How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

Social media

Instagram recently made its algorithm smarter and explained to TechCrunch how the algorithm works. The headline: Instagram uses machine learning to make its feed more personal to its users. This change is good news for brands on Instagram that enjoy high levels of engagement and inspire passion. The news is bad for brands that rely on one-way messages.

By applying machine learning, the Instagram algorithm literally learns from the behavior of its users to serve up more relevant content on their feeds instead of sharing content in chronological order. If you tend to like posts about cats from the cat lovers in your Instagram universe, Instagram shares more cats. If you tend to like posts from country music star Chris Stapleton’s account, you’re going to get more Chris Stapleton posts higher up in your feed. Meanwhile, accounts you follow passively without liking very much appear lower in your feed.

Here’s how Josh Constine of TechCrunch summarized the three main factors that determine what appears more prominently in your Instagram feed:

“Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.

Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.

Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.”

This change is especially great news for media/entertainment brands, such as accounts that support musicians and movie releases, which tend to create stronger, more loyal fan followings than brands in other businesses. Selena Gomez, who enjoys 138 million followers, is going to become an even more dominant force. Media brands such as National Geographic, and sports brands such as FC Barcelona and the NBA, which also enjoy millions of followers, are also likely enjoying an uptick in popularity.

But you don’t have to be a sports or media brand to capitalize on Instagram’s algorithm. The key is to create engagement by posting great visual content and by getting fans involved with your page. It’s also important to post often, for as TechCrunch noted, Instagram is placing a higher priority on more timely content.

The algorithm change may also convince more brands to work through personal influencers with large followings given the increased focus on content from accounts where Instagram perceives a closer relationship with followers.

It’s absolutely a bad idea to post content just to keep the lights on. Instagram is pushing less interesting content out of the way in favor of brands and people who work harder to make Instagram more interesting, including the use of tools such as looping Boomerangs and engaging written calls to action to go with your visuals.

For more insight on how to succeed on Instagram, contact us. We’re here to help.

Apple Plays Catch-up with Voice at WWDC

Apple Plays Catch-up with Voice at WWDC

Marketing

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple showcased a new and improved Siri voice assistant, which was a must-do for a company that pioneered voice only to fall behind competitors such as Amazon and Google.

As we have discussed on our blog, voice is without question an important wave of innovation fueling how businesses interact with their customers. In her widely read Internet Trends report, Kleiner Perkins Venture Capitalist Mary Meeker said, “With voice, we’ve hit technology liftoff with word accuracy, and we’ve certainly hit product liftoff with Amazon Echo’s install base estimated to be around 30 million plus.”

Indeed, adoption of smart speakers alone has skyrocketed in the United States. According to NPR/Edison Research findings, 39 million Americans owned smart speakers in January 2018, an increase of 128 percent from January 2017. Businesses such as Jim Beam are literally figuring out their brand voices through voice assistants. Jim Beam, for instance, offers a playful bourbon container that relies on a voice assistant.

Apple knows voice is the future, but the company has struggled to shape that future. Its Siri voice assistant is widely viewed as a weak alternative to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, and the HomePod smart speaker didn’t launch until 2018 (to tepid reviews). At WWDC, Apple did not unveil any dramatic breakthroughs in voice, but it did showcase some tangible improvements to Siri.

First off, Apple has made Siri more efficient by incorporating short-cut commands through an app known literally as Shortcuts. With Shortcuts, users can rely on commonly used commands that Siri learns to act on. The idea is to make Siri more convenient. As Mark Vena of Moor Insights & Strategy noted, “Shortcuts could also be used to help proactively plan for your day. For example, if you were about to go to the beach, Siri might suggest that you check the weather and remember to bring a beach towel with you.”

But as Vena also wrote, Amazon and Google have already developed a short-cut capability in their own voice assistants. The more interesting development from WWDC is how Apple is making Siri smarter. The voice assistant can actually learn from the way you use Siri to suggest to you activities based on your habits. For instance, Siri might suggest to a cup of coffee at a time of day when the user often seeks coffee. But here again, Apple is achieving status quo instead of leading. As Kevin C. Tofel wrote on Stacey on IoT, “If you open the same exercise tracking app at roughly the same time and location — say at the gym at 5pm — Siri will eventually pop up a suggestion to open the app at the same time and place for you. This is similar to Google Assistant, which I love, but it’s just Siri starting to catch up since Google’s product  has done this for nearly five years now. In fact, I get my contextual alerts on the Apple Watch from the Google Assistant app today, although I’ll test Siri in this capacity once watchOS 5 arrives.”

