How To Make Your Brand Stand Out On Instagram

Social distancing has caused the world to interact with social media in a different way. With 66% of social media users anticipating their use of platforms like Instagram to increase during the pandemic, media consumption is continuously rising. However, with people and brands posting increasing amounts of content to social media platforms, feeds are being oversaturated which has caused a negative impact on engagement. 

What brands need to do right now is create content that breaks through the clutter and captures the attention of their followers. This is a time to think outside of the box and get creative with the way we create, consume, and interact with content. With a captive audience, brands can use Instagram as a means to engage and deepen relationships with their community of brand fans and followers. Here are a few tips for brands who are looking to stand out on Instagram as we continue through this crisis: 

Be Real

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People are paying attention to how brands are reacting to this global pandemic — so much so that brands’ response will impact 65% of consumers’ future purchasing decisions. It’s important for brands to communicate to their followers with empathy, understanding, and support. For some brands, this means adjusting messaging and considering how the crisis affects your mission & goals. For others, this is business as usual. Regardless, this is a time for brands to give their messaging a more human touch to build trust and strengthen relationships with consumers. 

Be real, and people will take notice. 

Go Live

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80% of people would rather watch a live stream than read a blog, so creating more dynamic, interactive content is crucial. Post content that allows your brand’s fans to see how your brand and team are living at home. Host instagram live events to let your followers get to know the real & authentic you. This is also a great opportunity for your brand to use a live platform to share information, keep your followers in the loop, and share resources. Having more interactive content like this allows you to build and deepen trust between you and your followers in a more engaging way. 

 

Get Creative

 

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Don’t be afraid to get creative with your grid! Feel free to play with color to brighten up your brand fans’ feeds, or post something thought provoking. Now can be a great time to test new looks, new types of content, or post things you might not normally have and involve your virtual brand community. Posting content that is different or more interactive than what your brand might typically post will turn more heads and turn into increased engagement. 

Challenge Your Followers

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It’s important to keep your community active and involved virtually. Challenge your brand fans to hold a DIY fashion show in their favorite outfit from your brand, or suggest a new color or flavor they’d like to see. Creating exciting challenges for your followers is a direct invitation for them to become more involved with your brand. It also offers your brand an opportunity to understand more about your brand community and build relationships with your biggest fans. Giving your community a voice and encouraging them to share will make them feel closer to and more inclined to engage with your brand. 

Boost Earned Media

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98% of millennials are going to interact with a friend’s post over a brand post. By challenging your followers to get involved and create posts involving your brand, you’re amplifying user generated content and building increased trust in your brand. Essentially, your brand is creating a content factory that will boost your earned media value and offer tons of reposting potential. Gaining access to this kind of content will not only help you enhance your social media strategy and boost earned media, but give you insight into what your brand fans want to see more of.    

Stand Out 

Standing out on Instagram can be difficult, but these tips will make it easy for your brand to break through peoples’ feeds and build stronger relationships with your audience. Sharing content that is real, interactive, and involves your community results in a more engaged audience, deeper ties to your community, and tons of content to use in your social media strategy. 

 

5 Ways To Boost Earned Media Value (EMV)

How can your brand reach a wider audience organically? With new brands emerging every day, it can be difficult to stand out in a world where everyone is competing for a share of a similar target market. Consumers are exposed to more information than they can fully digest, so they are looking to their friends, family, and followers for opinions on whether they should trust a brand or avoid it at all costs. Focusing only on branded or paid media is not the most effective strategy when you’re competing with a mass amount of content.

Your brand should be focusing on Earned media to generate more word of mouth referrals and enhance your content strategy organically. When compared to Owned and Paid media, Earned media is gained largely through your customers’ voices without direct influence from you as a brand. Although it is voluntarily shared by customers, there are many ways to steer the content that is being created and use it to boost your earned media value organically. 

Have a good strategy

As with any marketing campaign, having a good strategy is the only way to separate yourself from your competition. Narrow down your target audience! The more specific and segmented it is, the easier it will be to relate to. Customize your messaging based on your ideal customer profile and the social network or media outlet you will be posting your content to. Remember, your goal is to communicate the right message to the right customer at the right time. 

