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.

Three Big Trends Shaping How Businesses Use Social Media

Three Big Trends Shaping How Businesses Use Social Media

Social media

Paid social on the rise. Facebook is king. And Instagram is the crown prince. Those are some of the take-aways from a recent Social Media Examiner survey of marketers’ social media spending priorities in coming months. The survey offers a useful snapshot of social media trends that cut across industries. Here are some of the principal findings:

Paid Social Is on the Rise

According to the Social Media Examiner report, social media ads are fast becoming indispensible to social media marketing strategy. This development is due to the fact that social media platforms like Instagram are offering more sophisticated tools that help businesses create content that targets specific audiences. One example: Instagram’s new feature, Branded Content Ads. As we recently discussed, the Branded Content Ads feature makes it possible for businesses to use Ads Manager to promote branded content as an ad in their Instagram feeds, and to target a specific audience when they do so.

Facebook Has Fans—A Lot of Them

According to the Social Media Examiner survey, Facebook is the most popular platform for advertisers, with 94 percent of marketers polled choosing it as their first option. On the surface of things, this might be surprising, given the knocks Facebook took in the wake of the high-profile privacy scandals that plagued the social media giant in 2018. And yet, Facebook membership keeps rising: according to the company’s Q4 2018 earnings report, approximately 1.52 billion people used Facebook every day in December 2018. That’s a nine percent year-over-year increase. Also noteworthy is the fact that Facebook tends to be popular among Baby Boomers and older millennials: that’s significant to advertisers who want to use a social platform to reach this audience, which tends to have more discretionary income.

Another reason Facebook remains popular with advertisers is that the company has always provided strong targeting tools, and continues to do so. As this WordStream article discusses, the company makes it easy to launch ad campaigns that target specific audiences with different ad formats and literally thousands of ad targeting parameters. Finally, Facebook is popular for all kinds of content, including video, which expands its usefulness to advertisers. According to the Social Media Examiner report, Facebook is right up there with YouTube as the most well liked video channel for marketers.

Instagram Is the Crown Prince

Though perhaps not as popular as Facebook, Instagram is still a valuable resource for advertisers. And advertisers are intrigued by it: the Social Media Examiner report indicates that when marketers were asked about the social media platform that they’d like to learn more about, a whopping 72 percent chose Instagram. Maybe that’s because the app’s strengths in visual storytelling present a golden opportunity to capitalize on the fact that increasingly, people are using images as a means of communicating. We take trillions of photos each year. And not surprisingly, we’re sharing those photos on platforms such as Instagram, which is also showing a marked increase in membership.

These takeaways paint a compelling picture. Interested in learning more about how social can serve your business needs? Contact us.

https://pixabay.com/photos/twitter-facebook-together-292994/

How Instagram Is Making It Easier for Brands and Influencers to Collaborate

How Instagram Is Making It Easier for Brands and Influencers to Collaborate

Mobile

Instagram understands the appeal—and power—of influencers, and is releasing a new feature, Branded Content Ads, that helps businesses capitalize on that appeal. As Instagram announced in a blog post, Branded Content Ads makes it possible for businesses to use Ads Manager to promote branded content as an ad in their Instagram feeds. Furthermore, businesses can use targeting tools to specify demographics and measure the results: who’s responding, and how many people read the post. Branded Content Ads is a win-win for both advertisers and influencers, especially micro-influencers.

A Win-Win

By tapping into the authenticity of influencer content, and the buzz that content can create, businesses stand to create more awareness for their brand or product. This new tool is especially suited to companies who already know how to work with micro-influencers, such as Swedish watch-maker Daniel Wellington, which already has a strong micro-influencer outreach and does little traditional advertising at all. In a recent micro-influencer campaign, the company thought outside the box and reached beyond lifestyle and fashion Instagrammers to partner with pet lovers. The result? An account that focused—successfully—on the Internet community’s love for cute animals. Pet owners shared images of themselves and their favorite animal friend, with a Daniel Wellington watch always prominently featured somewhere in the mix. Branded Content Ads will provide a company like Daniel Wellington one more tool to work with by allowing the company to take an influencer’s organic post (with the permission of the influencer) and share that post as branded content on the Daniel Wellington Instagram account. Branded Content Ads will also make such a campaign easier to manage and track.

Of course, influencers also benefit from the larger audience that can result from business/influencer collaboration. And because the new Instagram feature allows businesses to target a specific audience and use performance measurement tools to track response, influencers might not only grow but even make some discoveries about their personal brand in the process. This is especially relevant to micro-influencers looking to expand their reach. Consider someone like Christian Caro, a top micro-influencer whose roughly 6,000 followers track his exuberant photos of life in So-Cal.

If he wanted to grow his audience beyond his current Instagram followers, he could capitalize on this new feature and partner with a brand dedicated to topics such as lifestyle, food, or fashion, which overlap with his photography. By contrast, a mega influencer such as Kim Kardashian West, who has 141 million followers, may not benefit as much from this program because she’s clearly doing just fine building an audience on her own.

Keeping It Real

Instagram has laid out specific instructions to help businesses and influencers work together and maintain transparency. Steps include:

  • Businesses must grant permission for the influencer to tag their business in the influencer’s branded content post.
  • As noted, businesses must secure permission from the influencer to promote the post as an ad.
  • Once an ad is created, it is reviewed and approved by Facebook, after which it will appear in the Instagram feeds of the designated audience. Note that businesses won’t be able to manage or delete likes and comments that appear on a promoted branded content post.
  • Once an ad is live, businesses will have access to standard ad reporting metrics.

