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/

Advertiser Q&A: What Is a Micro-influencer?

Advertiser Q&A: What Is a Micro-influencer?

Social media

As we discussed in a recent blog post, celebrities are not the only game in town when brands want to include influencers in their advertising campaigns. Micro-influencers are also useful and usually less expensive. Increasingly, our clients are reaching out with questions about them. We thought we’d take a moment to answer some of those questions—and help clarify who these micro-influencers are and why they are important.

What is a micro-influencer?

A micro-influencer is someone who commands a smaller audience — anywhere from 2,000 to about 50,000 followers— on a social media channel like Facebook or Instagram.

Micro-influencers tend to be everyday people (as opposed to celebrities). But they know a lot about a specific topic. That expertise inspires loyalty in their community of followers, who look to them for recommendations, likes, and dislikes.

Take The Brothers Buoy: Brooklyn-based Jackson (who writes the copy) and Graham (who shoots the photos) have taken it upon themselves to turn people on to good places to eat in New York and beyond. Their sass and humor have earned them about 8,000 followers, along with some healthy respect (e.g., they’ve worked with Condé Nast Traveler).

Why do micro-influencers matter?

In short, they have street cred (see the Condé Nast Traveler reference, above). And micro-influencers tend to enjoy high levels of engagement. They may not be breaking records in terms of the size of their audience, but the followers they do have really love them and interact, a lot.

In fact, a smaller following makes it possible for micro-influencers to maintain a personal connection with their fans: as Adweek reported, engagement usually dips the more followers an influencer attracts. Perhaps because of the high levels of engagement, micro-influencers project an authenticity—and inspire a level of trust—that is sometimes hard for celebrity influencers to sustain.

Another bonus: micro-influencers tend to be less expensive for businesses working on a budget, and may give a business more bang for its buck. Smart Insights notes that micro-influencers are 6.7 percent more cost effective than their higher-profile colleagues. And as IZEA points out, a business might reach more people working with several micro-influencers who charge less but enjoy a powerful connection with loyal followers, as an alternative to maxing out the entire budget on a single post from one celebrity influencer.

What are some tips for working with micro-influencers?

  • First identify the goals for your campaign, then begin researching potential micro-influencers. Influencers have different personalities and communication styles; look for someone who feels like a good fit. Consider factors such as their audience and how the influencer connects with that audience. Are their tone and approach suitable for your own brand?
  • Once you’ve found an influencer who seems like a good match, establish a connection. Follow them on their social channels, leave comments, and engage meaningfully before reaching out about a collaboration.
  • When you do reach out, contact the micro-influencer via their direct email, and demonstrate that you are indeed familiar with their work—and a fan. Since you’ve already established a connection, that familiarity, not to mention the admiration, will likely come naturally.
  • Finally, don’t micromanage the micro-influencer. Remember, one reason micro-influencers are popular is because their audiences trust them to be real. Feeding micro-influencers lines or opinions defeats the purpose of the collaboration—and can backfire if followers suspect inauthentic content.

Interested in learning more about micro-influencers and how a collaboration might benefit your business? Contact True Interactive.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.