Instagram Reels: A New Way for Brands to Connect with Gen Z

Instagram Reels: A New Way for Brands to Connect with Gen Z

Facebook Social media

On August 5, Facebook released a new feature on Instagram called Instagram Reels: “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram.” Sound familiar? Facebook has been accused of cloning multiple popular social media app features in the past; given the rising popularity of TikTok, especially with Gen Z, we knew it would not be long before Instagram debuted its own short-looped video feature. The release of Instagram Reels also comes at an interesting time, as TikTok and Microsoft try to hammer out a purchase deal in the face of concerns that TikTok poses security threats.

Regardless of TikTok’s path forward, Instagram Reels has legs. And while Instagram Reels may seem identical to TikTok, that doesn’t mean brands should ignore it. Here are some reasons why:

Connect with Gen Zers on Instagram

It’s no secret that Gen Z is growing up in a world where many aspire to be an influencer or creator. TikTok, which became available worldwide in 2018, quickly gave teens the creative opportunity to do so. Many brands whose main customer base is Gen Z started using TikTok as a way to engage with that demographic. But some brands have felt hesitant about working with a new social media platform.

Now with the release of Instagram Reels, many Gen Z influencers and creators are bringing their successful TikTok content over to Instagram. The shift gives those brands reluctant to engage with a new social media app a familiar platform on which they can connect with Gen Z. And on Instagram Reels, brands have an opportunity to create fresh, engaging content to reach that audience.

Refresh Your Content for Your Instagram Community

If you were already seeing success with TikTok, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. On Instagram Reels, you can share the same or similar content with your Instagram following, which most likely will include a broader age range than Gen Z alone. Instagram Reels is a great way to refresh your current Instagram content and stay relevant.

If you don’t know where to begin on Instagram Reels, scroll through Instagram to get a feel for the popular short videos of dancing, lip syncing, or tutorials already on view. And consider making Instagram Reels part of your Influencer strategy.

Post Creative Videos Without Breaking the Bank

Instagram Reels doesn’t just help brands stay relevant. The platform makes sense economically, too. Because let’s face it: when it comes to video content, many brands, hampered by limited resources or limited budget, struggle to produce high-quality videos. Instagram Reels (and TikTok) allow brands to be creative without needing a full production team or deep pockets. A variety of editing tools include audio, AR effects, timer, speed, and more, giving users the ability to share high-quality videos in minutes.

Brands Already On Board

Brands eager to appeal to young consumers are already giving Instagram Reels a go. Dunkin’, for example, has posted a video, set to original Dunkin’ music and making good use of the platform’s filters and stickers, promoting the brand’s drive-through service and cold brew coffee.

And Maybelline has debuted a video starring influencer and model Nikkie De Jager, who lip-syncs Maybelline’s catchphrase—Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline—while applying makeup.

Red Bull, Louis Vuitton, and Sephora have also already posted to Instagram Reels.

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Why Microsoft Wants to Buy TikTok

Why Microsoft Wants to Buy TikTok

Microsoft

A couple of months ago, I mentioned on our blog that dark clouds were on the horizon for TikTok because of lingering concerns over the app’s security. Those dark clouds are here. On July 31, President Trump said he planned to ban the app in the United States because the U.S. government is concerned that TikTok poses a national security risk. TikTok’s detractors say that the popular app, owned by China-based Bytedance, could have personal data from its American users fall into the hands of the Communist Chinese government – a form of foreign espionage. But just as the issue reaching a crisis point, on August 2, Microsoft confirmed a rumor that it intends to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok. President Trump gave Microsoft and TikTok until September 15 to work out a deal, which would pave the way for TikTok to have a future in the United States. The drama is intriguing especially to the many businesses that have a presence on TikTok either through organic content or advertising. In addition, TikTok stakeholders are asking: What does Microsoft get out of buying TikTok and taking on the headaches of securing user data? Here are two reasons why:

1 TikTok Gives Microsoft a Social Media Card to Play Against Big Tech

Google has YouTube. Facebook has Instagram (and many other cash cows). But Microsoft lacks a go-to social app on which to build an advertising business. And this is a major drawback especially in 2020 as social media usage surges. Facebook’s recent quarterly earnings announcement underscored this reality: with people turning online for safer ways to pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook’s monthly average users across all its apps has risen to 3 billion. Microsoft is missing out on a consumer-focused social app. True, Microsoft owns LinkedIn, but LinkedIn is not a business-to-consumer ad powerhouse. TikTok gives Microsoft an instant platform.

