Keeping it real: How to connect with your customers through social media

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Social media is an important extension of your brand and the perfect place to share your brand personality and grow your community of brand enthusiasts. While some may not see social media as the most personal platform for building relationships with customers, if it’s done the right way, you can make meaningful connections with your online audience.

Providing a great experience for your audience on social media can increase customer satisfaction and build brand loyalty. While a lot of sales do come from social media, your customers primarily come there to have fun and socialise so it is vital to tailor your marketing strategies for these platforms to meet their needs and expectations. Here are our top eight ways you can connect with your online audience through social media and keep your customers happy:

1. Ask for Your Audience’s Opinions

Social media has become a great way to reach out to your customers. Gathering information about the preferences and opinions of your audience has never been easier. Social media users love to share their opinions online, and your fans will often be more than willing to share their thoughts about your products. All you need to do is give them something to share their opinion about. One of the simplest ways to go about this is by creating a poll, or even just posting a question with your content.

2. Implement that Feedback

If you stay active on social media and keep in touch with your audience, it’s often easy to tell what resonated with them and what didn’t. It’s important to listen to your customers to find out how you can improve your business. While collecting feedback is crucial to a successful business, it’s almost pointless if you don’t actually use that feedback in a meaningful way. Try creating a spreadsheet with all of the customer feedback your receive, separating complaints and suggestions. You should handle the complaints in a professional manner and integrate any useful suggestions into your business strategy. This should be done on a regular basis because when your customers can see that you are listening to them they will be more forthcoming with vital feedback in the future.

3. Show Your Customers Appreciation

Letting your customers know they are appreciated can help keep them happy, as well as give you an edge over your competitors. Showing your gratitude to your social media audience should be a regular activity of your marketing strategy. Connecting with your online audience on a personal level can truly resonate with your customers. For example, if your fans mention you on social media or create content featuring your brand, take the time to reply to them or share their message.

4. Solve Issues Promptly

One of the best ways to keep your customers happy is still to solve any issues they may have with your company quickly, whether it’s a complaint or a question. This shows that you actually care about your customers and value their business. This means you need to constantly be monitoring social media in order to answer any complaints and questions promptly. Having someone dedicated to this can greatly benefit your business. You should also have a plan in place for dealing with complaints.

When you turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one, they’ll be more likely to remain a customer, and may become an advocate for your brand if they have a positive experience with you. Monitoring social media on a constant basis can also prevent a social media crisis from spiraling out of control by allowing you to immediately respond to anything that comes up. A crisis on social media can make or break your brand, so it’s important to deal with it immediately.

5. Use Video

Use more interesting methods, such as video, to share your product or service with your online audience. Just telling your customers about your business can be pretty boring. Utilise the rise in popularity of video content to capture details about your products and your brand. Users are more engaged with video on social media than text, meaning that they are more likely to pay attention and remember your content. Gain the interest of your audience, and then keep it by continuously creating informative and entertaining videos.

6. Give Them an Inside Look

Give your audience a look at what goes on behind-the-scenes at your business. This can help gain more trust from your customers and create a meaningful connection. People like to feel included. By sharing videos or pictures of your team working or anything else the public doesn’t see, you’re making your customers feel like they’re included in your business. This also makes your brand seem more human and allows your customers to learn more about you.

7. Don’t Make It All Business

Using social media to share information about products or services, what’s happening with your business, or other things related to your business is definitely important, but it’s also important to make sure your social media presence isn’t just all about your business. Along with your business-related content, be sure to share other content that your audience may be interested in, such as informative or inspirational articles, an interesting video, or even a funny meme. Try to have fun with your audience or they will quickly lose interest if you all you are doing is blasting them with sales tactics and self-promotion. A content calendar can be a big help in making sure you share a variety of posts.

8. Keep it original

The allure of social media is to create more intimate relationship, offer exclusive insights to your brand and design a unique experience for your customers. The key to keeping your audience engaged is by adding value to their lives with through your original branded content. If you are just sharing your online catalogue shots or reposting memes, then where is the incentive for your audience to want to socialise with you online? The chances are that if they are a fan of your brand then they have seen it all before. You want to create fresh content that commands their attention mid-scroll. What can you teach them, share with them and inspire them with? By creating on-brand content that adds value to your customer you will be able to invite them in a little closer while showcasing your brand at the same time.
 

