Instagram Introduces New Stories Feature

Instagram made waves in the social media and digital marketing worlds this week as they announced the launch of Instagram Stories. The new feature allows users to share multiple photos and videos in a slideshow format. With Stories, Instagram users have expanded opportunities for creativity, as text overlay and drawing tools are included.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom provides an alternative perspective. He explains, “we need to have a place where you feel free to post whatever you want without the nagging fear of, did someone like that or not?”

Stories add value to Instagram personal users and brands alike, giving them an opportunity to share content that is more fun, raw, casual and ultimately authentic, in contrast to the posed and filtered images that had been the norm.

Since the announcement, a number of digital talking heads have been quick to “throw shade” at Instagram’s new feature for its likeness to Snapchat with some taking the position that Instagram copied Snapchat altogether. Instagram head of product, Kevin Weil told Buzzfeed that many platforms adopt and adapt features from other platforms. Examples include Facebook’s newsfeed structure being replicated on LinkedIn and how Twitter’s hashtag functionality has spread to a number of different platforms.

So what does this mean for the realm of digital marketing? Does this mark the beginning of the end for Snapchat? Social Media uber-expert Gary Vaynerchuk said “Anybody who thinks this is going to kill Snapchat is completely out of their mind. It’s a “no chance” statement. Sure, this update will affect Snapchat, but it won’t be the end of it.” He goes on to explain, and we agree, that while behaviors around Instagram and Snapchat may change, Snapchat’s established market share, product niche and ability to scale will continue to drive growth. DJ Khaled won’t be abandoning his 15 million plus Snapchat followers anytime soon.

We’ll be excited to follow the growth and adoption of Instagram stories over the coming weeks and months, as well as Snapchat to see if they launch any new features to help grow and add value for their loyal user base. If you’ve got any questions about how Charles River Interactive can help you with your Instagram or Snapchat presence, we’re happy to help!

Interested in learning more in social media trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
Facebook launches Canvas: Mobile Interactive Full Screen Ads

10 Tips for Effective Content Marketing on Twitter

Facebook launches Canvas: Mobile Interactive Full Screen Ads

Facebook’s newest mobile ad creation is Canvas, which debuted at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in France, had a brief beta period and was recently made available to all Facebook advertisers using Power Editor.

With Facebook Canvas, advertisers are able to provide users with a full screen interactive rich media ad experience that lives within the Facebook app.

How It Works

Facebook Canvas ads exist only within Facebook’s popular mobile app.

Canvas ads appear to users as normal sponsored posts in their news feed. When users click on a Canvas sponsored posts, it expands, taking over the users’ full screen, immersing them into the rich content.

According to Facebook “You can easily build your Canvas using a combination of videos, still images and call-to-action buttons. In Canvas, people can swipe through a carousel of images, tilt-to-view panoramic images and zoom in to view images in detail.”

Initial Results

Canvas’ beta release was limited to well-known global brands including Carnival Cruise Lines, Wendy’s, Target, BMW and Macy’s.

In their first Canvas campaign, Carnival Cruise Lines targeted a broad audience of newcomers to cruising. TechCrunch provided some initial overall metrics, reporting that “53% of users that open a Canvas, view at least half of it, and the average view time is a stunning 31 seconds. The top Canvas ads can see more than 70 seconds of view time per user.”

Digiday reported that “Carnival said that 50 percent of people who opened the ad scrolled through until the end. Also, the average time spent with the ad was between 135 seconds and 174 seconds, longer than the ad’s running time of two minutes.”

Wendy’s Deconstructed Cheeseburger Canvas ad let people scroll, swipe, and see GIFs of different ingredients received 65 seconds of average view time. 2.9% of viewers even got all the way to the bottom and used the Wendy’s restaurant locator.