Granted, TikTok is still in the early stages of earning revenue from advertising and in-app purchases. And the app shows promise as well as challenges. According to the Financial Times, one 24-hour TikTok campaign ran by Guess logged a CTR of 16% compared to a 4% average. Kroger, which ran a #TransformUrDorm challenge, attracted close to 477 million views across hundreds of videos over the course of approximately one week. But in November 2019, The Verge said TikTok ads were the Wild West. Self-serve ads on the platform deliver CPM of $10 (compared negatively to Instagram’s $8).

TikTok has plenty of room to grow, and Microsoft sees the potential. If TikTok were fully developed as an advertising powerhouse, it’s possible the U.S. assets would have been too expensive to buy – so now is the right time to make a deal.

It’s all about Gen Z

Microsoft has been trying to build a presence with the surging Gen Z population for the past few years, and with good reason: Gen Z is set to overtake Millennials as the largest age cohort in the United States. Thus far, Microsoft has relied on gaming to connect with Gen Z, as witnessed by its development of Xbox, a Gen Z favorite. TikTok gives Microsoft another powerful way to connect with Gen Z: 60 percent of TikTok users are Gen Zers. TikTok also gives Microsoft a way to cross-promote Gen Z friendly products such as Xbox. As The Verge notes:

Microsoft could take advantage of that direct access to TikTok users with ads for Surface, Xbox, and other products, or even as another base for its game-streaming ambitions. Google is planning to leverage YouTube to integrate its Stadia streaming service, and TikTok would give Microsoft a response with xCloud game streaming. Microsoft had been planning to use Mixer for Xbox game streaming, but the service never gained enough traction, and the company was forced to strike a deal with Facebook for xCloud integration instead. It’s not hard to imagine watching a Call of Duty video on TikTok and then being able to click and instantly play the game as it streams to your phone via Microsoft’s xCloud service.

Microsoft, in addition, could reap the benefits of revenue gained when businesses tap into TikTok to advertise to Gen Z, as well – something that businesses might be reluctant to do while TikTok’s future remains in limbo.

What’s Next?

In addition to giving Microsoft and TikTok a deadline of September 15 to work out a deal, President Trump has said the U.S. government should get a financial cut of the transaction, which complicates an already tricky process. Microsoft is taking on a risk with this political hot potato, to be sure. The company has put its reputation on the line by stating that it will “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.” But there is also potentially strong reward for Microsoft. With an American owner, TikTok may become a more attractive place for American businesses to build their brands with advertising and other forms of activity that would enrich Microsoft’s bottom line.

Meanwhile, as if to underline TikTok’s importance, Instagram launched on August 5 a feature, Instagram Reels, that competes directly with TikTok. Instagram Reels benefits from Instagram’s cachet and Facebook’s muscle. The pressure is on for Microsoft to land the TikTok deal.

To learn more about TikTok, check out this treasure trove of statistics.

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6 Reasons Why Facebook Continues to Succeed

6 Reasons Why Facebook Continues to Succeed

Facebook

Is Facebook the most resilient brand in the world? It sure seems that way. Here is a business that has weathered one public relations storm after another in recent years, and yet the global business is getting stronger than ever. In the past couple of years alone, we’ve seen Facebook experience some serious threats, such as:

  • Widespread criticism that the platform tolerates hate groups.
  • Accusations that Facebook has been used as a tool for malicious parties to interfere with the election of public officials in the United States and internationally.
  • Anger over Facebook’s failure to contain egregious breaches of user privacy.
  • Speculation that Facebook’s internal culture is imploding.
  • Anxiety that Facebook exerts an unfair advantage over its competition and needs to be broken up.

