Leah Spector – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:19:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-e8d7fa0a-3b0e-4069-91b1-78460a4d4af1-150x150.png Leah Spector – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 Pinterest Marketing Checklist: How to Grow an Engaged, Ready-to-Buy Community on Pinterest https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/grow-your-pinterest-audience/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/grow-your-pinterest-audience/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 14:00:19 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=16611 As a passionate ecommerce professional, you want to do everything you can to create an amazing brand, build a loyal…]]>

As a passionate ecommerce professional, you want to do everything you can to create an amazing brand, build a loyal fanbase and nurture lifetime customers. Small touches from personalized thank you notes to surprise-and-delight opportunities on your social media channels can help make a difference for beloved brands. But as a human with only 24 hours in the day, many times you are forced to focus solely on activities which drive revenue. When forced to prioritize fulfilling orders or creating a new supply-chain strategy, it makes sense that social media marketing often falls into the bucket of “nice to have” but “not enough time to execute effectively.”

With the rise of social commerce, however, many social media efforts can double down on both brand-building and revenue-driving results, making those Pinterest marketing tactics all the more efficient. Last week, we announced that BigCommerce merchants in the U.S. can now easily sell on Pinterest with Buyable Pins. This means retailers can reach more than 100 million users with posts promoting ready-to-buy products, all while building a visual social media community.

READ MORE: 8 Incredibly Useful Product Photography Tools and Resources for Online Stores

Especially if you’re an online retailer that sells apparel, jewelry, beauty, accessories or homewares, Pinterest provides you with an opportunity to attract and retain customers and build a highly-engaged, shopping-ready community around your products. After all, according according to a broad survey of U.S. consumers conducted by BigCommerce and research firm Kelton Global, 16% of shoppers say they would purchase directly from Pinterest, given the opportunity. Suddenly, marketing on Pinterest doesn’t seem like such a luxury. Instead, it’s an opportunity to reach target consumers who are already in the purchasing mindset.

And if you implement Buyable Pins, Pinterest isn’t just a social media channel for digital window shopping, but a whole new sales channel and opportunity to reach shoppers who maybe wouldn’t have heard of your brand otherwise. The following Pinterest marketing tips will help you engage your audience and increase sales in the process.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

But how can Pinterest support your overall ecommerce growth? Take it from Michael Yamartino, the head of commerce over at Pinterest:

“Ecommerce growth will likely outpace brick-and-mortar retail growth for a long time. Social commerce and distributed commerce, like what we’re doing, will help drive that,” said Yamartino. “It’s a small percentage right now because it’s a new channel — marketers are still figuring out how to leverage it and optimize for it. It’s at the fledgling stage, but over the next few years, it will start growing and become meaningful for retailers.”

Regardless of ecommerce opportunities, growing an engaged audience is still key to success on the channel. Like any social media platform, Pinterest is always evolving and best practices will constantly change. Pinterest is one of the two most visual social media platforms, meaning unique and high-quality content plus fan engagement will always be a requirement for success.

A few basic best practices that will never change:

  • Make sure your product photography is crystal clear and mix things up with both straight product shots and photos showing your products in action as well.
  • Repinning or liking your fan’s content, whether they’re posting about you or something else they’re passionate about, is always a good idea — foster goodwill with Pinterest users early so they look forward to your interaction and eventually look to your boards for other great content.
  • Pay attention to what’s trending, what your competitors are posting and where your brand can add value. Offer content that’s educational, helpful or beautiful with a purpose — never post for the sake of posting.

Drive Referral Traffic & Distribution Using Pinterest

Pinterest is notorious for being not only a social media platform, but also a powerful search engine. Users can browse their feeds to see what comes along, or they can search using keywords to find something specific.

You can ensure you get your content included in these search results by mastering the following Pinterest basics:

  • Use a Pinterest business account to get extra functionality that individual accounts don’t get, including the Save It button on your website, Pinterest Analytics, Promoted Pins and Rich Pins.
  • Confirm your website. This will place your logo on all of your pins and any pins people save from your website.
  • Create images in appropriate dimensions. You can also always outsource your design needs. Agencies like MilkWhale will take on solo projects for a fraction of the cost, and seriously increase the chances that your content will be shared widely on Pinterest.
  • Use detailed descriptions with relevant keywords –– and, yes, hashtags. Start with your product descriptions from your site, but feel free to jazz them up a bit if they could use some excitement. Put highly-trafficked keywords toward the beginning of your description to optimize for what users are searching for most.
  • Use unique and descriptive titles for your boards and your Pinner name, too.
  • Link your image to the specific product page, not just your homepage. If you’re not using Buyable Pins, this ensures users can click directly to your product they’re interested in.

