Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Social media

Somehow Instagram has remained unsullied by the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that has gripped social platforms lately.

YouTube keeps getting slammed for allowing brands’ ads to run on extremist channelsTwitter continues to wrestle with the challenge of balancing the need for free speech against the ugly reality of people using the platform to spread hate and harassment. And we all know what kind of a year Facebook has been having with Mark Zuckerberg needing to appear before Congress amid concerns about the privacy of its users’ data.

And Instagram? The platform keeps making headlines of a different sort, ranging from news about product updates such as Focus portrait mode to gossipy stories about the activities of the influencers and celebrities who live on Instagram. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that CEO Kevin Systrom will take articles accusing Tristan Thompson of using Instagram to cheat on Khloe Kardashian over the kind of news coverage his boss Mark Zuckerberg has been getting.

Against this backdrop, I’ve added my own perspective for Adweek Social Pro Daily. My article, “What Instagram Carousel Ads for Stories Mean to Brands,” discusses a recently released feature that makes it possible for consumers to purchase products through a carousel of branded video and product images. As I note in the article, Carousel Ads are not original to Instagram – Facebook launched them first – but Instagram is the perfect platform for the format because Carousel Ads are tailored for mobile users in the visual age. And in the United States, only Snapchat rivals Instagram for as the de rigueur platform for the mobile, visually savvy consumer.

The Carousel Ads for Stories format means more opportunities for brands to engage with consumers and rely on Instagram as an ecommerce platform. For more insight, check out my article and let us knowhow you’ve been using Instagram for digital marketing and commerce. We’re here to help.

What the Instagram Hashtag Update Means to Brands

What the Instagram Hashtag Update Means to Brands

Marketing

Instagram recently announced that users can follow hashtags, similar to following a friend. Once a user follows a hashtag, Instagram will use an algorithm to generate a selection of top posts displaying that hashtag within the user’s main feed. The algorithm is said to be based on factors such as recency and quality. Plus, users will be able to flag irrelevant or inappropriate content that appears for a hashtag. Giving Instagram users the ability to customize the type of content that appears within their feed will help users discover new posts and accounts that fit their interests and passions. The new functionality will also help businesses increase brand recognition, enhance their social listening, and, down the road, possibly a new ad targeting option. Here are recommendations for brands:

Increase Brand Recognition

Brands should have a brand hashtag and use it consistently, whether it’s the brand name, slogan, or product. Doing so gives brands the opportunity to be discovered by new followers or current customers that were not following before.

A word of caution: companies should be careful not to hijack hashtags or overplay their hand in an attempt to build brand awareness. Inevitably, Instagram users will add trendy or broad hashtags to their posts in order to draw attention and increase followers even though the hashtags are irreverent to their content or business. Don’t be one of those users. Following hashtags is supposed to allow Instagram users to discover accounts that align with their interests. So it’s important that companies use hashtags within their posts that align only with their brand, content, and products.

Enhance Social Listening

Companies should also take advantage of following hashtags, whether it’s their brand hashtag or other popular industry hashtags.

Following your own company hashtag will enhance your brand’s social listening strategy. You can learn what users are saying about your brand or products even when they don’t tag you within the post.

One way to get started is to create a list of hashtags that are popular in your industry. For example, if you sell a pet product or service, you should consider following #dogsofinstagram or #catvideos to stay up to date on trending posts and topics.

Marketers can also gain insight on their brand loyalists and what they are interested in or passionate about by exploring the type of hashtags your followers follow. Doing so gives brands the opportunity to take these learnings to create new posts, products, and marketing strategies that resonate with customers’ interests, hobbies, and emotions.

Advertising – Possibly New Targeting Option?

The ability to follow hashtags makes Instagram evolve from a social network to an interest network. When Instagram announced this new feature, the app did not mention rolling it out to advertisers as interest targeting – but the possibility exists in the future. Instagram could allow advertisers to target a person following a given hashtag or charge companies to show a relevant sponsored post on a hashtag’s page. Whether or not this new feature will bring in more targeting options for advertisers, it will definitely increase users’ time spent on the platform. So take advantage of testing out ads on Instagram while engagement is up.

