Why Brands Need to Capitalize on the Power of Visual Content

Why Brands Need to Capitalize on the Power of Visual Content

Social media

We respond to images every day: an Instagram shot of a stunning sunrise, or the pictures friends text us from a vacation spent hiking in Ireland. But not everyone understands the tremendous power images wield in the business world. Just as any business cares about how its website is written or its ad copy composed, it should also treat images with the same attention and respect. Mary Meeker’s widely read 2019 Internet Trends report underlines that truth.

Images are on the Rise

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report is an annual thought bomb with considerable influence. According to Meeker, consumer usage of digital continues to increase overall:

With that uptick, there’s been a climb in image creation. Images hold a lot of power. People respond to them: not only the pictures they take, but other people’s, too. And as image sharing becomes more popular, perhaps it’s no coincidence that Instagram use is soaring:

As Meeker points out, Twitter content with images gets more tweet impressions:

And artificial intelligence tools are making images more sophisticated, in the process rendering them more powerful as communication instruments:

What Does The Rise of Visual Storytelling Mean for You?

Her findings are a reminder that businesses need to treat images as critical assets in both paid and organic content. What should your response be? Here are some tips:

  • Capitalize on tools that make your digital advertising stand out, such as Google Shoppable Ads. As we noted in this post, select retailers are experimenting with a format that allows them to highlight multiple products for sale within a sponsored ad appearing in Google Images results.
  • Make Instagram part of your game plan. Instagram is trending, becoming increasingly popular for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business brands, as advertisers become aware of—and ever-more curious about—the opportunities the platform affords. We’ve written about some of those opportunities, including Instagram’s Branded Content Ads, which makes it possible for businesses to use Ads Manager to promote branded content as an ad in their Instagram feeds.
  • Use strong images in your organic content. In a recent post, Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media discusses how images can improve your search rankings. As he points out, “Now we know that visuals are an SEO’s (search engine optimization’s) best friend.” Perhaps that’s because visuals, like well-crafted text, can speak volumes with a minimum of fuss. “Just as you wouldn’t miss the chance to turn a paragraph of items into a bullet list, never miss the chance to use a visual to explain a concept,” Crestodina says.

We agree. And one area where you can make the most of strong images is your Google My Business (GMB) page. That’s because a company’s GMB page, as noted in moz.com, is the single most important way for a business to be found through local searches.

Images hold power. Want to learn more about how to capitalize on that power? Contact us.

Instagram Creates Its Own Customer Journey with Checkout

Instagram Creates Its Own Customer Journey with Checkout

Social media

Instagram describes itself as a platform for people to “experience the pleasure of shopping versus the chore of buying.” It’s designed for people to browse for ideas and then shop as opposed to visiting with an express intent to buy and leave. On March 19, Instagram took one step closer to making itself a strong shopping destination by launching a checkout function.

Available on a limited basis, Instagram checkout makes it possible for Instagrammers to buy what they want on Instagram. As Instagram said in a blog post, “Checkout enhances the shopping experience by making the purchase simple, convenient and secure. People no longer have to navigate to the browser when they want to buy. And with their protected payment information in one place, they can shop their favorite brands without needing to log in and enter their information multiple times.”

Charter businesses participating in checkout include Burberry, Nike, and Revolve. In coming weeks, more businesses will participate, including Adidas, H&M, KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, MAC Cosmetics, Michael Kors, NARS, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Uniqlo, and Warby Parker. (It’s interesting to note the number of upscale brands creating shoppable experiences on Instagram – a comment on how luxury brands have adapted to the times by becoming more accessible via digital.)

Checkout seems like a natural move for Instagram. As Vishal Shah, Instagram’s head of product, told The Wall Street Journal, “People were already shopping on Instagram. They were just having a hard time doing it.” The platform previously launched shoppable features such as product stickers in Stories. Vishal Shah  told Bloomberg, “Over time, as we are creating value for people, this could be a significant part of our business.”

The launch of checkout positions Instagram against Amazon as a platform for searching and shopping although Amazon clearly has an advantage with its scale. Enabling commerce on Instagram also makes it possible for businesses to create more integrated advertising experiences that connect the customer across the entire purchase journey, from awareness to conversion – with the entire journey occurring inside Instagram (instead of sending customers to an advertiser’s website to make an actual purchase). This is the kind of experience Amazon is creating – a self-contained customer journey where you can search and buy on one platform.

For more insight into how to create successful digital advertising on Instagram, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: Instagram

LinkedIn Gets More Targeted

LinkedIn Gets More Targeted

Advertising

LinkedIn is getting more serious about being a platform for sharing more targeted paid and organic content.