Once you have the basic setup complete, plan out valuable and beautiful content that will enable you to Pin consistently. Try for at least five pins per day.

Pin your products to get them distributed, but don’t forget your audience has many more interests outside of your brand. Research your target audience and look at what some of them are posting to their own boards. Many Pinterest users browse the channel daily, so serving them fresh content that adds value to their own boards –– like helpful tips, recipes or fun facts –– will help get your Pins seen.

Bring Users into the Creative Process with Mood Boards

When you do have high quality content ready, there’s no limit to how creative you can get to showcase your products in your own boards. Consider ‘mood boards’ to put your goods front-and-center while showing what inspired you to produce them in the first place.

Jewelry maker Kendra Scott does this well. Mixing product photography, photos of her jewelry in action and inspirational shots that don’t include products at all, the Summer 2016 Collection board is a summer dream that inspires viewers to buy and visit a tropical location wearing their new jewels at the same time.

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Engage with Contests & Campaigns

Running contests and campaigns on your Pinterest account can also help you grow your audience more quickly. Pinterest made “Pin It to Win It” contests, where users simply repin one of a brand’s pins to enter, against the rules recently –– but that doesn’t mean you can’t tap into the power of prizes and incentives to grow engagement and followers.

Pinterest’s contest rules make it such that your contests aren’t spammy and serve to produce more high quality content on the channel. It is against the rules to require users to repin your own content, rather, you should encourage creativity by asking users to create their own boards to show what inspires them around a certain idea.

For example, home and lifestyle publication Country Living launched the “Dream Bedroom Pinterest Contest” to get their fans thinking about their ideal home bedroom design. The rules were simple –– just pin furniture and decor ideas to their own boards titled “My Country Living Dream” –– and the winning board was selected by a panel of judges looking for creativity. This tactic created a ton of user generated content that got users in the decorating (and purchasing) mindset, not to mention generating boards titled with search terms relevant to the brand.

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Your Turn

All right –– it’s time for your brand to take the step, and we’re here to help you work smarter, not harder. Below is a quick hit checklist to get you or your social media manager up to speed on exactly what to do to begin growing a ready-to-purchase audience through Pinterest.

pinterest marketing checklist

Remember, with Buyable Pins now available, your Pinterest marketing efforts serve two business goals: building an engaged community and driving conversion.

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Influential Social Media Trends and Platform Updates to Test in 2016 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/influential-social-media-trends-and-platform-updates-to-test-in-2016/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/influential-social-media-trends-and-platform-updates-to-test-in-2016/#comments Tue, 19 Jan 2016 09:57:57 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=15757 The year is off to a quick start, and the industry has already seen many noteworthy developments within the social…]]>

The year is off to a quick start, and the industry has already seen many noteworthy developments within the social media and social commerce channels. Given the social landscape is constantly evolving, it’s important for all brands to identify trends, strategize on which of those trends they can capitalize and ultimately prove out ROI and increase brand awareness.

To help retailers do this, here are a few trends I think will continue to gain steam and have impact on how Bigcommerce approaches telling our story on social platforms this year. Here’s to hoping this inspires you or your social media manager to strategize on how they can best tell your brand story on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and beyond.

Individual tactics always depend on what makes sense for your goals, target audience and content.
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Keep in mind, you should experiment with some of these social media trends, some you shouldn’t. Individual tactics should always depend on what makes sense for your goals, target audience and content. This is a best practice for all brands on social media; just because something is a trend doesn’t mean it is the right opportunity for your brand voice. However, trends can spark new ideas or thinking concerning how to use social channels to increase content distribution and social growth.

The Year of Native Video

Video continues to be the most rapidly-growing content type across channels, and visually driven channels like Instagram and YouTube are still growing in popularity. For example, Instagram is expected to reach 2 billion users in 2016 (currently at around 400 million).