5 Ways to Turn Your Online Window Shoppers into Customers

If you had a dollar for every time a window shopper left your website before buying anything, you could probably quit your job and head to that baby sloth photography retreat in Costa Rica. Sadly, your online visitors have to buy something, or everything, before you book that flight.

Online browsing is common with 70% of online shoppers doing the "cart abandonment" trick—where they fill a cart with items from your store, but leaving before buying anything. Then there's the “browse abandonment” crowd—this accounts for 92% of your website visitors who wander around the site and then leave with no items in the cart and no indication of why they left.

So how can you help your customers complete the checkout and not leave your online store’s inventory behind in abandoned carts? Using the following 5 tools can help convert a higher percentage of your wandering website window shoppers into paying customers.

 Photo by  Álvaro Serrano  on  Unsplash

1. Use Exit Intent Popups

OK, we can hear the collective screaming in your heads at the word "popups". But the truth is, they really do work. Marketing tests (where “exit intent popups” appeared in front of visitors before they could abandon ship) increased email address collection by more than 1000% over the course of several months!

We’ll talk about email collection and why that’s so critical in a minute. But first, here are some other ways that you can use exit intent popups to create an “itch to buy” for your website visitors that will lead more of them back to checkout:

  • Entice your window shopper with a generous %-off from their cart if they check out now.

  • Offer a special, one-time free shipping code if they buy today.

  • Give them a coupon code for so many dollars off if they buy now.

  • Alert them that there is a limited stock of the item they were viewing: “Only 1 left in stock.”

Note the use of now, today and scarcity. Exit intent popups can inject urgency into your window shopper's visit. People hate feeling like they’re going to miss out (FOMO), so if you tie a special deal to a deadline, they’re more likely to convert. This is a little psychological tactic known as “loss aversion” and it’s very powerful sales conversion tool.

Exit intent popups can also be used to collect email addresses and they’re very good at it. Capturing these emails increases your opportunities to engage with window shoppers, helping you bring them back to buy when they’re ready. It also gives you an opportunity to…

2. Employ a Browse Abandonment Email Campaign

If you have your window shoppers’ email addresses, you can now send them thoughtful and engaging browse abandonment emails. If they were interested enough to give you their email addresses, you can bring a significant number of these window shoppers back for the sale.  

Optimally, you should send a browse abandonment email within the first 20 minutes after someone leaves the website. Their visit on your website is still fresh in mind. So, use some combination of the following elements to sweeten their memory, inject some FOMO, entice them back and smoothly waltz them through checkout:

  • “Only one [insert picture of the item they spent the most time looking at] left – we’re saving it for you!”

  • “Did you see something you liked?” (…next to an image of the product they spent the most time looking at.)

  • “Thanks for stopping by our website! Here’s a special X % off coupon for your next purchase.”

An image of their longest-viewed item triggers response quicker than plain words. Still, bolster that image with the right words and you increase the chances of your window shoppers coming back to purchase.

Keep this email layout simple to avoid overwhelming your reader—use simple images with an obvious link back to their item, with an easy way to purchase it. Perhaps suggest complementary items, but again, keep it simple. Don’t give them a laundry list of every product they viewed—it's too creepy.

3. Analyze Abandoned Session Replays

You can find out which items your window shoppers lingered the longest over with a session replays tool. Session replays help you analyze where your shoppers spend the most time, where they click, what they avoid, where they leave the site or the checkout process, etc. This helps you find conversion leaks on your website so you can fix them:

  • Surprising shipping costs (the biggest reason people leave before checking out)

  • Complicated navigation

  • Long, confusing forms

  • Technical issues

  • Loading speed (too slow)

  • Security worries

  • They found a better price elsewhere

If you know where your website’s spooky spots are, you can fix them to make it easier for your window shoppers to become actual customers.

4. Try Facebook and Other Social Media Retargeting Tools

You leave a website to surf Facebook on your phone while you wait for your latte and, voila—there’s this ad from the website you just left. That’s retargeting. And for very little cost per customer, you can use these to bring back up to 70% of your window shoppers. Setting up a retargeting campaign on Facebook isn’t hard. But also consider other social media platforms depending on your target market demographics. The latest data on social media use from the Pew Research Center, in addition to your own market research, can set you off in the right direction.

5. Add Quick Conversion Boosters to Your Website

Just try some of these research-based ways to tune up your website for more sales:

  • Sales-Boosting Headlines—Boost sales with landing-page headlines mentioning pain points (real annoyances that your product eliminates), or a discount.

  • Live Chat—Real-time chat helps window shoppers convert. It also gives you another method of capturing customer data.

