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In a World of Diminishing Trust, Data-Driven Marketers Can Turn the Tide

0
This post was originally published on this site

Trusting Hands

My first encounter with marketing data malpractice came at a young age. I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on at the time, but my dad loves to tell the story. As I’ve gotten older, the humor and timeless relevance of this anecdote have struck me more and more.

It was the mid-90s. We received a piece of mail at our house addressed to Lucy Nelson. It was a credit card offer from one of the industry’s heavy hitters. Nothing out of the norm so far, right?

Here’s the problem: Lucy was no longer alive.

And the bigger problem: Lucy was not a human. She was our dog.

As it turns out, my older brother had been cited by an officer at a nearby park many years earlier for walking Lucy without a leash. When asked to give a name, he stuttered out the Golden Retriever’s, along with our family surname. Somehow “Lucy Nelson” ended up in a city database and the credit card company had plucked it out to add to its mailing list. Ultimately, this resulted in our dearly departed dog being pitched a deluxe platinum card.

Woof.

Flash-forward 20-some years. It’s a different world now. The rudimentary practice of collecting names and addresses from public databases seems so quaint in the Age of Big Data. Businesses and institutions now have the ability to gather comprehensive insights about people, both in aggregate and at an individual level.

For the general populace, this can feel unnerving. And unfortunately, almost everyone reading this has experienced some breach of trust when it comes to corporations or government and personal data.

But for marketers, the sheer volume of information now readily available presents a significant opportunity to take our profession to all new heights. By getting it right, we can help stem the tide of rising consumer wariness.

A World of Distrust

In 2017, for the first time since being introduced almost two decades ago, the Edelman Trust Barometer found a decline in consumer trust toward business, media, government, and NGOs to “do what is right.” That’s bad. And even worse: the organization’s Trust Index didn’t rebound in the 2018 study, released in January.

2018 Edelman Trust Barometer

“A World of Distrust,” Edelman has dubbed it in 2018. And who can blame folks for losing faith? These days it can feel like the only major news story that isn’t shrouded in doubt is when Equifax leaks the personal information of 150 million people.

In such an environment, it’s hard to not to squirm when learning that your Amazon Alexa, and even your smartphone, is listening to you pretty much at all times.

While apprehension is understandable, these aren’t people spying on us; they are robotic algorithms collecting data in efforts to understand us and better serve us.

As marketers, we can play a major role in showing people the benefits of a data-focused marketplace. Customers rightfully have high expectations of our ability to offer high-quality tailored experiences, and we need to follow through. It’s an historic opportunity.

As marketers, we can play a major role in showing people the benefits of a data-focused marketplace. – @NickNelsonMN #CX #DataDrivenMarketing Click To Tweet

Connecting the Dots

Our CEO Lee Odden recently wrote this in a blog about data creating better customer experiences: “One of the universal truths that we’ve operated under at TopRank Marketing,” he explained. “Is about the power of information specific to customers that are actively searching for solutions.”

In that post, Lee wrote about his experience searching online for a portable battery charger and then being served ads for purple mattresses. That’s the kind of thing that drives me crazy. As Lee notes: “The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand and optimize customer experiences?”

The consequences of missing the mark are very real. A few years ago LoyaltyOne conducted a survey of 2,000 U.S. and Canadian customers on the subjects of data collection and privacy. Among the findings: only 35% were accepting of retailers using cookies to track their online behavior and just 27% were cool with location-based offers.

How much less widespread resistance might we be seeing against these tactics if they were being utilized more effectively?  

The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand & optimize customer experiences? – @leeodden #CX #DataDrivenMarketing Click To Tweet

The Data-Driven Marketer’s Imperative

The stakes are high. We need to piece the puzzle together correctly. If marketers and advertisers can start consistently delivering the sort of customized content and recommendations that data empower us to provide, it’ll go a long way toward restoring customer faith.

We should be using this information to optimize, not traumatize!

Among the biggest areas for improvement I can see, from the perspective of both a marketer and customer:

  • Cut down on data fragmentation and organizational silos. This issue is abundantly common and extremely damaging. The “garbage in, garbage out” adage will never cease to be true. Make the necessary investments to unify your data and enhance the customer journey from attract to engage to convert and every step in between.
  • Be more transparent. Location-based tracking and other oft-used practices would be much less irksome if they didn’t feel so sneaky. Inform customers when you’re gathering info and why. Commit to opt-in policies wherever possible.
  • Follow the principles of the “virtuous cycle.” LoyaltyOne CEO Bryan Pearson suggests that building trust is tantamount to developing face-to-face relationships. “In the beginning, we share a little. Then, once we show that we can be responsible with what the customer has shared, he or she will reveal a little more. And gradually the relationship deepens. This crawl-walk-run approach to sharing information is a sensible way for us to proceed in data collection and use. After all, as long as customer information is used to enhance the customer experience, taking small steps along the way can lead to big things.”

Data has come a long way since the days of sending credit card offers to dead dogs. Marketers, let’s make sure every campaign we create is reflecting this progress.

We should be using the data & information we have to optimize, not traumatize. – @NickNelsonMN #DataDrivenMarketing #CX Click To Tweet

How can you build more trust with your audience? A more thoughtful approach to content marketing can help. Learn several ways to build credibility and trust with content.

In a World of Diminishing Trust, Data-Driven Marketers Can Turn the Tide

0

Trusting Hands

My first encounter with marketing data malpractice came at a young age. I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on at the time, but my dad loves to tell the story. As I’ve gotten older, the humor and timeless relevance of this anecdote have struck me more and more.

It was the mid-90s. We received a piece of mail at our house addressed to Lucy Nelson. It was a credit card offer from one of the industry’s heavy hitters. Nothing out of the norm so far, right?

Here’s the problem: Lucy was no longer alive.

And the bigger problem: Lucy was not a human. She was our dog.

As it turns out, my older brother had been cited by an officer at a nearby park many years earlier for walking Lucy without a leash. When asked to give a name, he stuttered out the Golden Retriever’s, along with our family surname. Somehow “Lucy Nelson” ended up in a city database and the credit card company had plucked it out to add to its mailing list. Ultimately, this resulted in our dearly departed dog being pitched a deluxe platinum card.

Woof.

Flash-forward 20-some years. It’s a different world now. The rudimentary practice of collecting names and addresses from public databases seems so quaint in the Age of Big Data. Businesses and institutions now have the ability to gather comprehensive insights about people, both in aggregate and at an individual level.

For the general populace, this can feel unnerving. And unfortunately, almost everyone reading this has experienced some breach of trust when it comes to corporations or government and personal data.

But for marketers, the sheer volume of information now readily available presents a significant opportunity to take our profession to all new heights. By getting it right, we can help stem the tide of rising consumer wariness.

A World of Distrust

In 2017, for the first time since being introduced almost two decades ago, the Edelman Trust Barometer found a decline in consumer trust toward business, media, government, and NGOs to “do what is right.” That’s bad. And even worse: the organization’s Trust Index didn’t rebound in the 2018 study, released in January.

2018 Edelman Trust Barometer

“A World of Distrust,” Edelman has dubbed it in 2018. And who can blame folks for losing faith? These days it can feel like the only major news story that isn’t shrouded in doubt is when Equifax leaks the personal information of 150 million people.

In such an environment, it’s hard to not to squirm when learning that your Amazon Alexa, and even your smartphone, is listening to you pretty much at all times.

While apprehension is understandable, these aren’t people spying on us; they are robotic algorithms collecting data in efforts to understand us and better serve us.

As marketers, we can play a major role in showing people the benefits of a data-focused marketplace. Customers rightfully have high expectations of our ability to offer high-quality tailored experiences, and we need to follow through. It’s an historic opportunity.