Instagram is expected to reach 2 billion users in 2016.
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According to Mark Zuckerberg, 50% of Facebook users watch at least one video natively on the platform every day. To maximize views, brands are increasingly producing high-quality content that encourage user engagement and even direct purchases. Consider Kate Spade’s shoppable #MissAdventure videos that each have garnered more than 2 million views. They are effective because the high-production value makes the videos memorable and they offer viewers the option to “shop the video” (buy products that appear in the video) at the end. Here’s what’s new:

  • Facebook Live: This native feature for allows for instantly sharing live video using the Facebook platform, competing with YouTube, Periscope and Snapchat. Facebook’s powerful platform and active user base have led to widespread adoption of native videos, and Facebook Live will likely see similar adoption rates and dominate competitors, given that it doesn’t require learning a new ecosystem or any action other than hitting the share button. Facebook is also testing 360 Video, an Oculus-powered virtual reality feature that allows users to share immersive videos from a 360-degree view.
  • Instagram additions: On top of Boomgerang GIFs, layout collages and Hyperlapse timelapses, Instagram has permanently added “Spotlight Complilations,” vertical slideshows curated by the Instagram team to showcase the best videos relevant to a theme, such as “Odd Couple Animal Videos.” This feature was tested for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and winter holidays, but is now producing at least one new video each day. This feature can be found in the Explore section and is meant to increase user engagement and new content discoverability. This is Instagram’s play against Snapchat’s Live Stories and Twitter’s Moments; however, in many respects it is more engagement-friendly as users can easily follow the creators of the featured videos.
  • Snapchat: I would be remiss not to mention Snapchat, as its success has influenced much of the video-sharing craze since 2013. The platform has now reached 7 billion daily video views (amazing as Facebook’s video views are 8 billion, with a user base 10x that of Snapchat’s), and while it doesn’t provide a way to trace ads to sales, it does provide advertisers with invaluable data including number of views, number of times people used the branded filter, and how often people swiped to see the branded filter. Snapchat recently closed its lens filter business to focus on building out its ad technology and an API, so don’t be surprised when their revenue from advertising (and valuation) surges.
  • YouTube supporting HDR: Announced at CES this year, YouTube will now support HDR (high dynamic range) content, high-quality video that is a step up from HD in terms of color and definition. Netflix and Amazon are the only other services that support this content. YouTube also supports 360-degree video experiences.

Twitter: Innovating to Grow

Jack Dorsey rejoined as Twitter’s CEO last fall in an effort to breathe new life into the company. While the social platform’s monthly active user base has grown to 320 million —an 11% YoY increase— it still trails Facebook’s 1.55 billion in terms of global reach. Since Dorsey’s return, there have been several updates to Twitter’s family of apps to try to encourage use, including:

Twitter’s monthly active user base hit 320 million — an 11% YoY increase.
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  • Beyond 140: Dorsey has reportedly green-lighted a plan to expand tweet counts to up to 10,000 characters, the same as Direct Messages. With a targeted launch date at the end of Q1, expanded tweet counts aim to increase user engagement while keeping the experience the same. Twitter is testing a version of the product that would keep tweets to 140 characters with a click-to-expand option. Similar efforts (larger images, more content) have decreased engagement in the past, so time will only tell how this new effort pans out.
  • Conversational Ads & Brand Enthusiast Gallery: Twitter is testing new ad products to grow its Promoted Tweets usage.
    • Conversational ads work by including call to action buttons with customizable hashtags that encourage consumers to respond to and share content from an ad campaign.
    • Twitter is also testing selling user content generated on Twitter for brands to feature in their campaigns. Legal waters are a little murky as original users are not paid if their content is featured, so for now Twitter is covering its bases with user approval via Direct Message.
  • In-stream Periscope viewing: It is now possible on iOS to view Periscope live content within your Twitter stream, without having to use the Periscope application. This is coming soon for desktop and Android users, as well. Previously, Periscope content was limited to those who had already downloaded the app. This is a game-changer because now anyone in Twitter can view live video content by simply tapping a tweet containing a Periscope link. “This is the first time where it looks like Twitter owns Periscope,” remarked a writer on Social Media Examiner.
  • Moments: The day after Dorsey was reappointed in October 2015, Twitter debuted Moments, which attempted to highlight and build upon Twitter’s strength in engagement around live events in real time. Moments is a tab within Twitter that feeds dedicated news streams with content from a bevy of high-profile media brands. Although a brand can purchase Sponsored Moments, a price tag of $1 million makes it out of reach for most, and user engagement around this feature since October has been low.