  • Social Proof—Display 5-star ratings, reliable customer raves and other forms of social proof.

  • Color Changes—A red call to action button beats a green one. Colors are subconsciously powerful influencers.

If you try these 5 tips, you might find yourself booking that baby sloth photography retreat sooner than you expected!

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Brett Thoreson is the founder and CEO of CartStack, a premiere cart abandonment & sales recovery solution for ecommerce businesses. He has a strong dedication to the ecommerce industry and a passion for adding value. Through CartStack, he and his team aim to change the way online companies recover revenue.

Regram rules: Is it ok for brands to share other people’s content on Instagram?

 Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

There is an art to curating the perfect looking Instagram feed and it is not unusual for brands and marketers to supplement their own content library with a variety of complementary images from external sources.

On Instagram, the act of sharing someone else’s image is colloquially referred to as a ‘regram’ and on the surface this seems to be a harmless and widely accepted practice. However, while this is tolerated and some users are ok with their content being shared by brands and corporations, many are not.

When it comes to sharing content that isn’t your own, all businesses need to know what is acceptable and how to do it in a safe, legal and respectful way.

First things first, make sure you are familiar with Instagram’s terms of service

Did you ever wonder why there was no ‘share’ button on Instagram? The platform wasn’t designed for regrams and in a previous statement the platform outlined that it was actually a violation of their terms and service to post anything that wasn’t your own original content.

Since then they have relaxed their terms and now hold you personally responsible for your use of the platform and obtaining the correct rights or permissions for any content you post. The basic terms of service are quick and easy to read over and if you don’t  comply with these you can risk the safety of your account or possible legal action.

When is it is ok to publish someone else’s photo?

You can regram anything you like on Instagram under one condition - you have permission from the original content creator or image owner.

Simply crediting the original source is not sufficient and you must get prior consent from both the creator and anyone depicted within the photos before you share them on your account. While some people might be honoured that their favourite brand wants to share their photo, others may have only intended it for their own personal audience.

An excerpt from Instagrams Copyright FAQ outlines that even if unintentional, using someone else’s work without permission will still infringe on their copyright, even if you:

  • Give credit to the copyright owner

  • Include a disclaimer that you do not intend to infringe on copyright

  • State that it is fair use

  • Did not mean to benefit from it

  • Buy or download content (for example, a copy of a DVD or song from the internet)

  • Modify the work or add your original material to it

  • Find such content available on the internet

  • Record that content into your recording device (for example, from movies, concerts, sporting events, etc.)

  • See that other people are also sending the same content

 Photo by  Le Buzz  on  Unsplash

Photo by Le Buzz on Unsplash

How to get permission to share other people’s photos online

If you find an image you want to share you’ll need to find the person who created or owns the rights to it. Tracing the original source is vital and just because another account has shared the image doesn’t mean that they were the creator of that photograph.

The easiest way to get consent to use a photo is to ask the poster via leaving comment or sending them a direct message. To ensure they know exactly which image image you’re asking to use, you’ll need to include the image in your message.

Once the content creator has responded to your direct message and given you permission to share their image, you’re free to regram it to your account. Unfortunately not all accounts will see all their comment notifications and if they aren’t following your account they may not see your request at first. If you do not get a response you may wish to also try contacting them via email if they have it listed on their account.

How to credit other people’s content correctly

When you do obtain permission to use someone else’s content it is important that you acknowledge the original source correctly. This means giving the photographer full credit within your caption and also tagging them in the image.

Sharing User Generated Content

People who tag your account or use your branded hashtag may be implying that they give permission for your brand to repurpose their content, but this does not constitute consent. Even if it depicts your products or brand, this image is still copyrighted by the owner or creator of that photograph. When it comes to regramming content of any type it is best to play it safe and always ask for permission to ensure you avoid any legal issues down the track, especially if you are using the content for commercial purposes.

If you don’t have the resources to monitor and obtain permission to use your customers content there are lots of companies that help source and manage the rights to use UGC for you such as Pixlee, and CrowdRiff who have found that 65% of people provide permission to their photos within 24 hours.

Include Copyright Waivers in your Contracts

When working with influencers, bloggers or brand ambassadors to create branded content you will need to clearly articulate your licensing and copyright terms in your original contract.

Although it is implied through hiring or collaborating with them that you will be repurposing the content on your own account you will need to have this specified in a copyright waiver. This can also include terms that allow you to reuse the content on your website and marketing materials to avoid any further licensing fees or negotiations down the track.