What have I missed?

These, and many other concerns, have resulted in some concrete actions that normally would cause some serious problems for a business, such as:

  • An advertising boycott by a number of powerful brands in July.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg being hauled into public hearings to face a public grilling by Congress, most recently the week of July 27 over Facebook’s competitive practices.

And yet, in Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings report, the world’s largest social media network reported:

  • $18.7 billion in revenue, up from $16.9 billion a year earlier and above analysts’ expectations of $17.34 billion.
  • Profit for the second quarter nearly doubling to $5.18 billion, or $1.80 a share, exceeding Wall Street estimates.
  • An increase in monthly active users to 2.7 billion, from 2.6 billion in the first quarter. More than three billion people now use at least one of Facebook’s products on a monthly basis.

Now look at Facebook’s stock price, rising year after year:

Facebook’s resilience has prompted many to ask, Why? Well, I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. Clearly, the negative PR does not speak for everyone.
  1. Facebook continues to enjoy an advantage of being the first major social media network to break through globally. When you gain a foothold on a market, it’s awfully hard for anyone to dislodge you.
  1. Facebook has stayed true to a fundamental brand promise of connecting people. If you want to stay connected with Aunt Mary in Topeka or your old college buddy Jim in Montana, Facebook delivers.
  1. It’s not the only social media network fraught with controversy over free speech versus fringe activities. Every major platform – TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and others – faces the same fundamental challenge Facebook does, and no one has anywhere near a perfect solution. Investors and advertisers understand this reality, and so long as social media platforms appeal to them, Facebook does, too.
  1. Facebook continues to make smart moves to expand its global reach, a recent example being its investment into Jio Platforms of India.
  1. The company is delivering on its 10-year growth plan unveiled in 2016, including continued investments in virtual reality.

Reason 6 above is especially important. Investors like to see businesses create a compelling growth plan and stick to it. Facebook has never lost sight of its own aspirations to grow globally and to use technology to connect people. As a result:

  • Facebook attracts more investors.
  • Those investors fuel the company’s expansion.
  • The company’s expansion attracts more users.
  • More users attract more advertisers. And advertisers are crucial to Facebook’s future.

My advice to advertisers:

  • If Facebook is delivering the audiences you want, continue to rely on Facebook as a crucial element of your game plan. Capitalize on new tools to reach your audience, such as Facebook’s recently unveiled ways to connect people and businesses on WhatsApp. If you work with an agency, ask them about how they’re using these tools to help you.
  • Be patient, and don’t let negative PR distract you (but if you’ve stuck with Facebook thus far, you probably know that already).
  • As with all social networks, assess your own tolerance for the risk versus reward of having a presence on Facebook. As I blogged recently, being on social media presents the possibility that your ads and organic content will appear alongside questionable content. At the same time, being on social also means benefitting from the surge in traffic on social media occurring in 2020. Bottom line: be vigilant (and your agency partner, if you have one, should be vigilant, too).
  • Keep a close watch on all the news affecting Facebook, especially Facebook’s ongoing issues with Congress. It’s important to understand the potential changes that legislation could have on Facebook. Being aware is always a good course of action.
  • Get comfortable living with the wild card in the deck: the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest impact the pandemic may have on Facebook is fluctuating advertising revenues from businesses looking for ways to reduce their ad spend as they react to uncertain economic conditions. But one thing is clear: the Facebook community itself is only getting bigger, and it probably will as people increase their usage of online platforms amid spikes in COVID-19 rates.