I’m a big fan of Twitter so I’m truly looking forward to seeing the platform grow exponentially again in 2016. As a user, I am, however, worried new character counts or even a chronological timeline will make Twitter lose some of its personality. Twitter is a good company to watch if you’re looking to pivot your own brand strategy later this year.

Last but not Least: Social Commerce

I don’t need to convince this audience that buy buttons in social media channels are an important trend and opportunity to further drive brands’ omnichannel efforts — what many are now calling “contextual commerce” or “unified commerce.”

I’ll give you some statistics anyway. According to GlobalWebIndex, 37% of users follow their favorite brands on social media, 30% use social media to research products and 10% say a buy button on a social network would make them more likely to purchase a product.

READ MORE: Already a Bigcommerce customer? Sign up to sell on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

How does that add up in reality? This holiday season, social sales accounted for just 1.8% of total online sales, and a 1.9% number from 2014 suggests the trend isn’t catching on. However, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram shopping functionalities are still in their infancies, and the consumer awareness for these capabilities just aren’t there yet. Pinterest has about 60 million Buyable Pins live — still small compared to Amazon’s hundreds of millions of products. Although adoption is low at this point, experts say social commerce could fix the “conversion gap” between mobile browsing and purchase.

Although adoption is low, experts say social commerce could fix the conversion gap.
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Kirsten Knipp gives the window-shopping analogy in her Gartner blog, concluding social media “is a different discovery vehicle than Amazon. It’s about serendipity.” That is to say, while the ROI of social is not proven, it could very well attract new buyers and encourage more impulse purchases than the everyday purchases on Amazon.

What social media trends is your brand thinking of taking on this year? Let us know in the comments below.

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Instagram Marketing: Organic and Paid Strategies to Maximize ROI https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-to-use-organic-and-paid-instagram-strategies-to-maximize-channel-roi/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-to-use-organic-and-paid-instagram-strategies-to-maximize-channel-roi/#respond Tue, 10 Nov 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=15270 Instagram is quickly replacing Facebook as the advertising channel of choice for small and midsized retailers, with many reporting it…]]>

Instagram is quickly replacing Facebook as the advertising channel of choice for small and midsized retailers, with many reporting it as the highest engaged platform as a percentage of audience (some 7x higher, according to experts). And, with more than 400 million active users, Instagram better offers what other social channels attempt to recreate via algorithms: easy-to-discover, authentic content.

As Instagram marketing becomes an important spoke in the ecommerce acquisition wheel, it’s helpful to know how far it’s come — and how you can use Instagram to increase revenue, starting today.

Facebook’s acquistion of the platform in 2012 was once considered bold. At the time, Instagram had no revenue and experts were wary about the growing, but still relatively small, social network. But what Instagram did right in its early days –– no algorithm giving preference to user behavior or ad spend –– Facebook’s ownership and subsequent cash flow allowed them to continue.

Instagram user engagement is often 7x higher than that of Facebook.
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Instagram didn’t officially offer advertising for brands until 2013, and didn’t open up those advertising options to all brands until 2015. It is safe to say that Instagram’s revenue model has been a slow roll out, first earning user love by avoiding advertising and algorithms and then subtly pushing relevant, platform-specific ads.

Indeed, Instagram marketing walks a thin line, delicately balancing user preference and the need to profit. This has allowed the platform to become a safe-haven from the constantly changing technology and usage best practices of other networks.

Consider the behavior of the Instagram audience, for instance. Users curate their feeds to include a mixture of friends, brands, art and entertainment, often using the social channel as a vehicle to discover new ideas and products from all over the world via hashtags and trending topics. Users engage with content on their feeds, too –– at least more so than they do their Facebook feeds. Instagram has no algorithm for bumping up posts or forcing something into your feed. Instead, users curate their feeds –– and posts show up in reverse-chronological order, meaning if you miss something, you’ll either have to scroll or go directly to that person or brand’s page.

Instagram currently has a lower level of banner blindness.
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And if there happens to be a brand narrative attached to a post, many users see it as an opportunity for them to learn about something new. In that sense, Instagram users seem to be less jaded and therefore more open-minded than users of other platforms, where banner blindness takes place.

It is this authentic and discoverable environment that gives brands the opportunity to tell their story to a captive audience. Typically, brands in the fashion, beauty, entertainment and home and garden industries have seen the most success on Instagram –– but that’s changing.