What are the risks?

Having your Instagram account disabled: Users can report your account for sharing their content without permission and Instagram can shut your account down if you are reported as a frequent violator of other people’s intellectual property rights.

Infringing on Copyright Law: Depending on what country you are in you may also infringe on copyright law which differs according where the images are reproduced or shared. There are some ‘fair use/dealing’ situations which allow businesses to use other people’s images under certain circumstances such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, education, and research. This is outlined in the Copyright section of Instagram’s Help Centre so if you need more information about what constitutes a copyright infringement it is worth the read.

In summary

It is vital to take the necessary steps to understand and comply with the best practices both legally and morally. For the most effective marketing communications brands should always share original content and create images specifically for your audience. Regramming content can be a convenient way to share your brand personality but just because something is published online doesn’t mean it is there to be used freely.

Always trace the original source of a photo you wish to share and obtain the correct permissions to use it. Content creators spend a lot of time honing their craft and brands who take advantage of this by repurposing images for their own marketing run the serious risk of having their account shut down or copyright infringement.

6 ways to boost your results using social proof

When looking for somewhere to dine on a Saturday night which restaurant are you more likely to pick: The one that’s empty and has no one inside it but the wait staff? Or the one that is lively and bursting at the seams with a crowd outside waiting to be seated?

 Photo by  Roman Arkhipov  on  Unsplash

Most people would be instantly attracted to the busy restaurant because it had ‘social proof’. This means it is demonstrating that it’s worth your hard earned money and time otherwise why else would it be flooded with customers. That’s how the human psychology works and this exact phenomenon is what marketing experts employ to increase confidence in anxious customers to convince them to try out a product or service.

So how can you build social proof with your business? Let’s take a look at some tried and tested strategies that will help spike your customer base and conversions:

1. Online Reviews and Customer Testimonials

Online review and testimonials are the easiest types of social proof to share the merits of your brand with the outside world. Most online shoppers will search out and read reviews of your products or service prior to purchase and the more customer feedback you have will help them to validate their purchase. Almost all eCommerce stores use online reviews as social proof on their product listings. In addition to this you can use your expert and best customer reviews to your advantage by displaying them on the front of your website for potential and present customers to see.

As well as utilising your existing customer base, there are many experts and bloggers that you can invite to review your product. For the best results look for people that are respected and work in your niche or specific product category. It never hurts to reach out to someone with a great profile, many of these people review products like yours for a living and actively look for new brands to share to their audiences.  

 Customer testimonials are a great way to build trust with your audience

Customer testimonials are a great way to build trust with your audience

2. Sharing your clients and customer base

Let’s take the restaurant example once again. Because you see people flocking towards a particular venue, you believe it’s a quality one. So, in this case, the more customers you see the more it strengthens your trust in the brand. Telling the world how many customers you’re currently serving is a great way to grow your existing clientele.

Sharing the numbers of customers, active users and subscribers you have can all help build social proof and make you look more legitimate to potential customers.

Many brands providing services demonstrate social proof by sharing their clients logos on their website. The reasoning behind this is that bigger the brands you are working with the more professional and successful you’ll appear.

3. Media Mentions and name drops

The power of mentions and name drops can be a very effective way to build authority and validate your product or service. If your product has been featured by a popular magazine, a TV segment, or an interview, it will help you build credibility and introduce you to a wider audience.

Media mentions may even come from the most surprising places like the time that the Queen of England name dropped ‘Game of Thrones’ in her Christmas Day address. Even if your customers don’t see or hear it make sure they can discover it by sharing the excerpt on your website or to your email subscribers.

 Proof practice what they preach

Proof practice what they preach

4. Celebrity Endorsement

It’s no secret that people look up to celebrities and public figures and take note of the things they wear and the items they use. If you are a fan of a particular famous person you’d be naturally inclined to try out a product line or a service that they endorse.

If your budget allows you to pursue a celebrity endorsement, the right partnership can be incredibly lucrative. Some brands send out samples to celebrities in the hope that they will endorse them and instantly build rapport with your brand to a large audience. Of course some celebrities may be genuine customers of your brand and not need any prompting to share your products with their fans.

On a lesser scale many brands are using influencer marketing to the same effect. People with large followings on social media can be employed to help promote your brand to their online communities. Although with so many celebrities and influencers capitalising on paid promotion the effectiveness of these collaborations can be questionable.