Why We Love It

  1. Increase Brand Awareness: For branding and awareness campaigns attention and engagement are top priorities. Facebook Canvas gives companies and brands the ability to create an immersive experience that grabs 100% of a user’s attention. The level of engagement driven by Canvas ads is unparalleled across social media platforms.
  2. Enhanced Mobile Experience: Facebook Canvas ads are designed for and run exclusively on mobile, so it only makes sense that the Canvas ads are fast to load and are very user friendly.
  3. Standard Advertising rates apply: Facebook Canvas ads run as sponsored post ads and there are no additional costs associated to run them. Advertisers will be able to use the same pricing and bidding models available for standard Facebook ads.
  4. Content Marketing Opportunities: With all the hype around content marketing, Canvas ads are like delivering small websites to your consumer’s thumbs. Great content nudges consumers closer to conversion goals.
  5. Higher Engagement: With Canvas’ advanced visual features you can create an immersive storytelling experience, translating into long consumer engagement and higher conversion rates.
  6. Ecommerce made easy: With Canvas you can add more details, including full product catalogs and even Buy Now CTAs.

Interested in learning more, contact your Charles River Interactive Account Manager, or check out Facebook’s official site for Canvas.

Interested in learning more in social media trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
The Rise of Mobile Chat Apps
Facebook & Twitter Unleash New, Exciting Features

10 Tips for Effective Content Marketing on Twitter

Co-authored by Nancy Stewart

We reported last month on big developments with Twitter (#RIPTwitter: The Future of Twitter and Your Brand) and how they could change the content marketing landscape.

Our conclusion? There’s a lot of opportunity here for smart marketers – despite the critics who fear any change to the Twitter algorithm. The rules are still the same: Really compelling, targeted, organic content is your best bet for attracting followers, building engagement and achieving conversions.

Where do you start? We’ve compiled our top 10 Twitter tips (with a bonus tip) to help you develop a smart strategy.

How to Use Twitter for Your Brand

If you want Twitter to be a successful tool for your business, you need to have a plan before you start tweeting away.

Even the most eloquently-crafted 140-character posts will not attract followers and achieve real results on their own. Creating and implementing a smart content strategy will go a long way to keep your Twitter account focused on your business objectives and directed at your target audience.

  1. Lay out your goals: You’ll have more success creating effective tweets if you know why you are tweeting. Your posts should support your business goals for using Twitter. Start by answering a basic question: What are you trying to do? The answer may be build brand awareness, promote thought leadership or generate leads. Make sure your content supports those goals.
  2. Target your audience: Before posting any tweet, ask yourself: “What information does my target audience want and do they care about this message?” It’s a good idea to tweet about topics you’ve seen resonate with your followers in the past. These easy tricks can help you acquire a more targeted following.
  3. Find your voice: Central to building a brand presence on any social media platform is having a personality. How do you want followers to perceive your brand? Are you fun, creative, humorous? You convey that personality by picking the best voice and tone and staying consistent.
  4. Get creative with #hashtags: You’ve seen them, but do you know to use them? Hashtags are keywords or phrases that help your posts reach the right people. Research the most popular hashtags related to your industry. Once you’re established on Twitter, you can even create your own hashtags.
  5. Use visuals: Stop thinking about Twitter as a space that only allows text. Uploading images, GIFs and videos help your posts stand out and increase engagement significantly.
  6. Develop an editorial calendar: Feeling overwhelmed with the need to post to Twitter, Facebook, your blog and so on? Editorial calendars help you get organized and post regularly on a schedule, so you don’t fall behind.
  7. Be interactive: By nature, social media isn’t supposed to be a one-way conversation. Make sure you are giving back to your followers by responding to them, re-tweeting them, etc. If you tweet content from other sources (besides your own blog), be sure to mention and tag authors and publications.
  8. Engage with influencers: Identify a list of reputable individuals or businesses with a particular expertise that’s relevant to your brand. When an opportunity arises to reply or retweet, take it! You can also keep an eye on what the industry experts are tweeting and mention them in tweets you feel they’d be interested in.
  9. Include a clear call to action: The best way to achieve a direct response is to be explicit. If you have only 140 characters, don’t be coy or shy. “Read more at our blog” or “Visit our online store” are effective approaches when you pair them with a compelling reason why: “Get ready for summer. We’re offering 20 percent off all sandals today. Visit our online store.”
  10. Be brief: This one goes without saying, since the hallmark of Twitter since its launch was the 140-character-limit. You may feel the squeeze to stay within those boundaries, but know this: Shorter Tweets – 140 characters or less – get more conversions. That’s according to Twitter’s own best practices guide.

