Why Brands Need To Be Careful About The New Instagram Algorithm

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Instagram has introduced an algorithm that reconfigures the order in which users see content on their feed. As a sister company of Facebook, the move was inevitable, but that doesn’t mean users are happy about the change. Instagram was widely regarded as one of the few truly organic social mediums available, and though this change will make connecting brands with users easier, it also has the potential to backfire if they feel like your ad is being forced on them.

According to Instagram, users miss around 70% of the posts in their feed, and according to a Forrester Research study, user interactions with brands dropped nearly half in 2015–going from 4.213% to just 2.261% of followers. This change was enacted to both help remedy that problem and to ensure that brands connected with more people. This change from organic discovery to artificial promotion could turn users away and hurt your chances to have a positive interaction with potential customers. Now when your brand seeks to make connections on Instagram, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Don’t Forget to Be Organic

By eliminating the reverse chronological order of the Instagram feed, many feel that the social media platform has become less organic. The change has compromised what they once loved, so it’s easy to see how brands could become the victim of disgruntled users. This is where it is essential to continue to think organically. Maybe the algorithm has changed, but that doesn’t mean the very nature of the platform was altered. Because of the reliance on photography, Instagram users are looking for artistry, beauty, and emotions over a message or staged content. The spontaneity of the moment captured in a picture or video is what attracts users, so keep that in mind when crafting ads or simply trying to update your brand account.

360i’s VP of social marketing and strategy Orli LeWinter doesn’t believe “Instagram will go full-fledged Facebook with its suppression of organic reach for content,” and force all advertisers into a pay-to-play model they can’t break out of. However, Instagram is introducing artificial promotion, which basically goes against the spontaneity of the platform. It’s important to keep in mind how your audience might take to you jumping into their feed when they don’t want you there because, as LeWinter believes, “The Instagram community is just different and expects a level of authenticity and accessibility that isn’t reflected on Facebook.”

Quality is Still Essential

Even if you’re paying to have users see your ads, it’s essential that you continue to stick to the rules of Instagram and keep artistry as a top priority. The advertising gold rush might be upon us, but “there are concerns about a stampede of subpar creatives, running counter to the high-def appeal of Instagram.” The initial impulse of the new algorithm might be to pump money into advertising and get your brand in front of the most eyes, but a certain amount of quality still needs to be considered. As Larry Lac, director of social media marketing at Havas Worldwide says of the issue, “the moment when an Instagram ad starts looking like a banner, the ‘unfollows’ will come.”

Instagram is a visual medium, so it is essential to continue creating content that meets the assumed requirements. Brands must consider if the visuals in their advertising campaign are worthy of the platform because the new algorithm will be able to filter out poor ads by serving users with only relevant and targeted ads. The more that users engage with the ads they see, the better the algorithm can provide them with relevant advertisements. If an ad is performing poorly because the visuals are not up to snuff, it would be eliminated from circulation, essentially forcing the brand to provide Instagram-worthy images that will keep users happy.

What the Future Holds

While it has yet to be seen whether Instagram will simply go with Facebook’s algorithm, or one that is wholly its own, Tom Buontempo, president of KBS’ Attention, believes there is a way to differentiate the two platforms. By implementing image recognition and location into the timeline algorithm, the mobile-first app will be able to create a much more spontaneous hierarchy of relevance determined by location and people in the pictures.

Regardless of what the algorithm ends up prioritizing, the move aligns Instagram with Facebook’s marketing playbook. As it follows its sister company’s lead, expect to see more social shopping opportunities, and an implementation of its own version of Facebook Canvas, which will allow users to make purchases right in the app. Instagram is catering more to brands than ever before, but as new functionality debuts, it’s important to keep in mind what has made the platform so popular up until now.

Why Unbranded Content Should Be Part of Your Marketing Playbook

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Brands have operated as publishers for years now, but consumers have grown tired of overly-branded content and advertising pitches, and are seeking to distance themselves from companies constantly butting into their lives. Many brands have learned that their customers “prefer information rather than promotion, generosity rather than a sales pitch.” It’s why companies are now rolling out, and experimenting with, unbranded content. But why would a company that typically wants a return on investment start such an endeavor without a clear and direct benefit? Why follow their lead? There is actually a lot of potential in unbranded content and it can enhance the ways consumers interact with brands.