As marketers, we can play a major role in showing people the benefits of a data-focused marketplace. – @NickNelsonMN #CX #DataDrivenMarketing Click To Tweet

Connecting the Dots

Our CEO Lee Odden recently wrote this in a blog about data creating better customer experiences: “One of the universal truths that we’ve operated under at TopRank Marketing,” he explained. “Is about the power of information specific to customers that are actively searching for solutions.”

In that post, Lee wrote about his experience searching online for a portable battery charger and then being served ads for purple mattresses. That’s the kind of thing that drives me crazy. As Lee notes: “The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand and optimize customer experiences?”

The consequences of missing the mark are very real. A few years ago LoyaltyOne conducted a survey of 2,000 U.S. and Canadian customers on the subjects of data collection and privacy. Among the findings: only 35% were accepting of retailers using cookies to track their online behavior and just 27% were cool with location-based offers.

How much less widespread resistance might we be seeing against these tactics if they were being utilized more effectively?  

The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand & optimize customer experiences? – @leeodden #CX #DataDrivenMarketing Click To Tweet

The Data-Driven Marketer’s Imperative

The stakes are high. We need to piece the puzzle together correctly. If marketers and advertisers can start consistently delivering the sort of customized content and recommendations that data empower us to provide, it’ll go a long way toward restoring customer faith.

We should be using this information to optimize, not traumatize!

Among the biggest areas for improvement I can see, from the perspective of both a marketer and customer:

  • Cut down on data fragmentation and organizational silos. This issue is abundantly common and extremely damaging. The “garbage in, garbage out” adage will never cease to be true. Make the necessary investments to unify your data and enhance the customer journey from attract to engage to convert and every step in between.
  • Be more transparent. Location-based tracking and other oft-used practices would be much less irksome if they didn’t feel so sneaky. Inform customers when you’re gathering info and why. Commit to opt-in policies wherever possible.
  • Follow the principles of the “virtuous cycle.” LoyaltyOne CEO Bryan Pearson suggests that building trust is tantamount to developing face-to-face relationships. “In the beginning, we share a little. Then, once we show that we can be responsible with what the customer has shared, he or she will reveal a little more. And gradually the relationship deepens. This crawl-walk-run approach to sharing information is a sensible way for us to proceed in data collection and use. After all, as long as customer information is used to enhance the customer experience, taking small steps along the way can lead to big things.”

Data has come a long way since the days of sending credit card offers to dead dogs. Marketers, let’s make sure every campaign we create is reflecting this progress.

We should be using the data & information we have to optimize, not traumatize. – @NickNelsonMN #DataDrivenMarketing #CX Click To Tweet

How can you build more trust with your audience? A more thoughtful approach to content marketing can help. Learn several ways to build credibility and trust with content.

4 Ways to Use Instagram Insights to Improve Your Marketing

0
This post was originally published on this site

social media how toDo you have an Instagram business account?

Wondering how to analyze your Instagram activities?

In this article, you’ll discover how to use Instagram Insights to evaluate your followers, posts, stories, and promotions.

4 Ways to Use Instagram Insights to Improve Your Marketing by Victoria Wright on Social Media Examiner.

4 Ways to Use Instagram Insights to Improve Your Marketing by Victoria Wright on Social Media Examiner.

What Is Instagram Insights?

Instagram Insights is a native analytics tool that provides data on follower demographics and actions, as well as your content. This information makes it easy to compare content, measure campaigns, and see how individual posts are performing.

To access Instagram Insights, you need a business account. If you convert a personal account to a business account, you’ll see Insights for any content that’s posted after you make the switch. If at any point you switch your business account back to a personal one, you’ll lose all of your Insights data.

You can find Insights data in three different places in the Instagram app. To access Insights from your account page, tap the bar graph icon in the upper-right corner of the screen.

Instagram Insights access from profile

To see analytics for an individual post, navigate to the post and tap View Insights in the bottom-left corner.

Instagram Insights access from post

To see data for a story, open the story and tap the names in the bottom-left corner.

Instagram Insights access from story

The Insights homepage shows a summary of data for the content you’ve posted in the last 7 days. In the top section, find out how many total followers you have and how many you’ve gained in the past 7 days.

You can also view how many total posts you have on your account and how many you’ve added in the previous week.

Instagram Insights overview

Scroll down to see a series of bar graphs that reveal the total impressions, reach, and profile views for the past 7 days. Swipe to view website clicks and call-to-action button clicks (Call, Email, Directions).

Instagram Insights impressions

Now that you know how to access Instagram Insights, here’s how to find the data that matters to your business.

#1: Explore Follower Demographics and Behavior

On the Insights homepage, scroll down to the Followers section to see a summary of follower demographics including gender, age group, and location. Note that you need at least 100 followers to see demographic data.

Instagram Insights followers demographics

Tap See More to open a page with graphs that break down follower demographics in more detail. You can segment follower data by:

  • Gender
  • Age range
  • Top locations (cities and countries)
  • Online times (hours and days)

This information helps you better understand who your followers are and where they’re from so you can assess whether you’re reaching your target audience on the platform.

In addition, these insights can inform your Instagram ad targeting. For example, if you want to reach an audience similar to your followers, target the demographics of your current audience.

At the bottom of the Followers section, you’ll find two graphs that show when your followers are most active on the network. In the first graph, find out when your followers are online each day.

Instagram Insights followers times hours

Scroll down to the second graph to discover which days your followers are most likely to be online.

Instagram Insights followers days

Look for patterns in the times and days your followers are online so you can post content at times that will maximize reach and engagement. Additionally, create a posting schedule that best reflects when your audience is online.

#2: View Data for Posts

Instagram lets you view data for multiple posts at once or delve into metrics for an individual post.

Filter Post Data by Content Type, Metric, and Timeframe

The Posts section of the Insights homepage shows your three most recent posts. Tap See More to view additional posts.

Instagram Insights posts See More

By default, the Posts section shows the total number of impressions for all of your posts in the past year.

Instagram Insights posts sorted by impressions

To segment this data, tap any of the blue links at the top of the page and choose from these filters:

  • Content type (all, photos, videos, and carousel posts)
  • Measurement (comments, engagement, impressions, likes, reach, and saved)
  • Time (7 days, 30 days, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years)

Instagram Insights posts filters

The filters let you zero in on relevant data to measure goals, campaigns, and best-performing content.

Goals you can measure for a particular time period include:

  • Engagement (comments and/or likes)
  • Impressions and reach
  • Ratio of engagement to reach
  • Best- and worst-performing content types (photos, videos, or carousel posts)

To measure campaign goals, filter the data by timeframe and identify the type of content posted. This data can also help you identify successful and unsuccessful posts so you have an idea of what content your audience prefers. For example, you might discover your audience engages more with photos of products with people than simply products alone.

View Metrics for Individual Posts

If you want to see data for an individual post, open the post and then tap View Insights in the bottom-left corner.

Instagram Insights individual post

Drag up to view a variety of metrics for that post. At the top, you find engagement stats (likes, comments, and saves).

In the Actions section, discover what actions users took on your profile after seeing this post. Instagram tracks these actions:

  • Profile Visits – The number of times your profile was viewed
  • Follows – The number of accounts that started following you
  • Website Clicks – The number of clicks to links you’ve included in your business profile description

Instagram Insights post Actions

The first stat in the Discovery section is the percentage of people who found your post and weren’t following you.

Below that, you see reach and impressions for the post. You’ll also find a breakdown of where those impressions came from:

  • Home – People who saw the post from their feed
  • Search & Explore – People who searched for keywords or saw your post on an Explore feed
  • Profile – People who found your post from your profile page
  • Location – People who viewed your post from a location feed
  • Hashtags – People who discovered your post via a hashtag search
  • Other – Posts shared via direct message, posts that were saved, posts you’re tagged or mentioned in, post notifications where you were tagged or mentioned, and posts that show up on the Following tab in Notifications

Instagram Insights post Discovery

#3: Evaluate Instagram Stories Data

You can access insights for your Instagram stories from the Insights homepage or directly from an individual story post.