5. Recognitions, Certifications, and Badges

Ever noticed how schools and colleges are recognised by certain Universities? If an establishment is nationally recognized by the government or a regulatory body, it establishes a sense of trust among the community.

Brands can use this to the same effect by applying for awards and publishing their certifications, badges, and recognition. There are lots of awards you can apply for as a business and winning them can give you a huge advantage over your competitors. The more certifications you have the more credible you’ll appear so make sure you mention your associations and awards by sharing their logos on your website.

6. Social connections and sharing

People’s knowledge of brands and products today can frequently come from within their personal social media networks. Customers will use your social media accounts to verify and connect with your brand so the more you can cultivate an engaged following online the stronger your brand will appear. Having an active and welcoming social presence is key to building social proof as many customers will refer to your social accounts to see the type of content you share prior to purchase.

 Eye catching content designed to share by Creatively Squared for client Party Kit

Eye catching content designed to share by Creatively Squared for client Party Kit

Creating great branded content that customers want to share and recommend to their friends and family is some of the best social proof you can get. Even better are customers that are so enamoured with your brand that they create their own content featuring your product. This essentially creates a visual review of your product and when they share it, an authentic word of mouth recommendation. You can incentivise and invite your customers to create content by having your own branded hashtag and sharing their photos on your own social accounts

Conclusion

When it comes to selling products online, trust is the most delicate commodity and the hardest one to earn. It is important to do everything in your power to increase confidence in your customer and reduce their path to purchase. Building social proof is not something you can rush as it involves demonstrating the integrity of your brand across multiple touch points, however there are some great tools to help implement the results like Proof. There is no one tactic you can use that will convince your customer to hit that checkout button but using a combination these suggestions will certainly help.

Instagram shopping has launched, is your business ready?

 Tropical party supplies from Party Kit. Styled and photographed by Creatively Squared

Tropical party supplies from Party Kit. Styled and photographed by Creatively Squared

Instagram Shopping launched last week in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The feature was trialled in the US in November 2016 and was made widely available last year, allowing businesses to tag images with product and pricing details, completely changing the social shopping experience and creating a huge opportunity for the 25 million Business profiles currently on Instagram.

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What is Instagram Shopping?

Instagram Shopping allows business profiles to tag their products in posts, allowing consumers to explore and shop your best products with a single tap.

With shopping on Instagram, you can choose photos you'd like to feature, tag up to five products per image or up to twenty products per carousel, add filters or captions and you're done.

When someone taps a tag on your post, they'll see:

  • An image of the product

  • A product description

  • The price

  • A link that takes them directly to your website where they can purchase the product.

 

The feature has already been incorporated by Shopify and Big Commerce, allowing consumers to add to cart and complete checkout without leaving Instagram creating a seamless shopping experience.

 Shoppable Instagram feed from Native Union increased sales by over 2000%

Shoppable Instagram feed from Native Union increased sales by over 2000%

But does it increase conversions? Stores that have implemented Instagram Shopping have seen

  • Natori: Increased Instagram traffic by 1,416%.

  • Magnolia Boutique: 20% increase in Instagram revenue.

  • SpearmintLOVE: Instagram traffic grew by 13%.

  • Native Union: Instagram traffic was a 2,666% increase.

The feature is currently only available in organic posts and can’t be promoted, however this is highly likely to become available in the future.

Why Instagram Shopping will have a significant impact

Ecommerce has completely changed the way we shop, in-fact we’re never not shopping and companies that don’t consider all of their channels and how they interact with each other are being left behind.

 Make your customers decision making process a breeze by showing them your product from all angles. Party Kit supplies styled and photographed by Creatively Squared.

Make your customers decision making process a breeze by showing them your product from all angles. Party Kit supplies styled and photographed by Creatively Squared.

Social or Discoverable Shopping such as Instagram Shopping, Buyable Pins on Pinterest and Amazon Spark threatens to completely change the shopping experience and it’s not only when marketing to millennials. 96% of Americans have made an online purchase with 80% purchasing online in the past month. Australians spent more than $10 billion online in 2017 with a 52% increase in mobile shopping purchases.