I recently blogged about a major step forward for the 610-million strong business-to-business platform: the launch of live video. This was an important move for LinkedIn to catch up to platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which already allow users to create live video.

What really jumped out at me when I heard about LinkedIn’s adoption of live video was LinkedIn’s intent to offer options for broadcasting content across LinkedIn as well as to more targeted groups within LinkedIn. Imagine, for example, using live video as part of a drip campaign with prospects, or for colleges to recruit talent.

The ability to target business-to-business audiences is a crucial advantage for the platform. And now, LinkedIn is playing to that advantage with the recent launch of another intriguing feature, Interest Targeting in Campaign Manager.

How Interest Targeting Works

For context: Campaign Manager makes it possible for companies to create LinkedIn ads such as Sponsored Content. With the tool, LinkedIn members can launch Sponsored Content campaigns to target different audiences on the platform. But the targeting has not always been as precise as LinkedIn would like it to be. For example, businesses have been able to target LinkedIn members based on information they share about themselves such as the college degrees they hold, but users don’t always share very useful information about themselves.

With Interest Targeting, businesses can target people based on content they like and share. Content likes and shares are crucial because they say something about topics that resonate with a user. For example, if a LinkedIn member is posting a lot of content about, say, the cost of attending college, a university might target that user with Sponsored Content that discusses its financial aid packages.

What You Should Do

I advise businesses to start incorporating these tools into your paid/organic content strategy (although live video for now remains available on an invite basis). It’s also important to incorporate a tool such as Interest Targeting with LinkedIn’s other targeting attributes such as job title even though those attributes have their limitations, as I’ve noted. When a business combines multiple targeting attributes, it can obtain a far more complete picture of its audience.

In addition, align these targeting features with your campaigns along the entire customer journey, from awareness to customer acquisition. Doing so will ensure that the tools achieve measurable business goals such as new hires or customers gained.

To learn more about how to incorporate platforms such as LinkedIn into your online marketing, contact True Interactive. We work with businesses to launch successful campaigns on platforms such as LinkedIn all the time. We are here to help.

Get Ready for LinkedIn Live

Get Ready for LinkedIn Live

Social media

Live, from Sunnyvale, California: it’s LinkedIn Live!

LinkedIn is rolling out a new feature that makes it possible for businesses and people to create live content. With LinkedIn Live, members of LinkedIn’s 562-million-strong community will be able to livestream content just like they can with Facebook Live. Yes, that’s right: now you can do all the things you do on Facebook to create engagement through live video, such as offering behind-the-scenes glimpses of conferences or trade shows, coverage of news stories in your industry, announcements of your own, launches of new products, thought leadership, and instructional content, depending on the nature of your business.

LinkedIn Users Want Video

And your company’s rock stars will be able to do the same. When the feature becomes available (it’s in beta only right now), live video will humanize your brand by making your thought leaders, brand ambassadors, and company executives more accessible and authentic through the power of live video.

In addition, LinkedIn will work with partners such as Wirecast, Switcher Studio, Wowza Media Systems, Socialive, and Brandlive to make video content more polished than what you’re accustomed to seeing on Facebook Live. Microsoft, LinkedIn’s owner, is supporting LinkedIn Live with the Microsoft cloud-computing business, Azure Media Services.

LinkedIn told TechCrunch that live video is the most requested feature among its members, and the use of recorded video has been booming. Pete Davies, the director of product management at LinkedIn, told TechCrunch, “Video is the fastest growing format on our platform right now, and the one most likely to get people talking.”

Late to the Game?

Some have asked whether LinkedIn is late to the game. I think that’s the wrong question. The real issue is how brands will capitalize on LinkedIn Live to create video content that complements what they’re already sharing on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. LinkedIn is going to offer options to broadcast across LinkedIn as well as to more targeted groups within LinkedIn, which is important because businesses and people will be able to use live video more strategically. Imagine, for example, using live video as part of drip campaign with prospects, or for colleges to recruit talent.

Questions You Should Ask

It may take some time for LinkedIn Live to achieve a bigger rollout. I suggest that businesses prepare now. Start asking:

  • How might I incorporate LinkedIn Live into my existing marketing and recruitment campaigns?
  • Which of my employees on LinkedIn possesses the magic combination of large followers and video savvy to capitalize on LinkedIn Live?
  • Are my corporate social media guidelines properly reflecting the use of live video? They should be if you’re using other platforms such as Facebook, but now is a good time to do a gut check.
  • What upcoming events and news lend themselves to LinkedIn Live? What does your upcoming calendar look like?