For more insight into integrating Instagram into your marketing strategy, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Five Ways Universities Master Instagram

Five Ways Universities Master Instagram

Social media

For college students, August is a time to pack up, head back to leafy campuses, and settle in for a new semester of fun and adventure. For colleges themselves, school is always in session, especially on social media, where institutes of higher learning share student life through visual storytelling. One of the hottest platforms for universities to express their culture is Instagram, which has grown to 700 million monthly users partly for speaking the visual language of the digital generation. Earlier this year, we provided some tips for how colleges should capitalize on Instagram. Now let’s look at some best practices. Here are a few examples of how colleges master Instagram:

Expressing a Culture

Sometimes colleges can seem like faceless institutions especially for high school students and their families thumbing through piles of literature as they consider their options. Instagram helps universities make their personalities shine. Many colleges do an outstanding job relying on photos and video to give you a taste of student life, events, and their campuses. Penn State is a great example. The university wisely makes liberal use of its photogenic Nittany Lion mascot to commemorate playful events such as #WorldChocolateDay:

Special events such as the #HappyValleyJam concert receive their share of visual love:

Penn State also tells the stories of its students whether during the school year or their summer travels:

And Penn State simply makes its campus a desirable, activity-filled place to be – who wouldn’t enjoy #SandcastleDay on campus?:

For Penn State, Instagram is a treasure trove of images that invite students to learn more about its culture.

Doing Good

Colleges give back to their communities all the time. By sharing their stories on Instagram, they encourage you to do the same. For instance, the University of Illinois has used Instagram to help the University’s Illini 4000 non-profit organization raise money for cancer research by biking coast to coast:

Over a period of 76 days and 4,370 miles, the university chronicled the progress of the Illini 4000 as they bicycled from New York to San Francisco. The university also cross-promoted the Illini 4000’s Instagram account to drive traffic for donors who wished to give as well as follow their journey:

As of August, the Illini 4000 had raised more than $100,000. Well done!

Uplifting People

Colleges love to celebrate their students on Instagram, as well they should. You don’t have to look very hard to find excellent Instagram accounts featuring happy students learning, traveling, working out, hanging out, and generally enjoying life — University of Nebraska, we’re looking at you!

Harvard University demonstrates a best practice by highlighting the accomplishments of its students. For example, the following image gives a shout-out to Jonny Kim, an emergency medicine resident who has been named to NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class.

Note that Harvard discusses Jonny’s background and accomplishments with a well written description accompanying the image, and Harvard cross-links to relevant Instagram accounts that are part of his story. This example is but one of many ways Harvard celebrates the accomplishments of current and past students. Harvard is certainly not the only university to do so, but it sets a high bar for many others to emulate.

Sharing the Curriculum

How do you visualize your curriculum? Doing so is easy on Instagram! Many colleges give you a taste of their classes by zeroing in on field research and lab work. The University of Rochester is a case in point. The university prides itself in its research program, and its Instagram account reflects that pride. In the following example, the university describes how student Meghan Patrick is working as a summer intern in the mechanical engineering lab of Douglas Kelley as part of her research into developing sustainable energy:

Meanwhile, student Madison Carter is researching how public art influences social interactions in the city of Rochester:

The university’s Instagram account abounds with examples like these. As is the case with Harvard, the University of Rochester shares insightful narrative behind the images, too. The university sends a strong message: learning takes place everywhere, well beyond the campus classroom setting.

Celebrating Place

Universities hustle to show you how beautiful their campuses are. The University of Minnesota doesn’t shy away from showing off its Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry:

Boston University frequently reminds you of its distinctive location:

Stanford University is a standout for using Instagram to give you a visual glimpse of different aspects of its renowned campus and deserves kudos for experimenting with black-and-white photography:

As we discussed earlier this year, Instagram provides plenty of tools for institutes of higher learning to maximize their visual appeal. To learn more about how to use visual storytelling on social media to build your collegiate brand, contact True Interactive – we’re happy to help.

Digital Video Advertising Outshines TV

Digital Video Advertising Outshines TV

Video

Digital video is hotter than ever for brands. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau Video Ad Spending Study, advertisers are spending on average more than $9 million annually on digital video advertising (a 67-percent increase from two years ago), and video represents more than 50 percent of their digital/mobile ad spending.

The IAB report is based on a survey of brands and agencies across a wide spectrum of industries ranging from automotive to telecom. Most of the respondents plan to invest more into both digital and mobile video over the next 12 months. Many will fund their investments into video by reallocating their television budgets, and most respondents believe that original digital video content reaches an audience that TV cannot reach. They also prefer video because of the quality of the environment and overall effectiveness of reaching an audience.