View Insights for Multiple Stories

If you access stories data from the Insights homepage, you see all of your stories posts for the past 2 weeks. This view only shows data in the aggregate; you can’t click on individual posts.

By default, Instagram shows impressions data for your stories.

Instagram Insights Stories sorted by impressions

Tap one of the blue links at the top of the page to filter stories data by time (24 hours, 7 days, and 14 days) and action. The actions are:

  • Taps forward
  • Taps back
  • Exits
  • Replies
  • Swipes away

Instagram Insights Stories filters

Analyze this data to find out what stories content is resonating with your audience and what content is causing them to exit or swipe away. Use these insights to inform future stories content.

Note: Currently, Insights doesn’t provide data for Instagram Live content.

View Insights for an Individual Story

To see insights for an individual story, open the story and tap Seen By in the bottom-left corner.

Instagram Insights access from story

From here, you’ll see which users saw the post, total impressions and reach, and what actions were taken on the post. The actions include replies, swipes away, and clicks on stickers and tagged accounts.

#4: Examine Paid Promotions Data

You’ll find the Promotions section at the bottom of the Insights homepage. Here you can create an Instagram promotion and view active promotions.

Instagram Insights Promotions

Click See More to view a list of previous promotions. Tap a promotion to see the following metrics:

  • Visits to profile
  • Number of people who viewed the promotion
  • Number of impressions
  • Number of engagements
  • Audience demographics
  • Amount of money spent

Instagram Insights individual promotion

This data gives you a quick summary of impressions vs. engagement and clicks to profile on a promotion. You can also view a breakdown of the audience that viewed this promotion by gender, age range, and location.

Conclusion

Instagram Insights is a free tool for analyzing your content without ever leaving the app. The data you find helps you learn more about your audience, what content is engaging them, and how your ads are performing. Use this valuable information to guide the type of content you create for your audience and when you publish it.

What do you think? Do you use Instagram Insights to assess your marketing efforts? Which metrics do you find most valuable? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Discover how to use Instagram Insights to evaluate your followers, posts, stories, and promotions.

How to Deal with Fake Negative Reviews on Google

0
This post was originally published on this site

Fake reviews are a growing problem for those of us that own small businesses. In the online world, it’s extremely easy to create a new account and leave either a positive or negative review for any business — regardless of whether you’ve ever tried to hire them.

Google has tons of policies for users that leave reviews. But in my experience they’re terrible at automatically catching violations of these policies. At my agency, my team spends time each month carefully monitoring reviews for our clients and their competitors. The good news is that if you’re diligent at tracking them and can make a good enough case for why the reviews are against the guidelines, you can get them removed by contacting Google on Twitter, Facebook, or reporting via the forum.

Recently, my company got hit with three negative reviews, all left in the span of 5 minutes:

Two of the three reviews were ratings without reviews. These are the hardest to get rid of because Google will normally tell you that they don’t violate the guidelines — since there’s no text on them. I instantly knew they weren’t customers because I’m really selective about who I work with and keep my client base small intentionally. I would know if someone that was paying me was unhappy.

The challenge with negative reviews on Google

The challenge is that Google doesn’t know who your customers are, and they won’t accept “this wasn’t a customer” as an acceptable reason to remove a review, since they allow people to use anonymous usernames. In most cases, it’s extremely difficult to prove the identity of someone online.

The other challenge is that a person doesn’t have to be a customer to be eligible to leave a review. They have to have a “customer experience,” which could be anything from trying to call you and getting your voicemail to dropping by your office and just browsing around.

How to respond

When you work hard to build a good, ethical business, it’s always infuriating when a random person has the power to destroy what took you years to build. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit upset when these reviews came in. Thankfully, I was able to follow the advice I’ve given many people in the last decade, which is to calm down and think about what your future prospects will see when they come across review and the way you respond to it.

Solution: Share your dilemma

I decided to post on Twitter and Facebook about my lovely three negative reviews, and the response I got was overwhelming. People had really great and amusing things to say about my dilemma.

Whoever was behind these three reviews was seeking to harm my business. The irony is that they actually helped me, because I ended up getting three new positive reviews as a result of sharing my experience with people that I knew would rally behind me.

For most businesses, your evangelists might not be on Twitter, but you could post about it on your personal Facebook profile. Any friends that have used your service or patronized your business would likely respond in the same manner. It’s important to note that I never asked anyone to review me when posting this — it was simply the natural response from people that were a fan of my company and what we stand for. If you’re a great company, you’ll have these types of customers and they should be the people you want to share this experience with!

But what about getting the negative reviews removed?

In this case, I was able to get the three reviews removed. However, there have also been several cases where I’ve seen Google refuse to remove them for others. My plan B was to post a response to the reviews offering these “customers” a 100% refund. After all, 100% of zero is still zero — I had nothing to lose. This would also ensure that future prospects see that I’m willing to address people that have a negative experience, since even the best businesses in the world aren’t perfect. As much as I love my 5-star rating average, studies have shown that 4.2–4.5 is actually the ideal average star rating for purchase probability.

Have you had an experience with fake negative reviews on Google? If so, I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment.

How to Deal with Fake Negative Reviews on Google

0

Fake reviews are a growing problem for those of us that own small businesses. In the online world, it’s extremely easy to create a new account and leave either a positive or negative review for any business — regardless of whether you’ve ever tried to hire them.

Google has tons of policies for users that leave reviews. But in my experience they’re terrible at automatically catching violations of these policies. At my agency, my team spends time each month carefully monitoring reviews for our clients and their competitors. The good news is that if you’re diligent at tracking them and can make a good enough case for why the reviews are against the guidelines, you can get them removed by contacting Google on Twitter, Facebook, or reporting via the forum.

Recently, my company got hit with three negative reviews, all left in the span of 5 minutes:

Two of the three reviews were ratings without reviews. These are the hardest to get rid of because Google will normally tell you that they don’t violate the guidelines — since there’s no text on them. I instantly knew they weren’t customers because I’m really selective about who I work with and keep my client base small intentionally. I would know if someone that was paying me was unhappy.

The challenge with negative reviews on Google

The challenge is that Google doesn’t know who your customers are, and they won’t accept “this wasn’t a customer” as an acceptable reason to remove a review, since they allow people to use anonymous usernames. In most cases, it’s extremely difficult to prove the identity of someone online.

The other challenge is that a person doesn’t have to be a customer to be eligible to leave a review. They have to have a “customer experience,” which could be anything from trying to call you and getting your voicemail to dropping by your office and just browsing around.

How to respond

When you work hard to build a good, ethical business, it’s always infuriating when a random person has the power to destroy what took you years to build. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit upset when these reviews came in. Thankfully, I was able to follow the advice I’ve given many people in the last decade, which is to calm down and think about what your future prospects will see when they come across review and the way you respond to it.

Solution: Share your dilemma

I decided to post on Twitter and Facebook about my lovely three negative reviews, and the response I got was overwhelming. People had really great and amusing things to say about my dilemma.

Whoever was behind these three reviews was seeking to harm my business. The irony is that they actually helped me, because I ended up getting three new positive reviews as a result of sharing my experience with people that I knew would rally behind me.

For most businesses, your evangelists might not be on Twitter, but you could post about it on your personal Facebook profile. Any friends that have used your service or patronized your business would likely respond in the same manner. It’s important to note that I never asked anyone to review me when posting this — it was simply the natural response from people that were a fan of my company and what we stand for. If you’re a great company, you’ll have these types of customers and they should be the people you want to share this experience with!

But what about getting the negative reviews removed?

In this case, I was able to get the three reviews removed. However, there have also been several cases where I’ve seen Google refuse to remove them for others. My plan B was to post a response to the reviews offering these “customers” a 100% refund. After all, 100% of zero is still zero — I had nothing to lose. This would also ensure that future prospects see that I’m willing to address people that have a negative experience, since even the best businesses in the world aren’t perfect. As much as I love my 5-star rating average, studies have shown that 4.2–4.5 is actually the ideal average star rating for purchase probability.