More details, including technical information on how to create live content on LinkedIn, will be forthcoming. For now, get ready. And contact True Interactive to build a stronger digital brand. We’re here to help.

CES 2019 Reminds Advertisers about the Power of Voice

CES 2019 Reminds Advertisers about the Power of Voice

Marketing

In 2019, more than 74 million Americans will own smart speakers, up 15 percent from 2018. So it’s no surprise that the annual CES, occurring this week, has been showcasing products powered by voice interfaces. Within the first few days of CES, Google alone made a slew of announcements intended to show why Google Assistant is catching up with Amazon’s Alexa as a leading voice assistant. For instance, Google Maps now incorporates Google Assistant, and Google is working with Lenovo on a voice-activated alarm clock/visual display. Not to be outdone, Amazon announced a relationship with technology firm Telenav to make Alexa a more useful voice-based navigation tool in automobiles.

So where do these developments leave advertisers? After all, it’s not as if people are using their voices to buy products and services online. For the most part, consumers use voice as a way to find music and get weather forecasts. And most people do not use voice to search for anything online. But here’s the thing: people are using voice, and more than ever. They might not be using their voices to interact with your brand just yet, but the day is coming when they will. For a number of businesses, that day is here.

For quite some time, we’ve been advocating that advertisers prepare for a voice-first world. As I noted in a 2017 blog post, advertisers can do a number of things now to be savvy about the rise of voice. For instance, advertisers should evaluate your search queries and look for conversional text. (“Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great phrases to focus on.) Also, pay attention to any long-tail queries that include a natural phrase such as “near me” or “can I get the number for . . . ” Use these queries to understand what consumers want to know about your products or services. That’s because consumers exercise a more natural and conversational language when they use their voices, thus altering their search behavior. You can then gather those learnings to strategize a personal user experience for voice searchers.

CES should serve as a reminder that a voice-first world is coming. You don’t want to be a laggard in that world. Contact True Interactive to make your online advertising flourish.

 

How Instagram Can Win More IGTV Fans

How Instagram Can Win More IGTV Fans

Social media

Instagram’s IGTV feature is off to a slow start.

TechCrunch reported recently that IGTV, which allows people to upload lengthy videos in a mobile viewing format, has seen a noticeable decline in weekly installs since its June launch.

As TechCrunch noted, “IGTV risks becoming the next Google Plus — a ghost town inside an otherwise thriving product ecosystem.” TechCrunch speculates that the main reason IGTV is struggling to gain a foothold is that YouTube already owns the market for longer-form video. In addition, IGTV has yet to give us any truly breakthrough, viral content, as other social platforms have. There is no “Chewbacca Mom” of IGTV to help people grasp the potential appeal of the app.

Is IGTV in trouble? I don’t think so. If we’ve learned anything about Instagram, it’s that the app is resilient. And IGTV enjoys a huge advantage: a large built-in audience on Instagram, with one billion actively monthly users. But IGTV does need to take some steps to gain more traction. Here are three ways Instagram could do so:

  • Make IGTV more discoverable inside Instagram. Unless you use the IGTV standalone app, you may not even know IGTV exists. For several weeks, Instagram hid IGTV behind a small icon inside Instagram. It was too easy for users to ignore the icon on their screens. Recently Instagram has been making IGTV videos more visible via a more prominent notification call-out with a clickable “watch” button. A more noticeable call-out should help. When Facebook relaunched Marketplace in 2016, giving the feature more prominent real estate on mobile devices helped Marketplace gain traction.
  • Make it possible to livestream IGTV content. The only way to make IGTV videos is to record them on your mobile device and upload them. The process is easy, but people can do the same on YouTube. IGTV should differentiate by giving people the ability to record in the moment as Facebook does with Facebook Live. Doing so would create more opportunities for real-time engagement through viewer comments as happens with Facebook Live.
  • Promote big names and big moments. Instagram could help its own cause by collaborating with its more popular names (such as blogger and performer Baby Ariel) to build excitement for their content. People might be more likely to stop what they’re doing and make room for IGTV if they knew their favorite internet celebrity was going to post a new song or blogging episode at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday instead of discovering the content after the fact. Building excitement for forthcoming content would raise more awareness and get viewers primed to watch and comment on what they see. If you know that Universal Pictures is going to air an interview with Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson from the set of his latest movie, you just might set aside time to watch if you’re a Rock fan – even more so if you know the event would be livestreamed (see suggestion one above).