Increase the amount of content on your official accounts

If you want your customers to talk about you, give them something to talk about. Invest in creating more content & media across different social platforms. However, make sure that as you increase your output of content, that you’re creating content that is engaging. Try to start a meaningful conversation that will inspire others to interact with your brand and other fans. 

Create interactive instagram stories, challenge your brand fans to show off your products on their own feeds, and ask them what they want to see more of. Creating more quality content will encourage members of your community to share information and media across their own networks, which will drive more awareness and encourage brand building.

Be an expert in what you do

Being a reliable source of information will help you create the reputation of “expert” within your industry. Providing interesting and relevant statistics or data will build deeper trust in your existing community. Strong and effective research is essential to giving your brand credibility, and it should be an ultimate goal to be an expert in what you do well. This, in turn, will make it easier for your customers to build trust in and advocate for your brand.

Recruit brand ambassadors

In addition to creating more quality content, recruiting more people that want to talk about your brand will increase your market share and allow you to steer the content that is being created around your brand. Through ambassadors, you will be able to engage and interact with a broader pool of potential customers, while guiding their brand experience and gaining insight into what your brand fans want to see more of. 

By recruiting more people to advocate for your brand, you’re creating a stronger and honest bond with your customer base. Having supporters that people can trust is the key to boosting word of mouth and earned media value organically.

Do something remarkable

Now more than ever, customers know that actions speak louder than words. Doing something worth talking about will help you generate an organic and natural buzz around your brand. Discover and invest in new ways to influence or have an impact on the world around you. By doing something remarkable and newsworthy, you will further strengthen the connection between you and your community. Your customers will feel that they are not only supporting you, but also the good causes for which you advocate. 

Right now, it’s time to be creative and discover new ways to connect with people. Traditional campaigns aren’t working as well as they used to, so investing in new ways to drive brand awareness will help you separate your brand from the rest. Tapping into your community and boosting Earned media is one of the most valuable ways to drive more awareness, engagement, and growth for your brand — organically.

5 Ways To Stay Connected With Your Community While Social Distancing

Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnect. Now more than ever, humans are craving connection. Brands are now inspired to work harder and be more creative to ensure their community they are there for them during a time of isolation and uncertainty. At a time when being physically present isn’t possible, it’s important to keep communities active and involved virtually. We’re here to share a few creative ways to engage your community and stay connected:  

Check-in with your community

Communication is more important than ever before. No matter how big your brand is, it’s necessary to stay in touch with your community and understand how they are being affected. Taking steps to ensure that everyone is safe and feels supported instills greater confidence in your brand. Now is the time to show extra love to those who need it the most right now and nurture existing relationships with your fans, followers, ambassadors, and more.  

Whether it’s through an Instagram story or an email blast, keeping the lines of communication open and asking a simple question about someone’s day can give more information on the wellbeing of your community than you might have thought. Asking questions is one of the best ways to check-in, and creates a greater bond of trust with your brand. 

Maximize your time online 

The best way to ask questions in the time of social distancing is to reach out through online platforms. Social media is one of the most powerful marketing tools, allowing brands to share content that aligns with their ideals and values. With a majority of people receiving their information online, your digital presence is more important than ever. Maximizing your time spent online will build and strengthen relationships with the people in your community. 

For some brands, it can be difficult to move all communication to online platforms. However, there are many different ways to create discussions through your content. Take this time to ask questions and learn more about the people who love your brand and the reasons why they love it. This will help you push out the most relevant content to keep your audience engaged.  

Get creative with content

Social distancing has led to many people endlessly scrolling and consuming a large amount of content all at once. This can make it difficult to find content that is not only relevant, but interesting. You have to get creative with the way you engage your community. Look at the organic content being created around your brand to see what’s working and trending, so you can double down on and make your content strategy more effective. It’s a perfect time for you to experiment with eye-catching content and different ways to communicate your brand values. 