These findings don’t surprise me. My own client experiences suggest that advertisers are also drawn to the measurability and audience segmentation possible with digital video compared to TV advertising. As I wrote on the True Interactive blog, not only can you target customer segments with online video, but you can see how many of them interacted with your site, subscribed to your YouTube channel, made a purchase, or watched another of your YouTube videos (other than the ad you just showed them). Not only can advertisers see the different interactions of an audience, but they can also see how much of the video ad that they watched.

To maximize the value of online video, I suggest that advertisers:

  • Develop an interactive video strategy tied to your branding goals and aligned with the behavior of your customers. Map out your customers’ journeys throughout the digital world and figure out how interactive video will best move your customers from the awareness to consideration to purchase and retention. In the healthcare profession, for instance, medical providers use interactive video to educate potential patients on topics such as wellness care, which raises awareness for providers when customers are researching topics such as proper dieting or exercising.
  • Understand the nuances of using video — both paid and organic — across different platforms. “Video” can mean many things to different brands, ranging from a bumper ad on YouTube to a Facebook Livestream. According to a recently released report from think tank L2, video formats provide different advantages depending on what platform you use. Instagram content provides higher levels of engagement compared to other platforms, Facebook provides incredible reach, and YouTube is better for longer-form video content that lends itself to episodic storytelling.

In addition, it’s important to stay on top of this fast-changing format. The different platforms are constantly introducing new features as they attempt to gain an advantage on each other, and advertisers that stay in the know will seize a first-mover advantage. On the True Interactive blog, we regularly discuss how to succeed with video (as shown by this example about livestreaming). Other useful resources include the blogs from platforms such as YouTube and third-party content from institutes such as the IAB. How are you capitalizing on interactive video?

Image source: Marketing Land

Tips for Promoting Higher Education on Instagram

Tips for Promoting Higher Education on Instagram

Marketing

Some recently published statistics demonstrate the rising influence of Instagram. For instance:

These statistics are surely music to the ears of higher education institutions looking to reach their target markets.  Most colleges have Instagram accounts, which help them gain an organic following with visual content. In addition, Instagram offers a paid ad format to target people based on a number of factors, such as whether someone has shown previous interest in a school through a website visit. With Instagram advertising, institutes of higher learning can also target an audience based on interests, behaviors, age, gender, and education level as well as a variety of other socio-economic factors.  Let’s take a closer look at Instagram advertising.

Available Formats

There are currently four available ad formats:

  • Photo ads (Single photos available in square or landscape format).
  • Video ads (Up to 60 seconds in length).
  • Carousel ads (users can swipe to view additional photos or videos).
  • Stories ads (complement your feed content with ads on Instagram Stories).

Canvas ads (A full-screen ad experience) are currently available in Facebook and should be offered in Instagram in the future.

Instagram continues to revise its targeting options. We recommend ongoing testing of audience performance as a best practice.

Advertising Tips

While it is important that the ads/videos used on Instagram remain generally consistent with the design and feel of other marketing campaigns to maintain brand identity, keep in mind that Instagram is a social platform. So tailor your ads to align with the more laid back lifestyle feel of Instagram. Be sure to include a logo. And use images that are interesting and visually appealing, as many users view Instagram as an inspirational platform.

Instagram can be an effective outlet for showcasing the best features of your institution to potential students.  Well-conceived imagery can help students easily visualize what it would be like to attend your place of learning. Here are some tips for getting the most out of Instagram ads:

  • Promote your faculty by using images along with a personal quote or an endorsement from a current student. If a quote is pulled from a relevant article, it can be linked through the post itself or via the Instagram bio.
  • Feature campus sponsored-activities throughout the year – for example, images from move-in day, picnics, concerts, prominent speakers.
  • Highlight your campus community by including promotions about clubs, intramural sports, Greek life, and so forth.
  • Reach out to sports enthusiasts with ads promoting your various collegiate teams and information about upcoming games or highlights from key wins.
  • Consider testing a story ad that follows a day in the life of a current student to profile the student experience.
  • Put the beauty of your campus on full display through a video or series of images. Highlight those features that would be most appealing to potential students – high-tech classrooms; well-appointed dorms; favorite gathering areas such as the student union and campus quad; or a sports arena that’s filled with students supporting school teams.

The key to successfully engaging with a target audience is to help them envision themselves being a part of your school, whether it’s sitting in a classroom, walking across the quad, cheering in the stands at a sporting event, or being a part of a fraternity or sorority. And, don’t forget to include a call to action button in your ads such as “Learn More,” or “Contact Us” to ease the communication process.  A picture is worth a thousand words — so incorporate Instagram and create a visual marketing punch. Contact True Interactive for more insight into using Instagram to reach your audience.