IGTV’s biggest threat right now? YouTube already does everything IGTV can except give users an elegant way to upload content created in vertical mobile-only mode. But by building more excitement around IGTV and introducing a live experience, Instagram can succeed in the long term. For more insight into how to use IGTV to build your brand, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Embedsocial.com

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

Social media

Sometimes businesses stay successful by defying expectations. A case in point: Instagram’s recently launched IGTV feature. At a time when goldfish have longer attention spans than human beings, Instagram wants its one billion monthly users to spend more time watching longer-form video.

What Is IGTV?

IGTV makes it possible for users (both businesses and people) to upload video content for up to one hour in length, a dramatic change from the one-minute ceiling that Instagram used to impose on video content posted in the main feed of an account. Instagram understands that even though we have short attention spans, people also reward compelling stories. And businesses are already jumping on the opportunity.

The Mobile-First Platform

As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced on June 20, IGTV is engineered for mobile phones. In other words, the format is optimized for uploading and watching content on a vertical full screen, the way people naturally watch content on their mobile phones. As Instagram noted on its own site, by 2021, mobile video will account for 78 percent of total mobile data traffic, but recording video on mobile phones remains a somewhat clumsy experience. By being mobile-first, IGTV wants to be the go-to resource.

How to Use IGTV

It’s easy to use IGTV. You simply tap on a television icon at the top of your screen and follow the prompts to start recording video. In addition, the icon leads you to content that others have created. You can view what’s popular, who you are following, or what Instagram suggests for you. The videos appear like Instagram stories, but the videos last much longer than stories do. Users cannot livestream on IGTV, though.

How Brands Are Using IGTV

IGTV is not an advertising format – for now. The time may come soon when businesses can create bumper ads or banner ads as they can on YouTube. Meanwhile, businesses are already creating content by setting up their own channels similar to the Snapchat approach. IGTV has been especially attractive to media/entertainment brands. The BBC is posting informational content such as an overview of plastics done with amusing Monty Python style graphics. Guns N’ Roses has been uploading scenes from the band’s concerts, such as soundchecks and an inside look at what it’s like for the band to take the stage before a concert. Shira Lazar, who hosts her own internet show, has been sharing you-are-there segments from her travels to events such as VidCon. The content ranges from organic to very slick. More examples include:

  • Health/nutritional/cooking brands and influencers such as Vital Proteins are posting instructional videos on workouts, recipes, and nutritional facts.
  • Make-up brands are showing how-to videos for their products. For example, Sephora shows skin care routines and how to apply certain products.
  • Clothing/Jewelry brands such as Kendra Scott and Red Dress Boutique are posting behind-the-scenes/sneak peaks of their new collections. Kendra Scott recently gave a behind-the-scenes tour of its new jewelry collection. Red Dress recently took viewers behind the scenes of a photo shoot for new arrivals.

It’s also not uncommon to see businesses posting content they had posted already on YouTube. But brands need to be careful: if your YouTube content is not optimized for mobile viewing, it may render poorly on IGTV.

Influencers on IGTV

IGTV has given influencers another channel to share their content. For example, I have noticed influencers are turning their online blog posts into “interviews” where they basically post a video that describes their blog post for that day. In fact, Instagram has called out IGTV’s potential for helping individual content creators become stars as they have done on YouTube.

“[W]e’ve learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals,” Instagram noted on its blog. Instagram indicated that IGTV will connect users with more individual content creators. But clearly, IGTV has quickly become a format for businesses based on my early experiences.

What Brands Should Do about IGTV

To capitalize on the value of IGTV, I suggest brands do the following:

  • If you are creating video content already on channels such as Snapchat and YouTube (or Instagram for short-form video), start using IGTV, especially if you want to connect with the mobile generation. The fact that Instagram now has one billion monthly users should be reason enough for IGTV to get your attention.
  • As noted, be careful about how you re-purpose video created on other channels. Re-purpose content that has been optimized for mobile viewing.
  • Use the launch of IGTV to examine your influencer strategy. As we have noted on our blog, influencer outreach is getting bigger as brands look for ways to circumvent their content being marginalized by Facebook algorithms. IGTV creates more outlets for influencers and brands to collaborate.
  • Learn from others. Do an audit on all the content exploding across IGTV. Don’t limit yourself to businesses in your own industry. Look for businesses that are already doing a great job posting long-form content that tells a visual story.

Finally, watch IGTV closely for opportunities to advertise. It’s only a matter of time before Instagram opens up the platform for advertising. First things first: get comfortable creating content on IGTV, and get ready to engage your audience. Contact True Interactive for more insight into how to use apps such as IGTV to create more engagement.