Technology has shortened the customer decision journey - awareness, consideration, intent, purchase and loyalty, to be potentially completed in a matter of seconds from the comfort of our own homes.  Companies that compress and accelerate this process will derive a significant advantage over competitors. While this marketing framework has traditionally been viewed as a funnel, today’s buying process is no longer linear with omni channel marketing. Providing a seamless experience for consumers across any channel that they choose is now a necessity rather than an optional strategy. Bringing the shopping experience to where your consumers are is the logical next step in strengthening this advantage.

 https://hbr.org/2015/11/competing-on-customer-journeys

https://hbr.org/2015/11/competing-on-customer-journeys

Instagram Shopping allows awareness, consideration and purchase to happen within a single platform in a matter of a few clicks and most importantly, it puts the process in front of where your customers are spending most of their time. With the ease of transaction, I’m willing to bet there will be more than a few impulse purchases made on Instagram after a few drinks have been consumed.

Will this change the face of online shopping? When the topic of Instagram Shopping came up in conversation with a friend last week, she remarked, “Oh didn’t you have Instagram Shopping yet in Australia? I don’t even visit websites to shop for things anymore”

 Serve your customers a visual feast with images that will capture their attention! Party Kit supplies styled and photographed by Creatively Squared.

Serve your customers a visual feast with images that will capture their attention! Party Kit supplies styled and photographed by Creatively Squared.

How can your business take advantage of this new feature?

To capitalise on this new Instagram feature, growing your organic following is more important than ever and to do so you need to focus on the 3 key aspects of a successful Instagram strategy - consistency, content and engagement. Before moving to any tactics to help acquire followers such as paid advertising, giveaways or influencer campaigns, ensure your own profile is up to scratch so you retain as many people as possible within your own community.

  1. Post consistently

    1. Every 2-3 days as a minimum. Have a strategy so people know what to expect from your brand.

  2. Share a variety of content

    1. Use a mix of in context product shots, behind the scenes content, videos, stories live video to keep things fresh. While it may be tempting to show traditional catalogue style images of products, these won’t resonate with consumers.

  3. Engage with your followers

    1. Instagram is a place to connect with your followers, not market at them. It’s an engagement rather than an advertising opportunity

How to setup Instagram Shopping

Before you start:

  • Ensure you have the latest version of the Instagram app

  • Your account must be a business profile

  • You must be an admin of the Page or Business Manager account

  • Have a shop on Facebook or product catalog within Business Manager

Once you're set up:

  1. Go to your profile

  2. Tap Get Started at the top of your profile

  3. Tap Products

  4. Tap Continue

  5. Select a product catalog to connect to your business profile

  6. Tap Done

Summary

Instagram Shopping is an enormous marketing opportunity for businesses to highlight their products in front of customers in an authentic manner. With Instagram lacking the ability to use links in posts, its eCommerce potential has been difficult to measure and largely untapped, until now.

Want to bring your Instagram feed to life? Contact us to find out how we help global brands create thumb stopping visual content

Top 8 free desktop tools every Instagram marketer should use

 Photo by  Mia Baker  on  Unsplash

Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash

There are lots of mobile applications and third-party tool to help you manage your Instagram account - around 800 of them! These complementary apps mean that using a mobile phone for managing your Instagram account is convenient but it is not always the most efficient way of doing things. Luckily there are other options available for those of us who need to use these services at work or from our desktop computer.

We have compiled a list of the best free desktop apps for streamlining your Instagram marketing and getting the best out of this platform:


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Websta

Ever wished there was an easy way to monitor your account and respond to all your Instagram comments right from your desktop? Well Websta is a website that enables you to do precisely that. It also has a handy feature that allows you to create custom feeds meaning that your browsing experience is no longer at the mercy of the Instagram algorithm. Websta also provides some handy analytics, such as telling you the best time to post and helping you identify your most popular posts.

Cost: Free


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Pixlr

There are lots of great photo editing apps for mobile but for those who don’t want to invest in expensive software for their desktop, Pixlr is a great alternative. This web based photo editor has just the right amount of features that makes it easy to use but still has some powerful functions. Those familiar with Photoshop will appreciate the familiar layout and find it easy and intuitive to use.

Cost: Free


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Everliker

Ever wish you could blitz through liking all of the posts to your branded hashtag without having to solicit dodgy third party apps or robots? Everliker is a chrome extension that operates through whatever Instagram account you are currently logged in as on your desktop. It never asks for any login details and only uses your computer and local IP address to perform the liking function. Because it is coming from you directly, this activity doesn’t compromise the safety or your account or suggest to Instagram that you are employing automated or external practises.

Cost: Free for for 700 likes per day


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Flume

Flume is a simple desktop app that enables you to easily use and engage with Instagram from your Mac. The free version allows you to use Instagram as you would from their own web app but with the added bonus of being able to send and reply to direct messages. There is currently no simple way to upload content to your Instagram account from your desktop, unless you use a third-party scheduling app or activate the mobile version of Instagram from your computer. For a one time $10 upgrade Flume will allow you to post content directly to Instagram and activate the software on several  computers with multiple accounts.