Use different online platforms to create content that inspires your community to get involved.  Some easy but interactive suggestions are to host fun online events or virtual hangouts. Maybe it’s finally time to hold a contest that will encourage customers to interact with you and with each other. Creating an environment where people can enjoy each other’s company is the key. Remember, your goal is to keep people active and involved with your brand.

Ask for feedback

What separates successful brands from the rest of the world? They can adapt to the current situation and the different needs of their community. Listening and changing is truly challenging, so it might require a lot of effort on the brand side. The best way is to start to learn more about what your community loves and hates. Do we share the same values? How can we modify our brand image to serve those needs?

Don’t be afraid to ask your community about the content and activations they want to see and experience more often. The simplest way to get this information is to ask them directly! Invite your community to complete quizzes or surveys across your online platforms. Not only you will be able to use that information to strategize more targeted and effective marketing campaigns, but you will also give your community a voice.

Stay present

Listen to your community. It is important to create an environment where your community feels welcome. Pay attention to the ways your community is interacting with you, and with each other. Ask yourself if there is anything else you can do to make their interaction with your brand better and more personal. 

With change, comes fear and uncertainty. But no matter what you decide to do to stay connected with your community, remember that building brand loyalty should be your priority. Don’t forget to love the customers who already love your brand!

What’s the Difference? Understanding Word of Mouth Marketing

john-schnobrich-2FPjlAyMQTA-unsplashIn a world where the digital connection is essential for growing businesses, word of mouth marketing is becoming more reliable than traditional advertising. But over the years, word of mouth marketing has evolved, and it now takes multiple forms — all of which are similar but apply different approaches to customer acquisition.

Word of mouth marketing is essential in today’s culture of viral content, as its ability to generate buzz far beyond its initial point of contact is immensely efficient. Below are some of the basics to navigating word of mouth marketing in 2020 and beyond so your brand can take advantage of reducing your digital media spend and increasing your lowest CAC channel — organic marketing.

Referral Marketing VS Affiliate Marketing

Referral marketing is a way for brands to incentivize passionate customers in exchange for spreading their love of your brand to their friends and family. This is often done by offering rewards or discounts in exchange for a referral to their friends and family. 

This form of marketing creates a win-win because it greatly benefits both the passionate customer as well as the brand — the customer provides the extra traffic, and the brand provides the customer with types of rewards that drive brand loyalty.

Affiliate marketing relies on third-party brand advocates (who may or may not be customers) — often publishers with a large reach or distribution — to drive customers to you. An affiliate marketer earns a percentage-based commission in accordance with the number of leads, sales, or transactions they are able to generate through link sharing and promotion. No leads or sales = no payment. This form of marketing works as an effective and reliable way to drive extra leads, sales, and data, beyond the brand’s initial marketing research.  

Unlike a customer referral — affiliates must indicate to their following or reader that they have a paid partnership with the brand.

Influencer Marketing VS Partner Marketing

Influencer marketing is similar to affiliate marketing in concept but very different in practice. While affiliate marketing practices use multiple volunteer affiliates with varying followings to generate as much attention as they can within their limited networks, influencer marketing consists of a brand seeking out a singular figurehead with a large social media following to promote the brand to their massive network, typically on a pay-per-post basis. 

It is important to remember that influencer marketing can be incredibly effective if your brand is able to identify relevant influencers that have built an authentic and truly engaged audience. A little advice, be on the lookout for influencer fraud, because it is an issue that must be accounted for.

Partner Marketing, similar to referrals, is all about capitalizing on communities of potential customers that you wouldn’t typically have access to, by utilizing an access point that they already have a relationship with. With Partner Marketing, that access point is another business, and they will be receiving access to your customer base as well. By partnering with another business to run cross-promotions, brands are able to build lasting and mutually beneficial relationships, while boosting their awareness between similar customer bases. 

Traditional advertising has become less and less reliable over the past decade. As consumers become more informed and skeptical of traditional advertising methods, it’s essential for brands to still build more authentic relationships with the consumers they are trying to reach. The strongest way to do that is utilizing word of mouth marketing to capitalize on the extreme interconnectivity that dominates our day to day life. 