In fact, automotive overtook retail in the top three verticals on Instagram, and even the growth of insurance brands on Instagram outpaced the more historically successful verticals, according to Spredfast’s State of Social Report.

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Audi outpaced the auto pack with 2.8 million followers and user generated content strategies to get fans sharing.

So, Instagram is for everyone. It’s where millennials and their younger counterparts converge, and where brands can build engaged audiences for the long-haul. But for those scaling brands just now looking to build a following on Instagram, the common roadblock is in figuring out what will do well, how often to post, what to say, what to hashtag and overall how to use Instagram to generate results similar to those big box brands. After all, Instagram engagement isn’t just about likes and comments. Building relationships and brand loyalty, not to mention driving web traffic and conversions, are the bottom line boosting perks of investing your time and effort to Instagram.

Automotive overtook retail in the top three verticals on Instagram.
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There are a number of online merchants quietly taking advantage of this burgeoning channel. Below are a few strategies and best practices you can use to start improving your Instagram marketing presence today.

Make Customer Interactions Actionable

Beautiful content is great, but you also need to ensure you have a community management strategy in place to keep the conversation going. Because Instagram users are more likely to comment, use these interactions as a way to get to know your customers. Brands should keep a close eye on their comment section for valuable feedback or even just an opportunity to get to know a customer.

“It’s not just getting followers; it’s about getting those followers to talk to you,” says Athelia Woolley LeSueur, co-founder and CEO of Shabby Apple, a vintage-style women’s apparel company.

Instagram is definitely the most effective and profitable channel for Shabby Apple.
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Athelia believes “Instagram is definitely the most effective” channel, and much more profitable than other channels for her clothing brand. Because her smaller community of roughly 87,000 Instagram fans is more likely to care and engage than her 167,000 Facebook fans, she gains direct customer feedback and builds customer relationships that eventually lead to sales.

When followers do start talking to you, she says, make it a habit to respond to each and every comment. If you receive a comment like, “I love this skirt!” take it a step further by responding with something that encourages additional interaction, for instance “Thank you! What kind of event would you wear it to? It’s one of my go-tos for summer weddings!” By continuing the dialogue, you’ll learn more about what the market desires while creating a genuine relationship with a potential customer.

Use Influencer Marketing and Contests to Drive Brand Awareness

Messages are heard a lot more loudly when disseminated by someone people admire, and this is especially true on Instagram. As even this social channel becomes increasingly crowded, it’s important to find ambassadors who will help share your brand with their relevant, usually highly impassioned audiences.

You can leverage influencers in a number of ways, both paid and organic. Try reaching out to some of the most popular Instagram accounts in your vertical to ask if they’ll do a cross-promotional campaign with you –– like teaming up for a joint giveaway or user-generated content contest. Possibilities are endless, but the more creative and mutually beneficial, the more likely they are to participate.

Messages are heard a lot more loudly when disseminated by someone people admire.
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For example, Shabby Apple teamed up with popular blogger A Beautiful Mess to promote the giveaway of a free trip to Palm Springs. To be eligible, users had to follow both Instagram accounts, and to add a virality factor, tag three friends in the comments section. Bonus points were awarded if they commented with which Shabby Apple skirt they would bring, looping in the product aspect to a branded contest.

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Shabby Apple teamed up with popular blogger @abeautifulmess to promote a joint vacation giveaway.

Test for Engagement and ROI

There are many third-party apps and measurement tools to experiment with for Instagram. For starters, use a service like Iconosqaure to get insights into what your audience likes including ideal times to post, your most popular content to-date and even which filters they like best. You can also search trending hashtags, and find the most used hashtags relevant to your brand.

Use a service like Iconosqaure to get insights into what your audience likes.
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There are also tools that help increase ecommerce traffic and conversions. Beauty subscription originator Birchbox uses a tool called ‘have2haveit,’ a service that allows an Instagram user to purchase the latest featured product from the Birchbox feed. Clicking on that link directs users to a product page, where they can purchase and even view additional content related to that product. (And now BigCommerce merchants also have access to Instagram Shopping, which allows you to directly tag your products in images and link them to corresponding product pages.)

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Note: Have2haveit is a third party app that may not be needed anymore now that Instagram advertising is live and supports clickable product photos. However, if you’re serious about driving the most ROI, try testing both options and seeing which gets you best results for the best price.