Amazon is leading the marketplace for voice-based products and experiences and possesses a formidable platform with which to integrate voice to search, discover, and buy. Google and Microsoft are strong challengers. Apple is still catching up. But don’t count out Apple. The company has the money, talent, and patience to get where it needs to be.

 

 

Four Ways Brands Earn Trust

Four Ways Brands Earn Trust

Marketing

Consumers don’t want to ignore brands. We want to spend time in their stores and immerse ourselves in their websites when the experience is good. We willingly buy their products. Otherwise, people around the world wouldn’t be spending nearly $25 trillion in 2018 in the retail sector alone. But to become loyal to brands – to willingly give them our time and money over and over, and then recommend them to others – we have to trust them.

A relationship with a business is built on trust, and consumers now possess more tools to figure out which brands they can trust and which they cannot. For example, analyst Brian Solis recently assessed the results of Google research indicating that mobile searches that include “best” have grown more than 80 percent in the last two years, and searches using the phrase “to avoid” have grown 1.5X in the same span. And Google continues to refine its algorithms to provide precise answers. As Solis notes,

Among everyday consumers, trust in brands and executives erodes every year. According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report, trust is increasingly democratized and less hierarchical. In its most recent report, Edelman found, for the first time, that 60% of consumers view “a person like yourself” as a credible source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert. And, credibility of CEOs hit an all-time low in the series, with a 12-point decline in the last year.

Building consumer trust becomes not only an imperative for attentive brands but also a significant competitive advantage.

In addition, consumers are increasingly relying on reviews to determine which companies they can trust. According to eMarketer, online reviews are even overtaking advice from friends and families as a way to research brands. Online reviews are especially important for high-consideration products such as electronics and clothing.

How do brands earn our trust? I think brands do so by living these four attributes:

Authenticity

Brands can illustrate authenticity in many ways, but when it comes to consumers trusting brands, it’s important that companies demonstrate their values and what they stand for. Kendra Scott is a fashion brand that is built around positivity and giving back to the community. The founder, Kendra Scott, uses social media to not only showcase their quality products, but the company’s values and philanthropic actions as well. The brand organizes events for a variety of organizations and causes, which they put on display across their marketing channels. Emphasizing how involved Kendra Scott is to making the world a better place allows consumers to think of them than more than just a company that sells jewelry and other fashion products – it’s a brand they can trust.

Transparency

In the social media world that we live in, there are no longer secrets. Consumers are demanding brands to be open and honest with them. Many brands struggle with being transparent with their customers, but a lack of transparency only hurts them. Whether a brand is enduring a PR crisis or announcing a new product, it’s important for a brand to show who they are and what they can give to the consumer. Recently, I received an email from Panera Bread’s CEO, Blaine E. Hurst, commenting on the recent romaine lettuce recall. He stated, “From the moment the advisory was issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 13, 2018, we pulled all romaine originating from Yuma growing region from our cafes .  . .”

He continued by confirming that customers can rest assured that they found a new source and all Panera salads are safe to eat. He concluded the email by saying, “We hope this helps to ease your mind, and invite you to come in and enjoy your favorite Panera salad again.”

From this email, Blaine Hurst was able to build trust by being honest. He assured customers that they were safe to eat at Panera by confirming that Panera had resolved the unfortunate issue. When a brand faces a conflict that involves them or their products, it’s crucial that they are completely transparent with consumers in order to gain or sustain trust.

Consistency

It’s essential to develop standards for brand consistency, online and offline, to earn consumer’s trust. Chick-fil-A is a company that does so. My experience at Chick-fil-A, no matter which location, has been consistent each time, whether it’s at the beginning with a warm welcome from the employee taking my order, or when I’m enjoying my meal. And the brand consistency doesn’t stop there. When I come across one of their social media posts or advertisements, I can tell it’s their content without even looking at the brand name. Having consistency across your team, products, and marketing efforts builds trust and loyalty for consumers because they know what to expect from you and your products or services.

Empathy

Showing your customers that you care about them, especially in a time of need, boosts consumer loyalty and trust. I recently ordered a present for a family member off Amazon, and the dealer lost it in the mail. Amazon sent me an email telling me to contact Amazon support, and then a friendly customer service rep from Amazon apologized multiple times for the inconvenience. The same rep immediately re-ordered my item for me free of charge with overnight shipping so that I would get it on time. Amazon training their support team to show empathy allows me to feel confident ordering from Amazon in the future. Even if this issue or a similar scenario were to happen again, I could trust that Amazon would happily resolve the issue quickly. Offering empathy to a customer enhances the customer’s experience which then enables them to trust the brand.