Have you had an experience with fake negative reviews on Google? If so, I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment.

How to Drive Meaningful Interactions in Facebook Groups

0
This post was originally published on this site

social media how toAre you struggling to get visibility on Facebook?

Wondering how a Facebook group could help?

In this article, you’ll learn how to use a Facebook group to foster engagement and drive the meaningful interactions favored by Facebook’s news feed algorithm.

How to Drive Meaningful Interactions in Facebook Groups by Megan O'Neil on Social Media Examiner.

How to Drive Meaningful Interactions in Facebook Groups by Megan O’Neil on Social Media Examiner.

Why Revisit Facebook Groups for Business?

Earlier this month, Mark Zuckerberg outlined the changes to the news feed and a move “from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

How are these “meaningful social interactions” being measured? A Facebook Help Center article dives into the types of posts you may see first when scrolling through your news feed: posts similar to those you’ve interacted with through likes, comments, and shares; person-to-person interactions; and exchanges that reflect time and care.

In an interview with Wired, Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri said that in addition to more comments from friends and family, “There will also be more group content. Group content tends to inspire a lot of conversation. Communities on Facebook are becoming increasingly active and vibrant.”

Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith sheds some light on why Facebook groups are integral to fostering these meaningful interactions. “People love to belong,” says Mari, “especially to a community of like-minded individuals and businesses. They like to have a safe environment where they feel they can open up a bit more, be among the first to hear breaking news, or share fresh ideas with one another.”

People tend to join groups around topics they’re passionate about and subjects they’re interested in, and passion and interest are definitely catalysts for engagement.

Facebook groups categories and suggestions

Here are four tips and tactics to help you start driving meaningful social interactions in your Facebook group.

#1: Screen Prospective Members for Fit

People are much more willing to share their personal thoughts, ideas, and work (and to engage genuinely) when they feel safe. Facebook groups are great places to foster a safe space. To do this, create a closed group; use questions to pre-screen new members; and monitor the discussion to weed out spam, bullying, or other types of posts that aren’t contributing positively to the group experience.

Change Group Privacy Settings

Facebook groups can be open, closed, or secret. An open group is public and anyone can join and immediately see all of the posts and begin engaging. A secret group won’t show up in search and the only way for someone to join is to be personally invited by another group member. A closed group can be discovered through Facebook search, but group admins must approve requests to join.

To set the privacy of your group, click the …More button at the top of your group and select Edit Group Settings. Under Privacy, click Change Privacy Settings.

Facebook group change privacy setting

Note that if your group has 5,000 members, you can only go from open to closed or secret, or closed to secret, to protect the privacy of your members. Making a closed or secret group open to the public wouldn’t be fair to group members.

Ask Screening Questions

Not sure whether someone’s a good fit for your closed group? You can ask potential group members questions before they join to get to know a little more about them and why they’re interested in joining.

Here’s how to set that up. Go to your privacy settings (as discussed above) and find the section for Membership Requests. There, click Ask Questions to add questions to the moderation process.

Facebook group ask pending members questions

Monitor Conversations

Once you’ve admitted people to a closed group, you reserve the right to remove them if they’re not adhering to community guidelines. You can remove people under the Members section of your group. Just click the three dots icon next to the member you want to remove and select Remove User. You can also mute members here or add them as moderators or admins.

If you see an unsavory post, you can remove the post and user directly from the post. If you select this option, you can remove all of the posts from the group member within a specified time frame, as well as automatically decline all membership requests from people added by the member.

Facebook group delete post and remove member

#2: Recognize New Members on a Consistent Basis

You’re the cement that holds the group together and your presence ultimately ensures that the community grows and thrives.

Master photographer and educator Sue Bryce runs a successful and active group for her business, Sue Bryce Education, with more than 47K members. She says, “I’ve worked hard over the last five years to keep a community feeling. I do that by being in the group every day myself.” When Sue can’t be in the group, a team of supporters and administrators helps keep the conversation going.

Welcome New Members

The first step to being present is to let members know who you are and that you’re there to help. One of the best ways to do this is to introduce yourself to new members with a welcome message. This is easy to do.

When you add new members to your group, you’ll see a message on the right side of the main group page that says, “You have X new members this week. Write a post to welcome them.” Click the Write Post button, and Facebook will pre-populate a new post for you with all of the new members tagged.

Facebook group welcome new members

Feel free to publish the post as is or personalize the message to share more pertinent information about your group.

Note that you can only tag 99 new people at a time. If you add more than 99 members in a week, you won’t be able to tag them into the post; however, you can still share a weekly welcome message to let new members know you’re glad to have them.

Pin Valuable Information

Pin important information to the top of the group such as your introduction, rules and guidelines, or posts you don’t want new members to miss. A pinned post will stick to the very top of your group feed, regardless of whether you or other members make posts.

To pin a post that’s been published, click the three dots icon in the upper-right corner of the post and select Pin Post.

Facebook group pin post

Sue Bryce shares an idea for using pinned posts to make sure group members recognize your presence and to encourage engagement. “At the top of the group, I have a pinned ‘ASK SUE’ post where any of the group members can ask me a question directly. As the group got larger, it was the only way to funnel the massive amount of tags and direct questions. The pinned post allows me to engage with everyone and support the feeling of community.”

#3: Diversify Engagement Opportunities

Part of your job as a group admin is to encourage people to engage. To do this, respond to questions, chime in on posts, and share questions or discussion prompts.

If your group is designed to help people learn or build their skills, challenges can be a fun way to get group members to engage. This is something Sue Bryce does regularly in her group. She creates challenges that help the photographers in her group build their businesses. “Every month I focus on setting up a challenge. I teach it, they learn it, they try it, and then they post it for accountability and feedback.”

Regular challenges not only help drive engagement, but they also keep group members coming back to find out what’s new, take part, learn, and grow.

Not sure how to get the ball rolling? Start by inviting already engaged fans, friends, or customers to your group. Get creative in using other marketing channels to drive people to your Facebook group. Link back to your community from relevant blog posts and your main Facebook business page, and even send emails letting customers know they can join your community on Facebook for inspiration, feedback, and advice.

Facebook group promote

Using video can be a nice way to encourage even more engagement in your group. You can use both live and recorded video in groups.

Live Video

In a recent blog post, Facebook’s Adam Mosseri shared that “live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.” As a result, Facebook Live can be a good way to boost engagement in your groups.

This is something that both Mari Smith and Sue Bryce do regularly. For instance, Sue goes live every Tuesday at noon with a new subject to teach her group. The consistency of this Facebook Live broadcast has led to amazing growth in engagement.

And you can also use Facebook Live as an opportunity to bring the high level of engagement in your groups out into the public on your main Facebook page. For example, you could go live on your main page and share the live stream to your group. Not only is it an effective way to send more engaged customers to your groups, but you also may discover group members among the most engaged commenters.

Facebook group live video example

Native Video

Recorded video is also a nice tool for a couple of reasons. For one, video allows you to showcase yourself more authentically than text alone. Get in front of the camera and introduce yourself and your team to your community.

Video also stands out in the news feed, capturing group members’ attention as they scroll through other content on Facebook. And group engagement will also help boost the position of your videos in the news feed, as Facebook continues to focus more on meaningful social interactions.

#4: Spotlight Individual Members

Remember, Facebook groups are all about community, so don’t make it all about you or your business. While your presence in the group is important, you don’t want it to become overbearing. Community Manager Lucas Killcoyne offers this advice: “It’s tempting to jump in immediately, but the last thing you want to do is end a conversation before it has a chance to get off the ground.”

He goes on to say, “You’re probably the authority on the subject your community members are discussing, but giving them a chance to interact and problem-solve together builds bonds and leads conversations in interesting directions that it would never have otherwise. If a post isn’t getting enough love after a few hours, that’s when I jump in to bump it back to the top of the feed.”