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At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize Facebook’s growth to build their brands. We can help you, too. Contact us to learn more.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

 

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Advertising

One of the big stories of 2020 is, of course, the surge in people going online. It’s not just that people are spending more time online watching movies and connecting on social media. They’re also making purchases: as consumer behavior moves online, we’re seeing a surge in eCommerce. As reported in Forbes, the latest research suggests that COVID-19 has accelerated the progress of ecommerce adoption by four to six years—within a matter of months. What does that mean for your brand? A look at what the tech giants are doing provides some clues:

Instagram Shop

Instagram is embracing the online shopping trends with its July roll out, in the United States, of Instagram Shop. The online shopping feature allows consumers to view products on Instagram: personalized recommendations drawn from brands you as a consumer follow, plus recommendations suggested by Instagram’s @shop team.

Businesses can also add hashtags to product descriptions to make those products more likely to be featured. On Instagram Shop, shoppers can save items of interest, contact businesses, and place orders directly using Facebook Pay. In short, the feature allows brands to set up a single online store consumers can access via Instagram. Instagram Shop is set to go global in coming weeks.

Google’s Shoploop

Meanwhile, Google is making its own bid to snag the attention of online shoppers with its video shopping platform, Shoploop. Introduced by Google’s experimental Area 120 division, Shoploop spotlights products in short videos of 90 seconds or less. The videos illustrate how to use the product, and interested shoppers can make purchases online, directly from the app. They can also like, share, and save videos.

As reported in MediaPost, Shoploop “helps brands get product reviews from real people who know and use the products.” One of the beauties of Shoploop is that it streamlines a process that used to involve several apps or websites. Consumers can now discover products, see how they are used in real life, and make a purchase—all in one place. Currently, most Shoploop clips highlight skincare and makeup, but plans are already underway to expand reach to products including clothing, jewelry, and electronics.

What This Means for Brands

Store closures/state lockdowns during COVID-19 undoubtably spurred development of shopping experiences like Instagram Shop and Shoploop. But there’s a good chance that consumer habits formed during lockdown will persist indefinitely. “We are seeing signs that online purchasing trends formed during the pandemic may see permanent adoption,” notes Taylor Schreiner, Director, Adobe Digital Insights, in the Forbes article cited above.

And because companies like Google and Instagram are making it even easier for people to buy things online by giving them more access points, shoppers will have more reasons than ever to continue those habits forged during the pandemic. The headline for advertisers is this: online advertising not only creates visibility for a brand, it is becoming an increasingly important, even mandatory, strategy for brands to draw shoppers directly to their commerce engines.

The Challenge for Advertisers

The challenge for advertisers is to capitalize on all these access points, while understanding what types of advertising work best to attract engagement online. That is, what kind of ads does a brand now need to create in order to draw shoppers to their Instagram page, as opposed to their website? How should a business build an advertising presence on Instagram that complements the organic content it posts, especially for brands that sell products on Instagram? Different access points can mean different audiences: online ads will not necessarily all be the same.

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Need help navigating these new opportunities? Contact us. We can help.

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Facebook

Having a strong social media presence pays off for your brand – literally. That’s what research from Sprout Social shows. Sprout Social surveyed consumers and social marketers between February 28 and March 4. As reported in Mobile Marketer, the survey reveals:

  • Nine out of 10 people purchase from brands they follow on social media.
  • Seventy-five percent of people have increased their spend on companies they follow on social. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2019, a leap that’s particularly noteworthy given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moving Forward

These findings validate what we wrote in a recent post: brands advertising on social media can connect with people who are willing to spend money even during the coronavirus era. Knowing this, how does a company move forward during such an unprecedented time? Here’s what we suggest you do:

  • Make sure you have a strong social media presence. As we’ve noted, use of social media has surged in the first quarter, with engagement on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram spiking 40 percent or more — this despite, or even because of, the pandemic. In short, not only are people willing to spend on brands, there are more people on social, period. Brands that advertise on social will reach that larger audience.
  • Make sure your content is engaging, and that you engage with the audience. According to the Sprout Social report, 61 percent of consumers say that engagement with the audience is the brand characteristic that is most meaningful to them.
  • Complement your advertising with strong customer service. What does strong customer support look like now? Per Sprout Social, responding to people quickly is a strong barometer of customer service. As noted in Mobile Marketer, 40 percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of connecting through social media; and 79 percent expect a response in the first 24 hours.
  • Reach out to younger consumers in a way that matters most to them; that means a strong presence on YouTube and Instagram. Gen Z is the largest age cohort in the United States, and Millennials remain sizeable. It’s important that brands understand where Gen Zers spend their time. Right now, visual content is the key to Gen Zers’ hearts. The Sprout Social report reveals that social sharing platforms highlighting videos and photos, such as Google’s YouTube and Facebook’s Instagram, are becoming more and more popular with younger consumers. As reported in Mobile Marketer, “Almost three quarters (73%) of Generation Z said they plan to use Instagram more often, while 65% said they plan to spend more time on YouTube.” So it’s no surprise that Facebook just purchased Giphy and will integrate the business with Instagram.

Finally, make sure that you stay abreast of the various tools that are constantly made available to businesses to maximize the value of their social media spend. For instance, Google has adapted the YouTube masthead ad format for the era of connected TV.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to build a stronger social media presence? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Consumer Spend on Mobile Hits Record Levels in Q1 2020

Consumer Spend on Mobile Hits Record Levels in Q1 2020

Mobile

On April 1, I blogged about some trends in mobile behavior based on a 2020 App Annie State of Mobile report. As if on cue, App Annie then revised its report to note the incredible surge in mobile usage during the first quarter of 2020 as people have practiced social distancing on a widespread scale. These numbers should convince businesses to invest in mobile advertising now more than ever:

  • Q1 2020 was the largest-ever quarter in terms of consumer spend on apps: $23.4 billion.
  • The number of new app downloads in Q1 totaled 31 billion, a 15 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2019. As Tech Crunch reported, “That’s notable, given that the fourth quarter usually sees a big boost in app installs from holiday sales of new phones, and Q1 managed to top that.”
  • The United States and China were the largest contributors to consumer spend on the Apple iOS operating system.
  • Users of the Google Android operating system spent the most on games social, and entertainment apps, in large part due to Disney+ and Twitch.
  • The Top Five apps worldwide for Q1 based on downloads and consumer spend: TikTok, WhatsApp Messenger, Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.

All of that time people devote to managing their lives with mobile devices creates opportunities for businesses to engage with customers. The key is to create a sustained presence and to be mindful of using tone appropriate for the times we’re living in right now.

At True Interactive, we have deep experience helping businesses thrive on mobile. For instance, for Snapfish, we launched a digital media campaign that combined major platforms such as the Google Display Network with mobile-centric display networks that serve up ads to consumers on mobile devices. Revenue from mobile app installs grew 343 percent year over year during the holiday season. Mobile app installs grew 23 percent during the same period. Overall, Snapfish saw a 756-percent return on ad spend. Meanwhile, Snapfish saw a 56-percent decrease in costs per install.

For more insight into our work with Snapfish, read this case study. For more insight into responding to the surge in mobile activity, check out my recently published blog post, “Why Mobile Will Power Your Marketing Future.”

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Mobile is where the action is. Are you getting in on it? Contact us.

Photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash

Why Instagram Likes Are Disappearing: Advertiser Q&A

Why Instagram Likes Are Disappearing: Advertiser Q&A

Social media

For months, Instagram has been testing an option to hide Likes in certain international markets. Now it’s poised to test the waters in the United States. In an effort to rethink the potentially toxic, compare-and-compete culture that Instagram Likes can engender, the platform is taking numbers out of the equation. Unsurprisingly, the move has been met with questions — and some uncertainty. Read on to find out more about the change and how it stands to affect brands and influencers alike.

What’s Going on with Instagram Likes?