Cost: Free or $10 to upload or use multiple accounts


 Screenshot via Later.com

Screenshot via Later.com

Later

There are a lot of scheduling and posting tools out there and for desktop users Later is one of the best. Although this service has many more benefits than just the ability to plan your instagram posts in advance such as comment moderation and saved hashtag collections. Ever wondered how some people can get actual paragraph spacing in their Instagram captions? Somehow the wizards at Later can make this happen for you. Other bonuses of this software their own Linkin.bio feature which a landing page that looks like your Instagram page and displays your content as clickable images. This makes it simple to create a clickable and shoppable Instagram feed that links your audience to your products.

Cost: Free for 1 account and 30 posts per month


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Linktree

With Instagram limiting accounts to only use one link in their bio and not enabling users to share clickable links it is vital to use your link wisely. Linktree creates a handy dashboard for you to save multiple links with appropriate headlines that is easy for your audience to navigate.

Cost: Free for 10 links or upgrade to pro for $6 per month


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Social Rank

This is a great tool for analysing your followers and identifying influential and highly engaged members of your audience. Social Rank will tell you who your most valuable followers are and can filter them by location, bio keywords and online activity. You can sort, create lists and export them for future reference. The premium version of this software also allows you to directly message users that you are interested in communicating or partnering with at scale.

Cost: Free or $49 per month for premium


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Social Blade

Once you have identified influential members of your online communities you may wish to pursue a partnership with them or invite them to promote your brand online. Before you do this you might want to assess the integrity of their audience. Using a tool like Social Blade will allow you to see if they have any unusual activity on their account such as mass followings which could indicate bought or low-quality followers.

Cost: Free

Second Birthday Prize Showcase

We are so excited to be celebrating the 2nd anniversary of our creative challenges and we wouldn't be here today without the support of these amazing businesses. We are proud to showcase all of the wonderful prizes you could win in our 2nd Birthday celebration below (in alphabetical order)


By participating in our 2nd Birthday Celebration you could win:

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Appelles Apothecary & Lab

Best of Appelles gift pack
RRP $149.95

Want to see more? Shop the Appelles collection at appelles.com and join them on Instagram @appellesskin

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Arlo and Co

Small Love Plaque
RRP $40

Want to see more? Shop the Arlo and Co collection at arloandco.com.au and join them on Instagram @arloandco

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Barkly Basics

Custom Gift Box
Valued at $100

Want to see more? Shop the Barkly Basics collection at barklybasics.com.au and join them on Instagram @barklybasics

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Bits and Pieces to Go

Customised Panama Hat
Valued at $49.95

Want to see more? Shop the Bits and Pieces to go custom hat collection at bitsandpiecestogo.com and join them on Instagram @bitsandpiecestogo

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Bowerbird Australia

Silver Hummingbird studs and necklace
Valued at $150

Want to see more? Shop the Bowerbird jewellery collection at cottonandco.com.au and join them on Instagram @bowerbird_aus

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Cafe Skin Scrub

Original coffee scrub
Valued at $14.95

Want to see more? Shop the Cafe Skin Scrub collection at cakeskinscrub.com.au and join them on Instagram @cafeskinscrub

 

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Carla Dinnage

Large handmade ceramic jug
Valued at $150

Want to see more? Shop the Carla Dinnage Cermaics collection at carladinnage.com.au and join her on Instagram @carladinnageceramics

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Cristina Re

2 x Artists Gold Teacups2 X Artists Gold Mugs and a set of spoons
Valued at $215

Want to see more? Shop the Cristina Re collection at cristinare.com and join them on Instagram @cristinaredesigns

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Gingerfinch

Good Thing 'Field Candle holder'
Valued at $24.95

Want to see more? Shop the Gingerfinch collection at gingerfinch.com.au and join Pieta on Instagram @gingerfinchhome

 

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In the Daylight

2x Wall flags, 3x 5 pack of gift cards and an inspirational quote card set
Valued at $49.95 each, $9.75 each and $29.95

Want to see more? Shop the In the Daylight collection at inthedaylight.com.au and join Jessie on Instagram @_inthedaylight

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Lisa Sarah

Matte black ‘Simplicity’ plaque
Valued at $159

Want to see more? Shop the Lisa Sarah steel designs collection at lisasarah.com and join Lisa on Instagram @lisasarahsteeldesigns