Advance the Conversation

The idea is that by creating more dialogue in a new category around sleep, it elevates and accelerates the buying process… It’s a very high-level brand play, a very high-level conversion play.

– Jeff Koyen, editor in chief of Van Winkle’s

Casper, the company revolutionizing how we buy beds, quietly launched a journalistic endeavor surrounding the activity of sleep called Van Winkle’s. They cover news, tips, and even information about bed technology, but you would never know that Casper was behind it at all. They don’t lead their readers to buy their products, they don’t impose their branding messages on the site, and they allow Van Winkle’s to be an independent entity.

Koyen sees Van Winkle’s as a journalist endeavor centered around sleep. They concentrate on traffic and referrals, but they let Casper handle the actual sales. “We want eyeballs, we want users, we want uniques, we want engagement, but we’re not converting sales.” Van Winkle’s is more about telling stories around a budding niche sleep market. Their goal is to establish the conversation, get people talking, learning and researching, and they will naturally find their way to Casper products without anyone telling them to do so.

Trust and Transparency

This is about neutrality, experience, and craft, not about a product destination.

– An Verhulst-Santos, president of the L’Oreal professional products division

L’Oreal is just one of many brands who have learned that “their audience will enjoy their content more—and revisit it more often—if the brand affiliation is dismissed from the spotlight.” Fab Beauty is a website devoted to covering the beauty industry, not just the company’s products. They offer beauty tips, advice, information, and aren’t afraid to talk about their competition because it is truly about the consumer, rather than the brand.

Consumers know brands sell to them, they expect it. When they don’t, it’s a nice change of pace that can help to promote trust and transparency for their publication. Fab Beauty is focused on creating quality engagements that will form lasting loyalty with their readers, not sell products. Some sites might hope to indirectly lead customers to their products, but if there’s no obvious agenda, readers will respond better to what they see in front of them.

Establishing trust is key to creating a strong brand following. By establishing Fab Beauty as an unbiased destination for beauty information, they set themselves up as a trustworthy brand that will have readers coming back for more. The site only launched in summer 2015, and already they boast a bounce rate of less than 25% against a 40-70% industry standard. They have viewers from 150 different countries who spend an average of two minutes per article on the site. Fab Beauty might not be dominating the industry, but they have managed to establish a loyal following only a few months into the endeavor.

Craft an Experience

It’s easy to say you are a lifestyle brand, but if you put money into non-commercial products, you are proving it.

– Dan Williams, planner at Leo Burnett’s luxury and lifestyle division

Branding is all about creating an experience and making lasting connections with potential customers. People don’t buy brands, they buy experiences and feelings. Brands that make consumers feel something through their content are often the most successful because people connect with what evokes an emotional response. Freshwire chief creative officer Sarah Amos says “the best type of content doesn’t make the brand the hero, and lightly or unbranded content often is the best structure for that.” It’s why brands like Chipotle have been producing video content with minimal brand presence for years.

Sometimes too much branding can get in the way of a customer connecting with the content in front of them. They might have a previously formed opinion about the company or simply reject the brand messaging, but by presenting content free of any branding, it allows the customer to truly embrace what is in front of them without being influenced by a logo. Unbranded content can break down barriers and allow consumers to take content at face value without worrying about some ulterior motive. They can then experience the content in a way that is unique to them and will consider the site as a trusted source.

Niche Resource

If you think a non-branded content site would be beneficial to your brand, make sure the content you hope to deliver will be something people want to read.

– Tim League, CEO and Founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

At the end of the day, the goal of unbranded content should be to serve as a resource for potential customers. Entertaining, helpful, or informative content will quickly become a resource that consumers will revisit again and again. As League came to understand when he launched Badass Digest under Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, consumers will appreciate it more when that content comes without the restraints of a brand getting in the way. By serving a niche audience, whether it be beauty or sleep or movies, unbranded content can resonate easier with individual consumers.

Data Collection

Brands succeed when they break through in culture.

– Douglas Holt, Branding in the Age of Social Media

Unbranded content has already seen some success when it comes to traffic, but another benefit to getting in the game is gaining access to a pool of industry data concerning readers’ interests and habits. Brands like L’Oreal can use their platform to understand the culture of the beauty industry and use that information to improve their business when it comes to creating new products and testing marketing initiatives.
Unbranded content might be just one tool in the brand marketing toolbox, but it can do a lot for any business as long as they have something to say with the content.