In addition to leaving the time and space for others to contribute, here are a few things you can do to shine the spotlight on group members.

Tag Members in Relevant Conversations

As you get to know your community, you’ll also be able to engage them directly. Tag them in conversations you think they’d be interested in or could contribute to. If you have a group member who’s a real estate appraiser, you might tag them in a conversation around that topic so they can chime in.

tag member in Facebook group comment

Offer Critiques

Mari Smith has also found showcasing group members to be an effective way to drive engagement. She says, “I periodically request volunteers for the ‘hot seat’ where I provide on-the-spot critiques for members’ Facebook pages and websites.”

This “hot seat” concept is nice because it not only spotlights individual members from the community, but also benefits the entire group. Everyone can learn tips and best practices from Mari’s critiques that they can apply to their own website or page. In this way, the community can learn from each other.

Feature Content From Group Members

Speaking of letting the members learn from each other, creating content around unique perspectives, out-of-the-box ideas, and good work shared in the group is another fun way to spotlight group members. Seeing other community members showcased is also an incentive for members to continue to share their own perspectives, ideas, and work.

What types of conversations do you envision happening in your group? What types of things do you expect group members to share? Think of how you might repurpose group conversations to create engaging content to share back to the group.

Create a Facebook Group for Your Business

Creating a Facebook group is simple. Just head over to facebook.com/groups and click Create Group. Then name your group, add some people (you need to add at least one friend to create your group), and select your privacy settings. I recommend that you select Closed Group at this stage.

Facebook create new group

Once you click Create, choose an icon that represents your group. If you don’t find an icon you like, feel free to skip this step. Your group is now created!

At the top of the page, you can upload a cover photo to personalize your group. There are also lots of fun special features for group admins to explore, including Group Insights, post scheduling, member leaderboards, and more.

Your group will be created with your personal Facebook page, but you can easily link it to your business page. Just head over to your Facebook page and select Groups on the left. Then click Link Your Group and click to link your newly created group.

Let the Community Guide You

Finally, it’s important to remember that communities inevitably create themselves. As a result, you’ll have to grow and evolve based on what’s resonating with people and the direction they’re heading on their own.

Of course, you can use challenges, shared topical content, and discussion prompts to guide the general direction and reel folks in if they get off topic. But the ultimate meaningful social interactions will come from the conversations that stem from the passions of the people in your group.

Curious what your community wants more of? Less of? Ask them with a poll! To set up a poll on your Facebook page, click the Poll button in the same place you’d go to share a photo or write a new post. Ask what people want to see, list some ideas to vote on, or even open up the floor for group members to add their own ideas!

What do you think? Are you using Facebook groups for your business? If so, what tactics have you had success with? If not, what type of Facebook group do you envision creating for your business? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Learn how to use a Facebook group to foster engagement and drive the meaningful interactions favored by Facebook's news feed algorithm.

The Google Ranking Factor You Can Influence in an Afternoon [Case Study]

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What does Google consider “quality content”? And how do you capitalize on a seemingly subjective characteristic to improve your standing in search?

We’ve been trying to figure this out since the Hummingbird algorithm was dropped in our laps in 2013, prioritizing “context” over “keyword usage/frequency.” This meant that Google’s algorithm intended to understand the meaning behind the words on the page, rather than the page’s keywords and metadata alone.

This new sea change meant the algorithm was going to read in between the lines in order to deliver content that matched the true intent of someone searching for a keyword.

Write longer content? Not so fast!

Watching us SEOs respond to Google updates is hilarious. We’re like a floor full of day traders getting news on the latest cryptocurrency.

One of the most prominent theories that made the rounds was that longer content was the key to organic ranking. I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles on this. We at Brafton, a content marketing agency, latched onto that one for a while as well. We even experienced some mixed success.

However, what we didn’t realize was that when we experienced success, it was because we accidentally stumbled on the true ranking factor.

Longer content alone was not the intent behind Hummingbird.

Content depth

Let’s take a hypothetical scenario.

If you were to search the keyword “search optimization techniques,” you would see a SERP that looks similar to the following:

Nothing too surprising about these results.

However, if you were to go through each of these 10 results and take note of the major topics they discussed, theoretically you would have a list of all the topics being discussed by all of the top ranking sites.

Example:

Position 1 topics discussed: A, C, D, E, F

Position 2 topics discussed: A, B, F

Position 3 topics discussed: C, D, F

Position 4 topics discussed: A, E, F

Once you finished this exercise, you would have a comprehensive list of every topic discussed (A–F), and you would start to see patterns of priority emerge.

In the example above, note “topic F” is discussed in all four pieces of content. One would consider this a cornerstone topic that should be prioritized.

If you were then to write a piece of content that covered each of the topics discussed by every competitor on page one, and emphasized the cornerstone topics appropriately, in theory, you would have the most comprehensive piece of content on that particular topic.

By producing the most comprehensive piece of content available, you would have the highest quality result that will best satisfy the searcher’s intent. More than that, you would have essentially created the ultimate resource center for everything a person would want to know about that topic.

How to identify topics to discuss in a piece of content

At this point, we’re only theoretical. The theory makes logical sense, but does it actually work? And how do we go about scientifically gathering information on topics to discuss in a piece of content?

Finding topics to cover:

  • Manually: As discussed previously, you can do it manually. This process is tedious and labor-intensive, but it can be done on a small scale.
  • Using SEMrush: SEMrush features an SEO content template that will provide guidance on topic selection for a given keyword.
  • Using MarketMuse: MarketMuse was originally built for the very purpose of content depth, with an algorithm that mimics Hummingbird. MM takes a largely unscientific process and makes it scientific. For the purpose of this case study, we used MarketMuse.

The process

Watch the process in action

1. Identify content worth optimizing

We went through a massive list of keywords our blog ranked for. We filtered that list down to keywords that were not ranking number one in SERPs but had strong intent. You can also do this with core landing pages.

Here’s an example: We were ranking in the third position for the keyword “financial content marketing.” While this is a low-volume keyword, we were enthusiastic to own it due to the high commercial intent it comes with.

2. Evaluate your existing piece

Take a subjective look at your piece of content that is ranking for the keyword. Does it SEEM like a comprehensive piece? Could it benefit from updated examples? Could it benefit from better/updated inline embedded media? With a cursory look at our existing content, it was clear that the examples we used were old, as was the branding.

3. Identify topics

As mentioned earlier, you can do this in a few different ways. We used MarketMuse to identify the topics we were doing a good job of covering as well as our topic gaps, topics that competitors were discussing, but we were not. The results were as follows:

Topics we did a good job of covering:

  • Content marketing impact on branding
  • Impact of using case studies
  • Importance of infographics
  • Business implications of a content marketing program
  • Creating articles for your audience

Topics we did a poor job of covering:

  • Marketing to millennials
  • How to market to existing clients
  • Crafting a content marketing strategy
  • Identifying and tracking goals

4. Rewrite the piece

Considering how out-of-date our examples were, and the number of topics we had neglected to discuss, we determined a full rewrite of the piece was warranted. Our writer, Mike O’Neill, was given the topic guidance, ensuring he had a firm understanding of everything that needed to be discussed in order to create a comprehensive article.

5. Update the content

To maintain our link equity, we kept the same URL and simply updated the old content with the new. Then we updated the publish date. The new article looks like this, with updated content depth, modern branding, and inline visuals.

6. Fetch as Google

Rather than wait for Google to reindex the content, I wanted to see the results immediately (and it is indeed immediate).

7. Check your results

Open an incognito window and see your updated position.

Promising results:

We have run more than a dozen experiments and have seen positive results across the board. As demonstrated in the video, these results are usually realized within 60 seconds of reindexing the updated content.