Instagram Ads: Coming to a Facebook Dashboard Near You

In the past, Instagram has been silo-ed as a brand awareness only play. This was due to the lack of advertising options, clickable photos and only having a bio link out as a way to track any site clickbacks. All of this has now changed.

The recent ad platform rollout has opened Instagram up to millions of businesses of all sizes around the world. With the powerful targeting capabilities of Facebook, and the high engagement perks of Instagram, the new tool marries the best of both platforms with three ad options: images, 30-second videos and carousel ads. Each are clickable posts that include a call-to-action button that allows the advertiser to drive traffic directly to a product or offering, all controlled from your Facebook Power Editor.

Facebook targeting plus Instagram engagement enables us to have maximum impact with each viewer.
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“The ability to combine Facebook’s treasure trove of user data and targeting ability with Instagram’s visually driven, highly engaged audience allows marketers to connect with consumers with much greater levels of sophistication,” says Kyle Bunch, managing director of social at marketing agency R/GA. “It enables us to effectively translate our brand story to have the maximum impact with each individual viewer.”

In recent years, Facebook’s content algorithm has made high levels of unpaid engagement near impossible for some brand pages. We may see a similar need for advertising boosts on Instagram soon. While still extremely high overall, engagement as a percent of audience and audience growth rates are already slowing. With 400 million monthly active users and more than 80 million photos posted per day, it is becoming very difficult to get organic growth and engagement on Instagram. This makes the platform ripe for advertising, and Instagram has announced that they are seeing “significant demand” for ads, particularly those in the ecommerce, travel, entertainment and retail industries.

That said, it’s a great idea to test Instagram advertising now while costs are still low. Some reports cite only $0.03 per video view, compared to $2 on Facebook. With the new ability to target these viewers within highly engaged communities, Instagram’s existing cool factor may just help it out-sell its parent company.

Here’s how to set up Instagram advertising:

  1. Create your photo or video and caption, adhering to Facebook and Instagram policies
  2. Log into Facebook and access the Power Editor in the “Manage Ads” section
  3. Create your campaign, deciding how you want to pay (Buying Type; i.e., Auction) and what the goal of your campaign is (Objective; i.e., Website Traffic)
  4. Name your ad set. Try a name that makes identifying it later easy. For example, If you’re targeting an ad about a skirt to women ages 18 or older, “18+ Female – Skirt – Website Traffic” makes sense.
  5. (Optional): Set a spending limit for your ad campaign. If you set a limit, your ad sets in the campaign will stop once you’ve reached your spending limit. This is the most efficient way to set and forget your ads, analyzing results after everyone has run its course.
  6. Complete the details for the ad by setting your preferences for the campaign schedule, audience (who you’ll target), placement (mobile, desktop, etc.), optimization, pricing and tracking pixels.
  7. Click upload changes to complete your new ad.
  8. Report on results to keep costs down and ROI up. Feel free to tweak an ad if you think it’s underperforming, or A/B test two versions at the same time to optimize.
  9. Note: Be sure to follow rules and best practices as outlined on Instagram’s support center.

In all, Instagram is an engagement powerhouse that is even more relevant to brands now that ads are rolling out. However, don’t forget the best practices of being authentic and real to attract an audience — no matter if you’re earning or paying for eyeballs.

Photo: Instagram Google+ page

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Show & Tell: How Social Media Authenticity Creates Community and Customers https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/show-tell-how-social-media-authenticity-creates-community-and-customers/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/show-tell-how-social-media-authenticity-creates-community-and-customers/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 16:41:33 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=12600 Whether you feel social media is a minor piece of your marketing mix or a significant part of your B2C…]]>

Whether you feel social media is a minor piece of your marketing mix or a significant part of your B2C business plan, you’ve likely at least accepted it is a must-have in your online selling toolkit.

While only 33% of social media users in the U.S. follow brands (more on followers here), a whopping 47% of those say Facebook is the greatest influence on their purchases. Everything from passively observing products in friends’ posts, to clicking on a specifically targeted ad in their timelines can influence buyers’ decisions, and as such many consumers have accepted brands as part of their social media experience.

Many businesses have accepted that reality as well. Facebook has added 10 million small business pages just this year. Instagram has launched clickable photos for advertisers. Twitter is testing its buy button. And, we now have the first completely shoppable social network, launched by an e-tailer no less.