How to Communicate in the Office When Email Goes Away

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You’re used to using email. You’ve used it for years, ever since it was the latest and greatest that technology had to offer. But get this: the digital world is passing it by as Millennials and Gen Z use personal messaging apps, instead of the once all-powerful email. When the younger generation starts a trend, it’s usually a good idea to follow suit in order to keep up with changing technology and give your younger employees a more familiar environment that they are comfortable in. That’s why it’s a good idea to move away from email for your inter-office communications.

A recent study by App Annie discovered that those aged 13-24 spend 3.5x more time in messaging apps compared to those over 45 years old. Younger demographics spend only 1% of their time in email, but 8% of their time using messaging apps. Older demographics use their smartphones like personal computers and still use apps that replicate desktop functions, spending 3% of their time in email and 15% of their time in mobile browsers.

As the usage of messaging apps rise, email usage growth is projected to slow down in the coming years, dropping from 2.7% in 2016 to only 1.2% by 2019. It should be noted that the relationship between the two communication tools are directly related–as messaging app usage rises, email usage declines in turn. While the older generation uses their smartphone to search the web and check email, the younger generations use their apps to connect and communicate with their contacts. Email is less direct than the alternatives out there, making messaging apps the perfect communication tool for a generation born with the internet at hand.

The apps behind Dark Social traffic have taken over. The young people of the world are socializing on social media less and instead are using messaging services to talk with a chosen few more often. It’s why Facebook has over 1 billion active users and also has 800 million people on their Facebook Messenger app. Facebook bought WhatsApp because they saw this trend coming, and now the app has over 1 billion users. After a meteoric rises in 2015, there are now 650 million people on WeChat, 275 million on Kik Messenger, and over 100 million on Snapchat. Private messaging has taken over, and it’s time you adapted to accommodate them.

Having practically grown up with a smartphone in their hand, younger generations are becoming more reliant on their devices, and it’s no surprise that they are using them differently than those who had to adapt to new technology. Are you still sticking to email to communicate in-office? You shouldn’t have to. When considering communication tools for your office, consider what your employees would be open to using. It’s probably a good idea to look at this growing trend and adjust in order to encourage your young employees to communicate with their coworkers.

Try investing in a free collaboration tool like Slack, Stream, Chatwork, or HipChat, which have become very easy and convenient ways for offices to communicate. Services like these act like a messaging app, and users can communicate with the group or have private conversations whenever they want. This is a great way to get your younger employees communicating better and interacting more frequently–which is a good thing!

These tools are not just a way for your employees to stay in contact, it also helps productivity in a way email can’t. According to Slack surveys, companies that have used their service have seen a 32% increase in productivity on average. Slack also influences companies to have 25.1% fewer meetings on average, and 62.4% of users believe it has made it easier to find necessary information by promoting communication and collaboration between team members.

On the management side of things, 80% of users believe that it has increased transparency inside their company, which is essential when appeasing Millennials in the workplace. And 79% say it has improved the culture of the team, making it an important team-building tool as well. Slack also claims that their service has helped companies to reduce their email usage by 48.6%, emphasizing that email is on its way out, because most teams consider it an inconvenience.

Have you ever felt like you get too many emails and it’s just too difficult to keep track of everything? Your employees are already there–follow their lead.

It’s Time For Your Business to Support Social Shopping

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As our world continues to become increasingly paperless, consumers are flocking to their phones to pay back their friends. Social pay has become incredibly popular for peer-to-peer transactions on Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. Now when it comes to B2C transactions, social shopping–on desktop and mobile–is becoming all the rage, and it’s time for your business to adopt this practice.

The Traffic Problem

Before you come to accept the need for social shopping, you have to understand just what’s happening on social media right now. Facebook is shutting the gate for referral traffic, making it harder for web-based businesses to get clickbacks to their websites. Once upon a time, businesses could send out a link to their site, Facebook followers would click the link, and the business would reap the benefits of conversion. Facebook realized what it was allowing to happen, so they changed their algorithm to value native content, like pictures and video, over links that send users elsewhere.

The proof is in the numbers, as the top 30 Facebook publishers lost 32% of their referral traffic in 2015. The top 10 of publishers saw an even bigger drop of 42.7% in the same timespan. Facebook is making it harder for publishers to use them as a traffic funnel. The platform plans to make Instant Articles available to all publishers, which will allow their articles to load faster, and rank them higher in the algorithm, but it will also keep users on Facebook instead of traveling to other websites.

