I’ve been creating my newsletter for years, and the three most important lessons I’ve learned are:

  1. While this might go without saying, you absolutely need to understand who your reader is and what their challenges are.
  2. You need to be a consumer of content yourself. You need to read, listen, and watch as much content as you can from the industry you are trying to curate.
  3. You need to have your content organized, and I use and recommend the RSS reader Feedly. Good luck and happy curating!

Set Your Goals

It’s very important to establish from the start what exactly you want to achieve with content curation:

  • more influence in your niche,
  • promoting your business,
  • generating more followers and engagement, etc.

This will help you decide what channels to use, what types of content to share, and what content formats to use in order to ultimately achieve your goals.

Another important part: don’t just share links and be done with it. Give your input, make a comment on what you’ve read or seen, explain why people should check out that piece of content, be funny – that makes the difference between simply sharing content and curating content.

While content curation is good for SEO and the marketing of your business, you’ll get more long-term results if you remember that your audience is not there to help you. Everything you write, curate and promote must be of the greatest value of the readers or viewers. Make it all about them and they will reward you with attention and interest.

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5 Habits That Are Draining Your Energy – Dr. David B. Samadi

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We rely on energy to get through the day, the week, the year. We know that losing out on sleep can leave us feeling drained, but sleep deprivation is only one of a long list of possible reasons behind feeling exhausted.

The following are some of the typical pitfalls which will cause chronic fatigue:

You don’t drink water. Even slight dehydration will cause a drop in energy level. This may be surprising, but dehydration actually makes your blood thicker, meaning your heart has to work harder to pump oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and organs, ultimately slowing you down.

You don’t eat breakfast. It’s not called the most important meal of the day for nothing! Skipping breakfast can often leave you feeling lifeless the rest of the day.  We rely on breakfast to kickstart our metabolism after a goodnight’s sleep. The body continues to burn through food and nutrients even as we sleep, leaving our stores depleted by morning.  A meal shortly after waking up is important to replenish these depleted energy stores and re-energize the body.

You have a drink to unwind. Many adults enjoy an alcoholic beverage after a long day of work, to help them unwind before bed.  However alcohol can actually interrupt your sleep at night.  Initially, the alcohol will depress the nervous system and produce a tranquilizing effect helping you to fall asleep. But as it breaks down while you sleep, it gives your body a surge of energy, likely to wake you up at night.

You stay up late on weekends. Altering your sleep cycle on the weekends can leave you feeling tired by the time Monday rolls around.  It is unrealistic to expect people to stay in on the weekends to avoid a case of the “Mondays,” but trying to stay close to your regular bed time, or at least wake time, is essential for your body. Keeping your sleep patterns regular will keep you feeling fresh throughout the day.

You check your phone in bed. The light given off by your most prized electronics – phones, TVs and tablets – can actually throw off your sleep cycles. Your body typically follows the rule of if it’s bright it’s time to get up, if it’s dark it’s time for sleep. The glow from the modern tech devices that surround us can keep us awake for longer, and make it difficult for our bodies to wind down.

So you know what you are doing wrong, but what can you do to boost your energy levels throughout the day? The best way to keep energy up is to eat well. The general rule of thumb for high-energy foods is to eat those high in fiber, but low in glycemic index.

Glycemic index (GI) measures the variation in blood sugar levels according to foods consumed. Foods with carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, tend to have a low GI. Consuming foods with high GI will cause a spike in blood sugar and energy, translating to a jolt of energy followed by a crash. This constant up and down will leave you exhausted. For this reason we look to foods with low GI to create a sustained level of energy.

Here are some foods that will give you that much-needed boost:

  • Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Black beans
  • Walnuts
  • Oats

It is important to remember that energy not only refers to physical strength and alertness, but mental health as well. Whether the issue is committing yourself to too many social obligations, or always saying yes to a new project at work (even during your time off), it is important to take time for yourself. It is easy to overlook stress and anxiety as a cause of prolonged fatigue, but this can be both physically and emotionally taxing.

Getting outdoors, meditating, and regular exercise boosts strength, endurance, and energy. This movement not only delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, but provides an influx of endorphins, boosting both your energy and mood!

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How a Few Pages Can Make or Break Your Website – Jeff Baker

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A prospect unequivocally disagreed with a recommendation I made recently. I told him a few pages of content could make a significant impact on his site. Even when presented with hard numbers backing up my assertions, he still balked. My ego started gnawing: would a painter tell a mathematician how to do trigonometry?

Unlike art, content marketing and SEO aren’t subjective. The quality of the words you write can be quantified, and they can generate a return for your business.

Most of your content won’t do anything

In order to have this conversation, we really need to deal with this fact.