Old Navy Instagram

But, let’s take a step back. Only 33% of social users follow brands. What’s more, organic post reach (how much of a fanbase actually sees a brand’s social posts) has dropped from to 16% to just 2% in the last year thanks to Facebook’s 2015 algorithm update. Some users have started to skip over brand posts just as they ignore advertising in commercials and billboards.

A whopping 47% of social media fans say Facebook is the greatest influence on their purchases.
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So the question is, how do you create meaningful social media channels that increase brand loyalty and, ultimately, influence purchase decisions? Despite never-ending algorithm changes, additions of social selling features and entirely new platforms altogether, creating and maintaining a true community around your brand still depends on one simple thing: social media authenticity.

Hone Your Voice with Storytelling

What does it mean to be authentic on social media, when, in the long run, you’re ultimately trying to convert fans into buyers? YouTube influencer Michelle Phan’s speech on social media and sincerity at SXSW Interactive 2015 comes to mind:

“The social media landscape has changed a lot, but content and authenticity should remain constant — people will know if you’re just trying to sell them something,” said Phan, whose beauty and lifestyle YouTube channel has over 7.5 million subscribers. “[The millennial] generation grew up with TV commercials and got tired of seeing a 22-year-old model trying to sell us anti-aging cream. That’s why we went online –– to see the real story.”

The social media landscape has changed a lot, but content and authenticity should remain constant.
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Developing your voice through honest and engaging storytelling is a natural way to build an authentic brand personality. Instead of simply posting product links and promotions, don’t be afraid to share content that inspires, motivates and informs.

To do this, take on the persona of your ideal customer and think about what would make them hit that share button. For example, check out online store Josie Maran’s Twitter account. It is run by Josie herself and shares inspirational imagery, throwbacks to her early career days and even posts to crowdsourced product ideas. That community can get a sense of the life stories and events that inspire her makeup line and why natural beauty is healthy and important in today’s world –– and to Josie.

In all, customers want a two-way dialogue with the real personality behind the brands, and this is a good thing. After all, it’s easier to be yourself than anyone else. Less advertising, less marketing and more honesty. That is today’s social media success story.

The Three Rules of Social

Owning a meaningful online presence requires knowing what your fans want out of your social channels, and in turn, offering content that illustrates how your service or product fits into their lives. Unfortunately, according to Justin Foster, branding author and strategist at Foster Thinking, there is no scientific formula that proves what will and won’t work for your communities. Justin’s only three rules of social? Don’t be boring, don’t be stupid and don’t be a jerk.

“A brand used to be made of advertising, then it was the product,” says Foster. “Now, a brand can be defined as the customer experience as a whole, and social media is absolutely a piece of that puzzle. If a customer isn’t satisfied with your brand’s experience, they will complain on your channels, or worse, go elsewhere.”

If a customer isn’t satisfied with their experience, they’ll go elsewhere.
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To keep fans interested, create content with high nutritional value that always informs or entertains your audience instead of just adding to the noise –– more people will amplify your content and as a result, help build your community for you. Take a look at the Facebook page of the denim and apparel store Rock Revival. Scroll down the timeline and you’ll see their featured brand-sponsored “Showroom Sessions” music events, artist interviews and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. They boast over 450,000 fans and high engagement metrics, especially comments and shares –– a strong indicator that fans find the content not only relevant to their lives, but interesting and share-worthy.

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Tap Into the Voices Around You

An often fun, yet daunting, aspect of social media authenticity is allowing customer feedback and interpretation of your brand to help form the community. Sourcing inspiration from your own customers and influencers is a great way to fine tune your brand voice and keep a pulse on their content preferences.

Metallic tattoo makers Flash Tattoos does a beautiful job of telling their brand story with photos, which are often user-generated or reposts of celebrity posts. The product is front and center much of the time, but the photos from all over the world are a narrative on the adventurous and independent women who wear them.

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Beyonce wearing Flash Tattoos at Coachella, anyone?

Of course, not everyone can showcase pop stars endorsing their brand, so keep a close eye on photos, product reviews and comments your fans post. You could find inspiration for your next Instagram hit or customer testimony for your website. Plus, showcasing others’ content makes them more likely to become brand advocates because you made them feel special, heard and appreciated.

Overall, be bold in telling your brand story and give your fans something they’ll want to talk about. Consider your end goal for social channels. Do you want to drive a few single purchases, or do you want consumers to embrace your brand as an integral part of their lives and potentially become loyal customers and brand advocates for many years to come? Personally, I’d choose the latter.

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