The Shopping Solution

Facebook’s introduction of Canvas now allows users to shop right on Facebook without ever having to travel to an external website. What this means is that small businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place–go the traditional route without much help from Facebook and hope customers come to your website, or play the game but lose traffic referrals that could have been used for advertising purposes.

After abandoning traffic numbers, it’s not all bad. The introduction of Canvas and the Shop section on Pages has changed the game for online retailers. Facebook has found that around half of their users are looking to interact with brands on their platform. Around 37% of Twitter users will buy from a brand that they follow, making social media a place ripe with potential customers that have a high chance for conversion.

To make this potential a reality, Facebook and Twitter have begun adding calls to action in their advertisements. Now you can Call Now, Shop Now, Buy Now, Install, Sign Up, and more,  directly from the ads on the social platform. Pinterest has also implemented Visual Search that allows users to find an item in a picture, identify it, and purchase it, or something similar, directly on the platform.

The internet has been striving to make shopping simple for the last 20 years, and social shopping is the zenith of that endeavor. They say that when one door closes, another opens–traffic referral is down, but shopping is going way up.

The Social Media Accounts Your Small Business Should Take Pointers From

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Many popular companies use social media as a tool to enhance their brand. Your small business might not have the built-in audience many of these companies have, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look to these bigger accounts for inspiration. Each social media platform has its own functionality and purpose, so consider which are right for you, and pay attention to what others are already doing.

For Images

Whether you’re advertising a physical product or selling an experience, Instagram is a great platform to showcase aspects of your brand through fantastic visuals. Regardless of what your business is, the company you should be paying attention to is National Geographic. Their 45.5 million followers is a testament to the amazing work they do. The pictures they post come from all over the world, so it can get pretty eclectic at times, but their success is proof that beautiful pictures have their own market.

NatGeo’s Chief Marketing Brand Officer Claudia Malley had her own keynote panel at Social Media Week New York where she talked about their success in social. Malley spoke about the importance of giving their photographers the keys to the castle on their Instagram account in order to let them dictate the content. Of course, it’s hard to follow in the footsteps of a company like National Geographic, but there is something to be said for giving your employees control over the content you push out. No matter what your company does, introducing personal perspectives humanizes your brand. Adding small touches like names or personal accounts to their perspectives keeps your audience engaged.

For Video

If you’re looking to create shareable video content for your brand, watch what Buzzfeed’s Tasty account is doing on Facebook. Buzzfeed takes advantage of the platform’s algorithm that favors native videos over third party content . Their content is made specifically for the platform, and exists almost entirely on Facebook. That means they don’t count on clickbacks to the Buzzfeed website, and you shouldn’t be either. If you’re trying to create content for Facebook, make content that will live there. You’ll find more success that way.

Tasty’s videos work well with Facebook’s soundless autoplay feature, and are optimized with fast-motion to make them easier to watch. It’s easy to see how much value they put into production. If you’re going to put in the time to create video content, make sure it’s well planned out, looks great, and has your audience in mind. Do they want to sit through a five minute video, or can it be turned into a more compact format? Consider your audience’s attention span, then create content that will keep them interested. The more watchable it is, the easier it will be to share. And while Tasty’s videos work best on Facebook, they can still be shared across multiple platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

For Customer Service

Good customer service is important, but it’s crucial for many small businesses trying to get a foothold in the market. Social media’s connectivity can make for a great way to administer customer service, but if you’re going to devote one channel to support, it should be Twitter. People are tweeting to brands more than ever, and 80% of customer service requests on social are happening on the platform. According to a study, companies that use social care services have improved year-over-year revenue per contact by 18.8% over companies without. The platform has proven to be a much cheaper and more effective means to offer support.

Having an active social media presence makes it easier for customers to reach out if they have a problem or need to ask a question. Many large brands devote separate Twitter accounts to offer customer-focused channels. Maybe your company isn’t ready for multiple Twitter accounts, but the lessons still apply. @NikeSupport shows how important it is to remain active and respond quickly in order to form a level of trust with customers. Accounts like @JetBlue are taking a more proactive approach to customer service by tracking keywords and relevant hashtags to interact with people even if they don’t tag them in their tweets. You might also want to consider following @TMobileHelp by letting your customer service specialists sign their tweets in order to provide a personal touch, and show your audience that there are real people behind the account.