Now more than ever, it is essential for brands to cultivate a community effectively, and utilize word of mouth marketing to increase trust and loyalty, while building an authentic relationship with customers.

 

How The Value of Influencer Marketing Has Shifted

Since the initial introduction of the Influencer to the world of marketing, it has been viewed as one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways for brands to drive awareness and expand their audience. The concept of using trusted personas to sell to consumers who already have some level of affinity for those who are selling to them, made perfect sense and seemed to be an almost fool-proof strategy to gain brand awareness. But as Influencer Marketing has evolved, it has become more complex and more expensive. 

Below, you’ll find what you need to know about the current state of Influencer Marketing, as well as the best ways to get the most out of Influencer Marketing in 2020 and beyond

Oversaturation

One of the most prominent issues within Influencer Marketing is oversaturation. Being paid to post to social media has become the new “American dream”, so as the trend has emerged, everyone with an Instagram account has attempted to capitalize on it. 

There are far too many accounts attempting to gain influencer status. Many of these aspiring influencers may have the follower count to support their status, but lack the key trait that is essential to securing returns on investment — actual influence. The value of influencer marketing relies on the credibility and relationship that an influencer has with their audience. This has caused brands to shift their focus to micro and nano influencers, because consumers trust opinions and recommendations from sources they deem personal and authentic — real people

Effectiveness 

High follower count isn’t always congruent with high engagement. Far too many Instagram accounts have inflated follower numbers when compared to the actual reach they offer. These inflated follower counts could be considered “empty calories” with high percentages of the follower accounts being inactive, un-engaged, or simply being paid-for-bots. All of which are worthless to a brand that is trying to generate a thriving and authentic online community. 

Cybersecurity firm Cheq estimates that businesses lost 1.3 billion dollars to Influencer Fraud in 2019, so it’s imperative that when laying out your Influencer Marketing strategy, you’re able to identify the right influencers to get significant value out of your investment. Luckily, the industry is now recognizing the most efficient and cost-effective path forward, which is building more authentic online brand communities.

The Best Way To Work With Influencers

In the past there’s been no true industry standard for how much influencers get paid per post. Traditionally, companies have roughly estimated the value of an influencers reach based off of their follower count, which we now know can’t quite be trusted. 

While companies used to develop relationships directly with their individual influencers, the landscape of Influencer marketing has shifted to a more reliable model, where influencers are working with agencies to find the right brands for them, and vice versa. This new system is much more efficient and reliable for companies and brands as they’re making more manageable payouts to the influencers with a more certain guarantee of the reach and engagement they’ll be receiving in return. In turn, this has developed a new industry standard for how this form of advertisement should be conducted.

What will Influencer Marketing look like beyond 2020?

Despite the recent discoveries of a few glaring flaws, there is still value in to be found in Influencer Marketing. However, like all forms of advertisement, it should be conducted with focus, strategy, and efficiency. As consumers trust traditional advertising less and less, it’s important to look at how to solve the issues within influencer marketing, like effectiveness and fraud. The most authentic way to get people to talk about your brand is to invest in real people. 

Brands should look to build a community of real people who are authentic brand fans. By focusing less on follower count and more on the relationship they have with their community,  the increased ROI will follow naturally. 

A Deeper Connection Between Consumers and Brands: Why User Generated Content Should Be Part of Your Social Strategy

Trust has a significant and direct effect on consumers’ intention to buy. Social media, specifically Instagram, is becoming an increasingly strong Direct To Consumer (DTC) sales channel. With more consumers using social media than ever — 3.5 billion to be exact — it’s important to mobilize the marketing power it provides. 

Beyond the experience a consumer may encounter with a brand through different marketing touch points, social media is a powerful tool because it provides a voice that consumers deem more reputable and trustworthy than a banner ad or billboard. People follow their friends, family, and public figures like celebrities and influencers that all have an influence on what and why they buy. 