Eager to learn more about how your business can work with Instagram—and influencers? 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

Instagram Explodes as an Influencer Outreach Platform

Instagram Explodes as an Influencer Outreach Platform

Marketing Social media

Influencer outreach is alive and well. Recently, Adweek reported on Instagram’s Ashley Yuki, Instagram’s interests products lead, who said that 69 percent of Instagram users come to the app to interact with celebrities, and 68 percent visit Instagram to interact with influencers.

Instagram’s Growing Presence

This is major news, given the growth Instagram has been enjoying. According to statistics portal Statista, the number of monthly active Instagram users exploded between January 2013 and June 2018, from 90 million to 1 billion. And as digital marketing agency Omnicore reports, as of September 2018, daily active Instagram users had reached 500 million. Other telling stats from Omnicore include:

  • Six in ten online adults have Instagram accounts.
  • 6 million Instagram users are from the United States.
  • 80 percent of Instagram users come from outside the United States.

When you do the math, one thing becomes clear: Instagram users represent a large market. It’s a market with an interest in celebrities. And that’s a powerful endorsement for the practice of influencer outreach.

Bad Press

The revelation is especially timely given the black eye influencer outreach suffered early in 2019. Twin documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, Fyre Fraud, which aired on Hulu, and Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, on Netflix, discussed how influencer outreach was used to promote the festival as a cool, sexy event, only for the Fyre Festival to fall apart due to poor planning and unprofessional, unethical behavior. The strategic campaign ramping up to the event included spending millions on flying celebrity models down to the Bahamas so that the influencers could take pictures of themselves frolicking in paradise and post about the upcoming Fyre Festival. Additionally, on December 12, 2016, 63 influencers simultaneously posted an orange tile graphic to social media with the hashtag #FyreFest. That effort earned more than 300 million impressions in 24 hours.

The influencers were paid well for their troubles. Kendall Jenner, for example, earned a $250,000 fee, and no influencers brought in less than $20,000. But model Emily Ratajkowski was one of the only influencers to designate her post as an #ad, drawing criticisms that Fyre was misrepresented from the get-go. Post-festival, the backlash was fierce. Wired published a piece in May 2017—“Blame the Fyre Festival Fiasco on the Plague of Celebrity Influencers”—and The New York Times predicted “The Rise and (Maybe) Fall of Influencers.”

On the Rebound

FTC crackdowns, however, have subsequently had a positive impact on the credibility of influencer outreach. In a survey of 287 U.S. marketers, Influencer Marketing Hub found a huge change in attitude following the Fyre Festival debacle: “Less than half of our group (132 people) admitted they hadn’t paid much mind to the Federal Trade Commission’s regulations [regarding transparency of paid endorsements or other “material connections”] before Fyre Fest. In the wake of the fallout, though, and with the FTC already cracking down before Fyre Fest imploded, every single one of them stated that maintaining compliance will be a top priority.”

The Power of Micro-Influencers

The bottom line? Influencer outreach isn’t going anywhere. We recommend that businesses take a serious look at influencer outreach as a way of building their brands. The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to pay celebrities to build excitement: many brands are now turning to micro-influencers to drum up awareness. Well-known locally but not necessarily nationally for fitness, lifestyle, and other interests, micro-influencers typically enjoy more than 1,000 but much less than 100,000 followers, and hold sway in specific cities or regions. Consider individuals like Brendan Lowry, a Philadelphia-based micro-influencer with about 30,000 Instagram followers: his feed bursts with photos of the city beside sponsored posts endorsing local companies. If you can connect with people like Lowry, who maintain a high profile in a specific market, you may not get as much reach nationally, but you can get significant reach in specific markets that are of interest to you.

Influencer outreach is still relevant. And by doing some smart, targeted research, companies can find influencers across different markets who will be most effective for their needs. For more insight, contact True Interactive.

 

 

 

 

 

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Social media

Unless Snapchat figures out a new game plan to create proprietary features and experiences, 2019 will be the end of the popular photo-sharing app. The stock of its parent company, Snap, is scaring away investors. Its user base has plateaued. Each time Snapchat introduces a new feature, Facebook and Instagram copy it. For instance, Instagram users can share permanent photos on their profiles as well as more temporary content on stories that disappear within 24 hours, a feature that was once unique to Snapchat. Instagram is also becoming more engaging for users with the option to share public comments, likes, as well as create polls in stories, all features that Snapchat lacks. With the launch of its latest feature IGTV, Instagram is on the rise for 2019.

Where does the rise of Instagram leave Snapchat? In a very difficult place. That said, Snapchat still has cards to play, such as monetizing its location data for advertisers and building up its content platform as a broadcast media for businesses such as the National Football League, which told Advertising Age that it doubled viewership of its highlights video to 2 million during the most recent season. Another ray of hope for Snapchat: Facebook keeps hurting its own brand, to the point where it is vulnerable to losing advertisers.

What Snapchat needs is a proprietary feature that makes it so lovable to advertisers that they remain loyal no matter what Instagram or Facebook do. To that end, its R&D center is looking for a solution, perhaps involving augmented reality, where Snapchat has succeeded.

But Snapchat needs to work fast before investors’ lack of faith in Snap and pressure from other platforms brings the fabled platform to an end.

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