Keyword target

Old Ranking

New ranking

“Financial content marketing”

3

1

“What is a subdomain”

16

6

“Best company newsletters”

32

4

“Staffing marketing”

7

3

“Content marketing agency”

16

1

“Google local business cards”

16

5

“Company blog”

7

4

“SEO marketing tools”

9

3

Of those tests, here’s another example of this process in action for the keyword, “best company newsletters.”

Before:

After

Assumptions:

From these results, we can assume that content depth and breadth of topic coverage matters — a lot. Google’s algorithm seems to have an understanding of the competitive topic landscape for a keyword. In our hypothetical example from before, it would appear the algorithm knows that topics A–F exist for a given keyword and uses that collection of topics as a benchmark for content depth across competitors.

We can also assume Google’s algorithm either a.) responds immediately to updated information, or b.) has a cached snapshot of the competitive content depth landscape for any given keyword. Either of these scenarios is very likely because of the speed at which updated content is re-ranked.


In conclusion, don’t arbitrarily write long content and call it “high quality.” Choose a keyword you want to rank for and create a comprehensive piece of content that fully supports that keyword. There is no guarantee you’ll be granted a top position — domain strength factors play a huge role in rankings — but you’ll certainly improve your odds, as we have seen.

This Changes Everything: How AI Is Transforming Digital Marketing

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How AI Is Transforming Digital Marketing

Will artificial intelligence (AI) put marketers out of work?

It’s a question I’m seeing a lot lately, and to me, it’s a strange one. It’s like if everyone 150 years ago was asking: “Will the tractor put farmers out of work?” Of course, John Deere didn’t put farmers out of business; better tools just made them more efficient and better able to scale.

Granted, the tractor did reduce the demand for horses and farmhands. So, no, AI will not put you out of work…as long as your work is creative, innovative and intelligent. If all of your daily work can be done by a machine, eventually it will be.

To be the farmer rather than the horse, you need to understand what AI can do to augment and scale your efforts, not replace them. Here’s what AI can do to improve your digital marketing efforts right now.

#1: Artificial Intelligence and SEO

If there’s one area of digital marketing that is most affected by AI right now, it’s SEO. Machine learning is directly affecting site visibility right now, and its influence will only increase in the future.

A machine learning algorithm called RankBrain (link to Backlinko’s incredibly useful guide) is currently Google’s third most important ranking signal. In the past, Google’s developers monitored search results and tweaked algorithms to better suit search needs. SEO experts then tried to reverse-engineer each algorithm change to better position their content.

With RankBrain in the driver’s seat, though, no human being will know why content is ranked up or down. The algorithm will continuously be testing and refining settings based on user behavior.

This switch means some traditional SEO activities, like keyword lists and backlinks, will decline in importance. The ranking signals that will matter most will be those related to user activity:

  • Time on page
  • Bounce rate
  • Pogo sticking
  • Scroll depth

Any indicator that shows how a user found your content valuable is now an SEO indicator. SEO experts and content creators will need to work more closely together to ensure content meets a specific search need, addresses a specific audience, and is compelling to read.

That’s not to say technical SEO is dead, but it is evolving. SEO experts should focus on structuring data, applying schema, implementing AMP, and optimizing for voice search. What do these tasks have in common? They’re all candidates for automation. SEO experts of the future will be feeding data into their own AI and using it to apply these ranking factors to content at scale.

#SEO experts of the future will be feeding data into their own #AI & using it to apply ranking factors to content at scale. – @NiteWrites Click To Tweet

#2: Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Chatbots are AI-driven programs that interact with users in a natural-language environment. These programs are rapidly becoming a major area of interest for marketers, as an increasing amount of social media traffic takes place on private messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Buffer’s annual social media report found that there are more people on the top four messaging apps than on the top four social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn). That’s an engagement opportunity that’s hard to ignore. And, of course, chatbots can live on your brand’s homepage, answering questions and providing support.

Most digital marketers see chatbots as a way to provide personalized customer service at scale – which is tangentially related to marketing, but not directly a marketing function. However, chatbots can also help guide users through a customer journey to a sale.

A lot of the chatter (no pun intended) around chatbots is how to make them indistinguishable from interacting with a human. Marketers seem to care a great deal about this issue, but I would argue customers don’t. Customers want their questions to be understood and quickly answered; it doesn’t matter if it’s Robby the Robot or Robby the Call Center Rep who has the answers.

Marketers can make use of chatbots themselves, too. There are a growing number of smart assistants available that can aggregate and report on data in real-time, through Slack and other private messaging services.

Customers want their questions to be understood and quickly answered; it doesn’t matter if it’s Robby the Robot or Robby the Call Center Rep who has the answers. – @NiteWrites on #AI in #DigitalMarketing Click To Tweet

#3: Artificial Intelligence and Content Marketing

If you’re a content creator, talking about AI and content marketing likely makes you feel the cold fingers of obsolescence tighten around your throat. Gartner says by the end of the year, 20% of business content will be authored by machines. AI is already being used for everything from white papers to earning reports. It’s enough to make you feel like a horse watching the farmer start up his tractor.

Should you be worried about your job? Neigh. For one, AI right now isn’t quite ready to draft content with personality and a strong hook for the reader. Since SEO is increasingly about the reader’s experience, that means human-crafted content will win out for the foreseeable future. And even when AI can write convincingly like a human, it will still need creative input from humans.

So think like a farmer: Use AI to take care of repetitive, mindless tasks like metadata tagging and adding recommended content to blog posts. And use it to deliver personalized content at scale. AI can use data from your site’s visitors to dynamically customize and display the content you create.

As the content creator, part of your new AI-enhanced job will be to look at how your audience can be segmented by behavior, and draft modular content that the AI can put together based on user behavior.

Marketers, think like a farmer: Use #AI to take care of repetitive, mindless tasks like metadata tagging & adding recommended content to blog posts. And use it to deliver personalized #content at scale. – @NiteWrites Click To Tweet

#4: Artificial Intelligence and Email Marketing

Email marketing remains one of the most effective forms of marketing out there. Sixty-one percent of consumers enjoy receiving weekly promotional emails. Which may explain why email marketing has higher conversion rates than social media and search combined.

AI is making email marketing even better, both for you and your customer. Personalization at scale is every marketer’s dream – and AI makes it possible. AI can use data to create personalized emails to every one of your subscribers, based on their previous interactions with the brand. It can customize based on what content they’ve consumed, what’s on their wish list, what pages they have spent the most time on, and more. For example, if one user always visits links to product pages in your email, but another skips those links and goes straight for content, the AI can send different messaging with the most relevant links for each user.

AI is also making drip campaigns more sophisticated. Instead of one or two triggers and a few customized emails, you can use “If/Then” statements to customize emails for dozens of different triggers. Rather than, “send an email in two weeks,” or “send another if they opened the last one,” you could say, “if they visited three product pages, send an email with a link to a related blog post and recommended products other people have purchased.”

When it comes to #EmailMarketing, personalization at scale is every marketer’s dream & #AI makes it possible. – @NiteWrites Click To Tweet

#5: Artificial Intelligence Influencers to Follow

As AI continues to evolve, one thing’s for sure: None of us know as much about it as we should (myself included). These four influencers are among the select few who really have a handle on AI’s potential to transform marketing.

1. Chris Penn, VP of Marketing Technology, SHIFT Communications

Chris Penn of SHIIFT Communications

Chris is a futurist, a keynote speaker, and AI visionary. His presentation at Content Marketing World last year alternately energized and scared the pants off me.

Blog – LinkedIn – Twitter

2. Paul Roetzer, Founder, Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute (MAII)

Paul Roetzer of Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute

Through the MAII, Paul aims to do for AI what Joe Pulizzi did for content marketing: Provide resources to educate people on how to use AI in marketing, and develop the standards to make AI a useful strategic tool.