Most content created lives deep on page 7 of Google, ranking for an obscure keyword completely unrelated to your brand. A lack of scientific (objective math) process is to blame. But more on that later.

Case in point: Brafton used to employ a volume play with regard to content strategy. Volume = keyword rankings. It was spray-and-pray, and it worked.

Looking back on current performance for old articles, we find that the top 100 pages of our site (1.2% of all indexed pages) drive 68% of all organic traffic.

Further, 94.5% of all indexed pages drive five clicks or less from search every three months.

So what gives?

Here’s what has changed: easy content is a thing of the past. Writing content and “using keywords” is a plan destined for a lonely death on page 7 of the search results. The process for creating content needs to be rigorous and heavily supported by data. It needs to start with keyword research.

1. Keyword research:

Select content topics from keywords that are regularly being searched. Search volume implies interest, which guarantees what you are writing about is of interest to your target audience. The keywords you choose also need to be reasonable. Using organic difficulty metrics from Moz or SEMrush will help you determine if you stand a realistic chance of ranking somewhere meaningful.

2. SEO content writing:

Your goal is to get the page you’re writing to rank for the keyword you’re targeting. The days of using a keyword in blog posts and linking to a product landing page are over. One page, one keyword. Therefore, if you want your page to rank for the chosen keyword, that page must be the very best piece of content on the web for that keyword. It needs to be in-depth, covering a wide swath of related topics.

How to project results

Build out your initial list of keyword targets. Filter the list down to the keywords with the optimal combination of search volume, organic difficulty, SERP crowding, and searcher intent. You can use this template as a guide — just make a copy and you’re set.

Get the keyword target template

Once you’ve narrowed down your list to top contenders, tally up the total search volume potential — this is the total number of searches that are made on a monthly basis for all your keyword targets. You will not capture this total number of searches. A good rule of thumb is that if you rank, on average, at the bottom of page 1 and top of page 2 for all keywords, your estimated CTR will be a maximum of 2%. The mid-bottom of page 1 will be around 4%. The top-to-middle of page 1 will be 6%.

In the instance above, if we were to rank poorly, with a 2% CTR for 20 pages, we would drive an additional 42–89 targeted, commercial-intent visitors per month.

The website in question drives an average of 343 organic visitors per month, via a random assortment of keywords from 7,850 indexed pages in Google. At the very worst, 20 pages, or .3% of all pages, would drive 10.9% of all traffic. At best (if the client followed the steps above to a T), the .3% additional pages would drive 43.7% of all traffic!

Whoa.

That’s .3% of a site’s indexed pages driving an additional 77.6% of traffic every. single. month.

How a few pages can make a difference

Up until now, everything we’ve discussed has been hypothetical keyword potential. Fortunately, we have tested this method with 37 core landing pages on our site (.5% of all indexed pages). The result of deploying the method above was 24 of our targeted keywords ranking on page 1, driving an estimated 716 high-intent visitors per month.

That amounts to .5% of all pages driving 7.7% of all traffic. At an average CPC of $12.05 per keyword, the total cost of paying for these keywords would be $8,628 per month.

Our 37 pages (.5% of all pages), which were a one-time investment, drive 7.7% of all traffic at an estimated value of $103,533 yearly. Can a few pages make or break your website? You bet your butt.

If everyone who read the articles and like it, that would be favorable to have your donations – Thank you.

 

 

Can NanoTechnology Help Treat Alzheimer’s – Ileana Varela

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. It takes a devastating toll on patients and family members, who are usually the caregivers. Current drugs only treat symptoms of AD, not its causes.

FIU researchers are studying a new approach to treating Alzheimer’s using nanotechnology aimed at reducing the inflammation in the brain.

“Current drugs affect neuro-transmitters in the brain. However, inflammation is still clearly present in patients with AD—and seems to be a root cause,” says Madhavan Nair, associate dean for biomedical research and vice president for nanotechnology at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s; someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 66 seconds; and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States – killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

Nair and his team will target brain cells called microglia and will use his FIU patented MENs (magneto electric nanoparticles) carrier system for the specific delivery and sustained release of two
anti-inflammatory drugs, Withaferin A and CRID3, into those cells.

“We are hoping that this will inhibit the neuroinflammatory response in microglia and thus help to improve cognitive function in AD patients,” Nair says. The study is funded by a $224,643 grant from the Florida Department of Health.

Although scientists are not sure what causes cell death and tissue loss in the Alzheimer’s brain, they suspect plaques and tangles are to blame. The plaques form when protein pieces called beta-amyloid clump together between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.

Investigators in Nair’s lab are using sophisticated technology –bioinformatic tools and 3D structure of beta-amyloid – to find the binding site of these anti-inflammatory drugs on beta-amyloid. These studies could translate into new therapies in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

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