They’re going away — sort of. Beginning the week of November 11, Like counts have been disappearing from the posts of certain U.S. users. While the account owner can still see how many Likes they’ve accumulated, their followers don’t see the number.

Are Instagram Likes Going Away for Everyone?

According to Instagram chief Adam Mosseri, Likes are vanishing for “some” U.S. users. Although it’s uncertain how many users in the United States will be affected, it’s likely those individuals will be clearly notified. In other countries where the no-Like experiment was carried out, people were alerted by a message at the top of their Instagram feed that they were part of the test.

Why Are Instagram Likes Going Away?

The move is meant to at least partially address the downside of Likes: the inevitable comparisons that arise from people measure the number of Likes their content achieves. How do those comparisons make people feel? Bad, apparently. When the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom commissioned new research to determine which features of social media are considered the most toxic, more than 2,000 teens and adults responded, and Likes did not fare well. While “triggering” content was deemed the most toxic, the Like button ranked second in toxicity. And according to Western University Information and Media Studies professor Kane Faucher, removing Likes from public view may refocus attention on what Instagram posts have purportedly been about all along: engaging content that connects people. As Faucher notes, eliminating Likes “may improve a person’s self-esteem in such a way that social validation may have to come through substantive engagement as opposed [to] simply comparing ‘like’ counts.”

People can still Like content. As noted above, the account owner will still see their own Likes.

How Are Brands Affected by Instagram Likes Going Away?

There will be some impact. Brands can still see how many Likes their content is getting. But:

  • Brands often rely on number of Likes to measure the authority of the influencers with whom they work. That public metric will go away if public Likes disappear for an influencer.
  • Likes also provide brands market intelligence, such as when they want to assess the performance of content from their competitors or businesses outside their industry. Faucher, for one, expects that easily-viewed Likes will be missed by brands who rely on this type of numbers data when collecting market intelligence.

But as Ali Grant, the founder of Be Social, the digital communications agency, has noted, businesses will simply be challenged to explore other metrics. “There [will] still [be] access to the number of swipe-ups on Instagram Stories, click-throughs from the link in your bio, new followers to a page, and the number of comments,” Grant says.

As reported in The Fashion Law, there’s a distinct possibility Instagram will work behind the scenes with influencers and businesses, making metrics connected to individual accounts accessible. Will there be a fee for those services? Probably.

How Are Influencers Affected by Instagram Likes Going Away?

The response from influencers has been mixed. In an Instagram video, rapper Cardi B argued that inflammatory comments are more of a problem on Instagram than any number of Likes. Rapper Nicki Minaj has said she’d stop posting on a Like-less Instagram. But some celebrities, like reality star Kim Kardashian West, are onboard with the change. Kardashian West has said that hiding Likes would be “beneficial” to the mental health of people who use Instagram.

Furthermore, some influencers see the banishment of Likes as representing a freeing new chapter, one in which content can be driven by passion, not an eye to numbers or popularity. Lifestyle blogger Grace Atwood (also known as “the Stripe”), who has 127,000 followers on Instagram, told BuzzFeed, “I’m actually looking forward to seeing likes go away and get[ting] back to posting what I like.”

What Happens Next with Instagram Likes Going Away?

At best, removing Likes may challenge influencers and brands to bring on their A-games. “Influencer content will need to become higher quality, since users won’t be able to lean on the amount of likes their posts are receiving when a brand considers working with them,” Jennie Thompson, the head of social, content, and influencers for consumer public relations firm Frank, shared with PRWeek.

Katie Hunter, the head of social and influence at creative agency Karmarama, believes that ditching Likes can ultimately be a win/win for both users and brands. That is, people won’t feel stressed by the competitive nature of Likes, and brands will be challenged to “think harder about creative and what is going to resonate with audiences, driving quality over quantity from a content perspective.”

Influencer Caroline Calloway concurs. As she told BuzzFeed, “I’m the biggest fan of any tweak to social media that prioritizes mental health and authentic sharing. I think it will be a fascinating new chapter of how we all use Instagram.”

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