Blog – LinkedIn – Twitter

3. Magnus Unemyr, Marketing Automation & AI Consultant

Magnus Unemyr - Marketing Automation & AI Consultant

Magnus has turned out a ton of high-quality content on marketing automation and AI in the past few years. He publishes daily newsletters available through his blog and Twitter feed, and has written a series of books on e-commerce and online marketing.

Blog – LinkedIn – Twitter

I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

Will AI put marketers out of a job? Not if you think like a farmer with a shiny new tractor. It’s a tool, not a replacement – a multi-use tool that will eliminate drudgework and help you reach your audience more easily and with more compelling, personalized content.

The rise of AI in marketing is one of the top trends in 2018. Find out what other digital marketing trends deserve your attention in 2018 and into the future.

How to Follow Instagram Hashtags for Business

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social media how toDo you use hashtags on Instagram?

Wondering how to see posts with specific hashtags in your regular Instagram feed and stories?

In this article, you’ll discover how to use Instagram’s Follow Hashtag feature to monitor relevant topics and campaigns.

How to Follow Instagram Hashtags for Business by Jenn Herman on Social Media Examiner.

How to Follow Instagram Hashtags for Business by Jenn Herman on Social Media Examiner.

#1: How to Follow Hashtags on Instagram

To follow a specific hashtag on Instagram, you must navigate to that hashtag gallery. To do this, tap on any hashtag you see on any post in the feed, or go to the Explore page (tap the magnifying glass icon) and type in the hashtag you want to follow.

Instagram hashtag search Explore tab

Once in the hashtag gallery, look for the Follow button beneath the hashtag and above the gallery images. Tap the Follow button to follow that hashtag and start seeing content in your Instagram feed and Stories.

Instagram follow hashtag

Additionally, if at any point you want to unfollow a hashtag, go to that hashtag gallery again, tap on the Following button, and choose Unfollow from the pop-up menu.

Instagram unfollow hashtag

#2: Recognizing Followed Hashtags in the Feed and Stories

While it’s easy to follow hashtags, understanding how they appear in the feed or stories isn’t quite as straightforward.

Following a hashtag doesn’t mean you’ll see every post shared on that hashtag. For example, following #valentinesday won’t flood your feed with millions of posts on February 14.

Instead, the Instagram algorithm will sort the content on the hashtag you’re following, and select highlights and content it believes you’re most interested in.

The hashtag post results will appear in the Instagram feed, mixed in with the regular posts of the accounts you follow. Instead of seeing a username in the feed, you’ll see the hashtag listed next to the current photo for that hashtag and the colored hashtag symbol. The user who uploaded the post on the hashtag and any location tag used are listed beneath the hashtag itself.

Instagram hashtag in feed

In the Stories banner on your profile, you see a separate story for each of the hashtags you’re following if that hashtag has any current active stories. You can select that story to watch or it will appear in sequence when tapping through the stories of those you follow.

Instagram followed hashtags as stories

Within the stories themselves, the hashtag cover image, colored hashtag symbol, and hashtag name appear at the top of the story along with the creator’s username beneath the hashtag. The story will play through the same way as any other story post.

Instagram followed hashtags as stories

If you see posts you like in the hashtag results in your feed, give them a like or comment so the algorithm knows you like this type of content and will show you more of it.

Conversely, if you don’t like a post that appears in your feed, tap on the three-dot icon for that post and choose to hide it from your feed.

Instagram post dont show this hashtag

Depending on the hashtags you choose to follow, there may be a variety of content you don’t want to see. For instance, choosing to follow #goat because you love the animal itself may also expose you to a number of posts of athletes, musicians, or other people using GOAT (greatest of all time).

Using the option to hide content and positively interact with the content of your preference will educate the algorithm on your preferred selections and better curate a hashtag feed for you.

#3: 5 Types of Hashtags for Businesses to Follow

As a business on Instagram, it can be beneficial for you to follow certain hashtags. Here are some suggestions.

Your Own Branded Hashtags

If there’s any chance that your audience or customers are creating content with your hashtag, it’s a good idea to follow your own hashtag. While you won’t see every post (you should still search the Explore tab regularly for content on your branded hashtag), the reminder of seeing someone post on your content is a great way to engage with that content creator.

Instagram follow branded hashtag

Event Hashtags

Event hashtags are popular among guests of the event so it can be beneficial to interact with those users and their content. Events you may want to follow include:

  • Conferences or conventions for your industry
  • Live events (concerts, sporting events, etc.) near your location
  • Charity events related to your business or cause
  • Trending events related to your business (lunar eclipse, Mardi Gras, etc.)

Targeted Industry Topics

Much like the local restaurant example above, finding targeted topics that relate to your audience will help you see what your competitors are doing, what content is generating the best engagement, what’s trending in that space, and more information. You can use this to better create your own content to align with your target audience.

Contest or Campaign Hashtags

I recommend this topic with caution. If you’re running a contest or campaign where people will be posting content using a hashtag you provided, you should ideally monitor that hashtag through the Explore tab or a third-party tool to ensure you don’t miss any relevant or applicable posts.

Topics of Inspiration

Instagram should always be fun and the content you see should entertain you, although creating quality content on Instagram can get routine and mundane. Finding inspiration from other sources or accounts to keep your feed alive and interesting can be a valuable tactic to enhance your own marketing efforts.

Using Hashtags to Reach Customers

Hashtags have long been a source of reach and exposure for businesses on Instagram. However, users had to search for those hashtags to find your content.

Now, if someone is following a hashtag you’re using, they have the potential to see your content in their feed or stories, whether or not they’re following your business on Instagram. This exponentially improves the chances of being found by new people on Instagram and reaching a new audience.

To take advantage of this reach, you need to use hashtags that are relevant to your target audience, not just the super-popular hashtags or your own branded hashtags.

For instance, if you manage a local business, consider using hashtags related to your geographic area and industry. Using #SanDiegoRestaurants is a great idea for a local San Diego eatery, bar, restaurant, or deli. This is a targeted hashtag that customers are likely to follow and will allow your content to potentially appear to new audiences in your target demographic.

Instagram location based hashtags

If you use a branded hashtag for your business, you can also encourage your audience to follow that hashtag on Instagram. This may introduce them to new content related to your brand and ensure they see more of your posts if others are falling lower in the algorithm.

Conclusion

Following hashtags on Instagram is easy, but finding the right ones with the right content may take some time. There are advantages to doing so and hopefully you’ll find them helpful to your brand development. This new feature is a good reminder to ensure you’re using strong, effective hashtags in your posting strategy to provide more opportunity and exposure for your business.

What do you think? Are you planning to start following hashtags? Do you have any recommendations for types of hashtags to follow? Please share your thoughts or tips in the comments below.

Discover how to use Instagram's Follow Hashtag feature to monitor relevant topics and campaigns.

The Biggest Mistake Digital Marketers Ever Made: Claiming to Measure Everything

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Digital marketing is measurable.

It’s probably the single most common claim everyone hears about digital, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen conference speakers talk about it (heck, I’ve even done it myself).

I mean, look at those offline dinosaurs, the argument goes. They all know that half their spend is wasted — they just don’t know which half.

Maybe the joke’s on us digital marketers though, who garnered only 41% of global ad spend even in 2017 after years of strong growth.

Unfortunately, while we were geeking out about attribution models and cross-device tracking, we were accidentally triggering a common human cognitive bias that kept us anchored on small amounts, leaving buckets of money on the table and fundamentally reducing our impact and access to the C-suite.

And what’s worse is that we have convinced ourselves that it’s a critical part of what makes digital marketing great. The simplest way to see this is to realize that, for most of us, I very much doubt that if you removed all our measurement ability we’d reduce our digital marketing investment to nothing.