And a bonus 11th tip:

Pay to promote your Tweets: Even a small investment in paid social can help drive traffic. Promote tweets with high engagement rates to extend your reach and continue providing your target audience with particularly engaging content.

Interested in learning more about social media and paid search trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

How To Use Snapchat For Your Brand

Google SERP News: Right Rail Ads Are Gone

#RIPTwitter: The Future of Twitter and Your Brand

It took a week’s worth of bad news to make people talk about Twitter again. Today, you’re probably hearing a lot about the future of Twitter, and wondering whether it has one.

From the #RIPTwitter backlash to news that user growth has “come to a halt” – as a few media outlets put it – the company is fighting to prove it’s still relevant.

If you’re a marketer, you want to know what all of this might mean for your brand engagement on Twitter. Here’s what you need to know:

Twitter User Growth
Twitter released its fourth quarter earnings report late Wednesday. Not only has the company failed to increase new users since it went public, it has actually lost monthly active users from the previous quarter, according to news reports. Investors were clearly disappointed, as stocks fell in after-hours trading.

The timing couldn’t have been worse, as it arrived on the heels of the #RIPTwitter drama. The company’s fight is now two-fold: Proving itself to investors and preserving the loyalty of the angry users it desperately needs.

#RIPTwitter: What Does it Mean?
Twitter has been hinting for a year that an algorithm was in the works. On Friday, Buzzfeed broke the news that it would be introduced this week, sending the twittersphere into a frenzy. Enraged users created the #RIPTwitter hashtag to protest the change, officially announced Wednesday.

Why the revolt? Users say Twitter is copying the Facebook playbook. Until now, the real-time Twitter feed has been its key differentiator, setting it apart from other platforms. Now, users worry the algorithm will vet everything they see.

What is an Algorithmic Timeline?

  • How it works now: The feed appears in reverse chronological order. Users see the latest tweets from people they follow.
  • The problem: If you don’t log in for a while, your real-time feed keeps updating without you.
  • What changes: If you log in after a hiatus, the new algorithm will highlight the top missed tweets it thinks are most relevant to you, based on your activity and other factors. (Read more about the feature on Twitter’s blog.)
  • What stays the same: After these “top missed tweets,” users continue on to their normal feed.
  • Who has to use it: It’s an optional setting that’s rolling out in waves.

How Does the Twitter Algorithm Impact Brands?
So die-hard Twitterheads are upset. As a marketer, should you be, too? It doesn’t look that way.

Here’s what changes:

  • The algorithm will only pick tweets from a user’s followers. It will not select ads.
  • It will factor in organic engagement, so promoted tweets can’t cheat the algorithm.
  • The company promises it’s not moving toward a “pay to play” system for advertising, like what Facebook uses.
  • Your brand’s unpaid tweets are still equal to user tweets. They may appear as top highlights, if they get enough traction.

That means you should continue to invest in and distribute high-quality content. And who knows, maybe these changes will actually help you reach more people – that is, if Twitter makes good on its promise to Wall Street for user growth this winter.

Interested in learning more about social media trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

How to Use Snapchat for Your Brand

Snapchat debuted as an app with a reputation as a tween/teen alternative to more traditional channels like Facebook and Twitter.

Today, Snapchat has begun to emerge as a legitimate social network that brands and agencies cannot ignore. Consider these stats from Snapchat:

  • 60 percent of 13 to 34-year-old smartphone users in the U.S. are on Snapchat
  • 5 billion-plus daily videos views
  • Over 100 million daily active users

According to these numbers, Snapchat is growing up. And for smart marketers, it presents a key opportunity to reach a coveted demographic.

What is Snapchat?

Founded in 2011 by three Stanford students, Snapchat had a clear goal: Provide a social media platform where posts, pictures and opinions shared “in the moment” would not haunt a user’s online reputation forever. It promised the ability to be spontaneous and honest without those 2 a.m. college posts popping up during future job interviews.