As consumers browse social media, the content created by people they follow, begins to inform their opinion and ultimately drives their decision to purchase. Ultimately, for consumers, it creates the sense that they have more control over their own purchasing journey because it feels relatable and personalized. 

Given this, brands have two options. They can choose to place paid-ads in their consumers’ newsfeeds, or they can enlist their brand fans to create content that reflects a positive consumer opinion of the brand or product. The choice is clear, given that user generated content (UGC) affects 90% of shoppers’ purchasing decisions. This type of content also tends to be the most engaging, compared to paid-ads. 

This is why brands are relying on UGC to support their word of mouth marketing strategies. People trust real people and real opinions. Especially given the rise of the Influencer (and with it Influencer fraud) over the past several years, social media has provided a platform for brands to heavily influence buying decisions using UGC.

With social media quickly becoming a strong DTC sales channel, more brands are deciding to  invest in UGC. As more content is created and engaged with, the brands gain more earned media — ultimately the most credible form of content for the brand because it is being created by highly satisfied customers. This content, when given increased distribution via social media, will drive higher conversions than any other paid channel. 

According to a study in AdAge, brands that replace their traditional paid media with earned media see their conversion jump from 1% to 5% or higher. Still, many brands are still paying rent to Facebook and Google to drive clicks when they should be focusing on content strategy. Consumer opinion can’t be bought — brands should be investing more in relationships with their brand advocates, as it is ultimately what drives earned media and in turn, deeper connections with the brand and lasting ROI.

UGC is valuable because it broadens the reach of a brand in the most organic way. Consumers want to hear from people with authentic perspectives, who have already experienced a product. 83% of people trust recommendations from someone they know. When a majority of consumers live on social media, it makes sense to engage active users of your product to create and share content about their experience with it — particularly when more than half of these posts are based on a positive experience with a brand or product. UGC humanizes a brand and allows them to create deeper, more emotional connections with consumers and should be used as a way to maintain human touch between brand and consumer. 

Ultimately, UGC humanizes a brand and allows them to forge stronger connections with consumers, and word of mouth plays an integral role in introducing those connections. Having a broad reach with multiple voices advocating for a brand allows them to cultivate stronger relationships with their customers. In an age where social media encourages and fosters consumer trust, it’s important for brands to activate word of mouth through their social media channels in a way that resonates more deeply with consumers. 

Are You a Victim of Influencer Fraud?

$1.3 billion. That’s how much influencer marketing fraud will cost brands in 2019. Influencer fraud can do more than just financial damage to your brand. It can also weaken your brand’s reputation and affect its credibility. Fake influencers seem to be legit at first glance, but their biggest identifier is that their followers are almost entirely fake accounts or bots. It’s important to identify some of the key warning signs that you might be experiencing fraud. 

Some warning signs of fraudulent activity are: 

  • Recently created accounts with tons of followers, but very little engagement
  • Unusual spikes in followers or engagement soon after a post 
  • Generic comments that have nothing to do with the post 

This is why more and more brands are shifting their focus away from influencers to ambassadors, who typically don’t have the same high follower count, but instead have a much more engaged audience. Brand ambassadors are real people who already love your brand and want to spread the word about your products or services to whoever will listen to them. 

Ambassadors are experts on your brand, and rather than searching for them through databases or hiring agencies to find them for you, they’re often living right in your backyard. Your employees, interns, partners, and existing customers are already engaging with your brand on a daily basis and they make great ambassadors. And you already know they are credible people who post authentic content about your brand. 

The numbers don’t lie — it’s time to make the shift away from focusing on follower count, and more on the things that actually drive results: organic content creation coming from real people your audience trusts.

Micro-influencers: the New Celebrity Endorsements?

Influencer marketing operates by incentivizing key individuals to promote a product. These individuals are usually famous celebrities who are being compensated generously for posting on Instagram or Twitter.  Because of this, consumers often filter out and ignore what they perceive as disingenuous endorsements blasted to millions of followers. Micro-influencers can break this negative trend by generating engaging, honest recommendations and advertisements to a specific group of loyal followers.

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