In truth, of course, we’re nowhere close to measuring all the benefits of most of the things we do. We certainly track the last clicks, and we’re not bad at tracking any clicks on the path to conversion on the same device, but we generally suck at capturing:

  • Anything that happens on a different device
  • Brand awareness impacts that lead to much later improvements in conversion rate, average order value, or lifetime value
  • Benefits of visibility or impressions that aren’t clicked
  • Brand affinity generally

The cognitive bias that leads us astray

All of this means that the returns we report on tend to be just the most direct returns. This should be fine — it’s just a floor on the true value (“this activity has generated at least this much value for the brand”) — but the “anchoring” cognitive bias means that it messes with our minds and our clients’ minds. Anchoring is the process whereby we fixate on the first number we hear and subsequently estimate unknowns closer to the anchoring number than we should. Famous experiments have shown that even showing people a totally random number can drag their subsequent estimates up or down.

So even if the true value of our activity was 10x the measured value, we’d be stuck on estimating the true value as very close to the single concrete, exact number we heard along the way.

This tends to result in the measured value being seen as a ceiling on the true value. Other biases like the availability heuristic (which results in us overstating the likelihood of things that are easy to remember) tend to mean that we tend to want to factor in obvious ways that the direct value measurement could be overstating things, and leave to one side all the unmeasured extra value.

The mistake became a really big one because fortunately/unfortunately, the measured return in digital has often been enough to justify at least a reasonable level of the activity. If it hadn’t been (think the vanishingly small number of people who see a billboard and immediately buy a car within the next week when they weren’t otherwise going to do so) we’d have been forced to talk more about the other benefits. But we weren’t. So we lazily talked about the measured value, and about the measurability as a benefit and a differentiator.

The threats of relying on exact measurement

Not only do we leave a whole load of credit (read: cash) on the table, but it also leads to threats to measurability being seen as existential threats to digital marketing activity as a whole. We know that there are growing threats to measuring accurately, including regulatory, technological, and user-behavior shifts:

Now, imagine that the combination of these trends meant that you lost 100% of your analytics and data. Would it mean that your leads stopped? Would you immediately turn your website off? Stop marketing?

I suggest that the answer to all of that is “no.” There’s a ton of value to digital marketing beyond the ability to track specific interactions.

We’re obviously not going to see our measurable insights disappear to zero, but for all the reasons I outlined above, it’s worth thinking about all the ways that our activities add value, how that value manifests, and some ways of proving it exists even if you can’t measure it.

How should we talk about value?

There are two pieces to the brand value puzzle:

  1. Figuring out the value of increasing brand awareness or affinity
  2. Understanding how our digital activities are changing said awareness or affinity

There’s obviously a lot of research into brand valuations generally, and while it’s outside the scope of this piece to think about total brand value, it’s worth noting that some methodologies place as much as 75% of the enterprise value of even some large companies in the value of their brands:

Image source

My colleague Tom Capper has written about a variety of ways to measure changes in brand awareness, which attacks a good chunk of the second challenge. But challenge #1 remains: how do we figure out what it’s worth to carry out some marketing activity that changes brand awareness or affinity?

In a recent post, I discussed different ways of building marketing models and one of the methodologies I described might be useful for this – namely so-called “top-down” modelling which I defined as being about percentages and trends (as opposed to raw numbers and units of production).

The top-down approach

I’ve come up with two possible ways of modelling brand value in a transactional sense:

1. The Sherlock approach

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Sherlock Holmes

The outline would be to take the total new revenue acquired in a period. Subtract from this any elements that can be attributed to specific acquisition channels; whatever remains must be brand. If this is in any way stable or predictable over multiple periods, you can use it as a baseline value from which to apply the methodologies outlined above for measuring changes in brand awareness and affinity.

2. Aggressive attribution

If you run normal first-touch attribution reports, the limitations of measurement (clearing cookies, multiple devices etc) mean that you will show first-touch revenue that seems somewhat implausible (e.g. email; email surely can’t be a first-touch source — how did they get on your email list in the first place?):

Click for a larger version

In this screenshot we see that although first-touch dramatically reduces the influence of direct, for instance, it still accounts for more than 15% of new revenue.

The aggressive attribution model takes total revenue and splits it between the acquisition channels (unbranded search, paid social, referral). A first pass on this would simply split it in the relative proportion to the size of each of those channels, effectively normalizing them, though you could build more sophisticated models.

Note that there is no way of perfectly identifying branded/unbranded organic search since (not provided) and so you’ll have to use a proxy like homepage search vs. non-homepage search.

But fundamentally, the argument here would be that any revenue coming from a “first touch” of:

  • Branded search
  • Direct
  • Organic social
  • Email

…was actually acquired previously via one of the acquisition channels and so we attempt to attribute it to those channels.

Even this under-represents brand value

Both of those methodologies are pretty aggressive — but they might still under-represent brand value. Here are two additional mechanics where brand drives organic search volume in ways I haven’t figured out how to measure yet:

Trusting Amazon to rank

I like reading on the Kindle. If I hear of a book I’d like to read, I’ll often Google the name of the book on its own and trust that Amazon will rank first or second so I can get to the Kindle page to buy it. This is effectively a branded search for Amazon (and if it doesn’t rank, I’ll likely follow up with a [book name amazon] search or head on over to Amazon to search there directly).

But because all I’ve appeared to do is search [book name] on Google and then click through to Amazon, there is nothing to differentiate this from an unbranded search.

Spotting brands you trust in the SERPs

I imagine we all have anecdotal experience of doing this: you do a search and you spot a website you know and trust (or where you have an account) ranking somewhere other than #1 and click on it regardless of position.

One time that I can specifically recall noticing this tendency growing in myself was when I started doing tons more baby-related searches after my first child was born. Up until that point, I had effectively zero brand affinity with anyone in the space, but I quickly grew to rate the content put out by babycentre (babycenter in the US) and I found myself often clicking on their result in position 3 or 4 even when I hadn’t set out to look for them, e.g. in results like this one:

It was fascinating to me to observe this behavior in myself because I had no real interaction with babycentre outside of search, and yet, by consistently ranking well across tons of long-tail queries and providing consistently good content and user experience I came to know and trust them and click on them even when they were outranked. I find this to be a great example because it is entirely self-contained within organic search. They built a brand effect through organic search and reaped the reward in increased organic search.

I have essentially no ideas on how to measure either of these effects. If you have any bright ideas, do let me know in the comments.

Budgets will come under pressure

My belief is that total digital budgets will continue to grow (especially as TV continues to fragment), but I also believe that individual budgets are going to come under scrutiny and pressure making this kind of thinking increasingly important.

We know that there is going to be pressure on referral traffic from Facebook following the recent news feed announcements, but there is also pressure on trust in Google:

While I believe that the opportunity is large and still growing (see, for example, this slide showing Google growing as a referrer of traffic even as CTR has declined in some areas), it’s clear that the narrative is going to lead to more challenging conversations and budgets under increased scrutiny.

Can you justify your SEO investment?

What do you say when your CMO asks what you’re getting for your SEO investment?

What do you say when she asks whether the organic search opportunity is tapped out?

I’ll probably explore the answers to both these questions more in another post, but suffice it to say that I do a lot of thinking about these kinds of questions.

The first is why we have built our split-testing platform to make organic SEO investments measurable, quantifiable and accountable.

The second is why I think it’s super important to remember the big picture while the media is running around with their hair on fire. Media companies saw Facebook overtake Google as a traffic channel (and then are likely seeing that reverse right now), but most of the web has Google as the largest growing source of traffic and value.

The reality (from clickstream data) is that it’s really easy to forget how long the long-tail is and how sparse search features and ads are on the extreme long-tail:

  1. Only 3–4% of all searches result in a click on an ad, for example. Google’s incredible (and still growing) business is based on a small subset of commercial searches
  2. Google’s share of all outbound referral traffic across the web is growing (and Facebook’s is shrinking as they increasingly wall off their garden)

The opportunity is for smart brands to capitalize on a growing opportunity while their competitors sink time and money into a social space that is increasingly all about Facebook, and increasingly pay-to-play.

What do you think? Are you having these hard conversations with leadership? How are you measuring your digital brand’s value?