Perhaps the best way for a brand to build trust is to ask these simple questions:

  • Are you treating your customers the way you would want them to treat every person at your company?
  • What do you want your customers to say about you? Are you giving them every motivation to do so with your actions?

Trust is earned one person at a time. But building trust starts with training your own people. Does everyone at your own company know how to earn the trust of every customer they meet?

Image source: http://www.brandingbusiness.com/blogs/building-b2b-brand-trust-through-communication

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.

7 Great Women Who Inspire Us

7 Great Women Who Inspire Us

Marketing

To honor International Women’s Day, we’ve thought about the women who lead our industry through their ideas and actions. These women are not only leading the advertising and media industry, they’re also leading businesses, period:

  • Jerri DeVard, EVP, chief customer officer, Office Depot: she inspires by showing how a legacy company can keep its brand fresh online and offline – and in her spare time, she’s on the board of directors of three companies.
  • Carol Dweck, author: at businesses across America, her book Mindset is required reading to inspire people to embrace self-improvement and better performance. She is an inspirational TED speaker and teacher with a far-reaching impact.
  • Patty McCord, consultant and author: as chief talent officer at Netflix, she helped build the company’s renowned culture of innovation and agility. Now she teaches other businesses how to get better.
  • Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo: you always find her on lists of the world’s most powerful women, but she’s also led the building of one of the world’s most powerful brands – and one that is innovating with its products and marketing.
  • Ruth Porat, CFO, Alphabet: in a male-dominated field, Ruth Porat stands apart for her leadership of a company whose stock price and market value continue to climb. She ensures that all those moonshots make fiscal sense.
  • Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios: as president of NBC Entertainment, she managed more than 40 television titles including popular shows as such as This Is Us. We can’t wait to see what she does with The Lord of the Rings series now that she’s head of Amazon Studios.
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube: 180 million people watch YouTube, and more than 400 hours of video content are loaded a minute. YouTube continues to extend its influence under her guidance.

These are just seven names among many women at all levels across industries who lead. We salute the women we work with and admire!

Brands, Get Ready for Video on LinkedIn

Brands, Get Ready for Video on LinkedIn

Marketing

Organic video for company pages is coming to LinkedIn. It’s only a matter of time. Businesses need to be ready to capitalize on the opportunity.

Video content is already a major way businesses and people communicate on the internet. According to Kleiner Perkins, video accounts for 74 percent of all Web traffic, and 55 percent of people watch video every day according to MWP. In 2017, LinkedIn started to catch up to other social platforms that have become more accommodating to video content when the company made it possible for users to create personal videos on its mobile app.

For LinkedIn, the introduction of video meant that its users could create more engaging stories about themselves, especially in a business setting. For example, in a blog post about LinkedIn video, LinkedIn cited the example of the president of an equipment company using video to demonstrate how her company’s forklifts operate.

Since then, LinkedIn has indicated to True Interactive that the company plans to bring native sponsored videos in the feed as part of its 2018 advertising plans. The timing could not be better. On January 11, Facebook announced the company will downgrade content from publishers in users’ news feeds. This move will pressure more publishers to look to other platforms such as LinkedIn to engage people with their content.

Businesses should prepare for video coming to your LinkedIn pages. For example, if you post video regularly on other platforms, create a strategy for cross-posting content on LinkedIn. You might want to start by testing different types of video to see what kind of content creates more engagement on LinkedIn versus Facebook or Instagram although these days the content between Facebook and LinkedIn is converging. LinkedIn used to be a platform for people to post business-related content, but more and more users are posting personal stories that would appear on the surface to be more suitable for Facebook. Businesses that rely on employee ambassadors to humanize their brands with more personal content might find LinkedIn to be an attractive destination for video content.

It also makes sense to earmark a larger LinkedIn advertising budget. LinkedIn will certainly incorporate video into its advertising products to monetize video and create more engagement for brands. Especially with Facebook becoming less friendly to brands, LinkedIn looks more attractive.

As I mentioned in a recent True Interactive blog post predicting 2018 trends, LinkedIn is becoming a more popular platform for companies to build their brands. LinkedIn has been adding a number of features such as Matched Audiences and Website Retargeting to make it a stronger advertising platform. Recently LinkedIn ran a pilot program with more 370 participating advertisers and saw a 30-percent increase in click-through rates and a 14-percent drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Website Retargeting. Businesses should already be taking a closer look at LinkedIn as part of their advertising and content marketing strategies – and make sure you include video.

For more insight into how to build your brand across the digital world, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/video-camera-optics-photography-2562034/

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.