How Does Snapchat Work?

Snapchat is a smartphone app that allows its users to take pictures and video, add filters, text and emojis, and share them directly with friends.

The key to Snapchat’s appeal – and success – is its short window: No post lasts longer than 24 hours, and some disappear in seconds. This is important because it builds an engaged audience. Users keep checking in so they don’t miss posts and because they can only see them once, they make it count.

Snapchat and Marketing: What You Need to Know

Snapchat provides advertising opportunities with their Discover section, which is populated by big name publishers like ESPN, VICE, Wall Street Journal and many more.

  • Targeted advertising opportunities: Recently, Snapchat has announced wider ranging advertising options that will allow digital marketers to target specific groups of people. This type of ad product will allow brands to directly engage with their target audience depending on a number of factors like location, interests, etc.
  • Compelling campaigns through My Story: Brands can use the ‘My Story’ feature to highlight a product or service in little bite size chucks with a reveal at the end and a strong call to action. My Story compiles a series of posts – or snaps – in chronological order to tell a story.
  • Comprehensive social media strategy: Brands can use their existing social media groups in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to add more followers on their Snapchat page via posting the Snapchat user QR code as their profile picture or a straight up image post. (Be bold, make your Snapchat QR code your Facebook profile image and watch your followers jump higher.)

While Snapchat is still in the early stages of growth, I’m seeing more and more 30+, 40 + individuals creating and sending snaps to their friends and colleagues. With every image having a permanent home elsewhere, sharing “of the moment” images/video to friends creates more of an intimacy with your friends. However as the user base of Snapchat moves to an older demographic, having opportunities to deliver your message to where the attention is of your audience will further validate using Snapchat as one of your social media channels.

Interested in learning more in social media trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

The Rise of Mobile Chat Apps

Facebook & Twitter Unleash New, Exciting Features

Instagram Ad Rollout – More Opportunity for PPC

The world is becoming more mobile every day. According to a national survey 92% of Americans own a cell phone, 58% of which own a smartphone. The result?  We are constantly connected to one another and to the world.

One of the most popular ways we connect on mobile is via social networks. Over the past decade+ we’ve connected virtually on platforms from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook, the latter of which has arguably become a part of everyday life.

Instagram Used by Almost 20% of Cell Phone Users

Instagram is one of the latest in this social media landscape – and originated as an app.  Since being introduced in 2010, it has grown in popularity. According to the Pew Research Center, one in five American adult cell phone owners use the app (roughly 18% of the population).

Like Facebook (Instagram’s parent company), Instagram is now serving ads in users’ feeds that appear “natural”, like a post from a friend or someone that you follow. When one of these sponsored images or videos appears, it will feature a “Sponsored” icon in the top right corner.

Instagram Ad Targeting

Instagram ads are targeted to users by combining data from personal Instagram and Facebook accounts. Ad content will depend on who you follow on Instagram as well as what you’ve already “Liked” on Facebook. If a user does not have a Facebook account (or have their Instagram linked to their Facebook), the ads shown will be less tailored.

Advertising on Instagram is in beta – currently not available to all advertisers – but will be slowly rolling out over the next few months. Large brands such as Adidas and Lexus have created Instagram accounts in the past few years and have already built quite a following. These types of brands can leverage both their natural presence, as well as the ability to advertise to engage users in multiple areas, with multiple messages.

Are Instagram Ads Right for You?

As with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles and advertising,  not every social media channel will be right for every company. Pew Research Center has broken out some very significant data that will help us to determine whether or not Instagram ads are a good fit. One example is that 43% of cellphone owners age 18-29 currently use Instagram, but only 18% of the  30-49 age bracket does. If your brand targets Gen Y, Instagram could be very successful. If targeting anyone over 30, you may be wasting your ad dollars or may want to at least take a closer look at what appeals to this smaller segment.

CRI is very excited to have the opportunity to reach our audience via new PPC formats and services, and we look forward to testing and analyzing results in the months ahead. Stay tuned for what will definitely be an exciting time in the ever-changing world of online advertising.