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Louisa Rose and Co

One-of-a-kind handmade necklace
Valued at $89.95

Want to see more? Shop the Louisa Rose and Co jewellery collection at louisaroseandco.com.au and join her on Instagram @louisaroseandcojewellery

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Love Bites Cookies

Mini pack of custom cookies
Valued at $29.95

Want to see more? Order your custom cookies online at lovebiteslifestyle.bigcartel.com  and join Jen on Instagram @lovebitescookies

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Marisa Kate Designs

12mm Turquoise cushion earrings  and pendant
Valued at $99.95 each

Want to see more? Shop the Marisa Kate jewellery collection at cottonandco.com.au and join her on Instagram @marisakatedesigns

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One Tiny Tribe

2 x A4 prints
Valued at $25 each

Want to see more? Shop the One Tiny Tribe collection at onetinytribe.com and join them on Instagram @onetinytribe

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Pure Paw Paw

Strawberry Paw Paw Ointment
Valued at $4.95

Want to see more? Shop the Pure Paw Paw collection at purepawpaw.com.au and join them on Instagram @purepawpaw

 

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Scotch

Assorted Scotch Gift Pack
Valued at $150

Want to see more? Shop the Scotch collection at scotchbrand.com.au and join them on Instagram @scotch_anz

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Tavalon Australia

TVL Beauty Hand Cream
Valued at $29

Want to see more? Shop the Tavalon collection at tavalon.com.au and join them on Instagram @tavalonaus

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The Bronzer

Gradual Tan
Valued at $14.95

Want to see more? Shop The Bronzer collection at thebronzer.com.au and join them on Instagram @thebronzer

 

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The Goat Skincare

Original Soap Bar
Valued at $3.60

Want to see more? Shop The Goat Skincare collection at thegoatskincare.com.au and join them on Instagram @thegoatskincare

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The Lovely Other

2x A4 art prints
Valued at $39 each

Want to see more? Shop The Lovely Other collection at thelovelyother.com and join Cindy on Instagram @thelovelyother

 

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Toucan

A4 ‘Do all things with love’ print
Valued at $14.95

Want to see more? Shop The Bronzer collection at toucanonline.com and join them on Instagram @toucan_


Whether you are a regular, a newcomer or an admirer, we are giving you all the chance to win a prize this week

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CREATIVE CHALLENGE

Our 'Two' Themed challenge winner will win the biggest prize haul of the week. Enter as many times as you like!

You could win:

Appelles Best of Appelles Gift Box

Arlo and Co Bamboo Love Plaque

Barkly Basics Kitchen Essentials Gift Box

Bits and Pieces to GoCustomised Panama Hat

Cafe Skin Scrub Original Coffee Scrub

Carla Dinnage Large Ceramic jug

Cristina Re 2x Artists Gold Teacups, 2x Artists Gold Mugs and set of spoons

Gingerfinch Field Candle holder

In The Daylight set of 5x gift tags and ‘Eat Well Travel Often’ wall flag

Love Bites Cookies mini pack of cookies

Marisa Kate Designs Turquoise earrings and pendant set

Pure Paw Paw Strawberry Paw Paw Ointment

Scotch Assorted stationery items

Tavalon Earl Grey T.V.L Beauty Cream

The Goat Skincare Original Bar soap

The Bronzer Gradual Tan

The Lovely Other 
2x A4 art prints

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FIRST TIME ENTRANTS

We have a special prize this week for first time entrants. Don't forget to tag #cs_newbie onto your challenge image!

You could win:

Cafe Skin Scrub Original Coffee Scrub

In The Daylight set of 5x gift tags and ‘Adventure’ wall flag

Louisa Rose and Co Jewellery One-of-a-kind handmade necklace

Love Bites Cookies mini pack of cookies

Pure Paw Paw Strawberry Paw Paw Ointment

Tavalon  T.V.L Beauty Hand Cream

The Goat Skincare Original Bar soap

The Bronzer Gradual Tan

Toucan  A4 ‘Do all things with love’ print

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BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY

A traditional share, click or tag to win competition. See our Facebook and Instagram account for more detail

You could win:

Cafe Skin Scrub Original Coffee Scrub

Bowerbird Hummingbird studs and necklace

In The Daylight set of 5x gift tags and Inspirational Quote Set

Lisa Sarah Matt black ‘Simplicity’ plaque

One Tiny Tribe  2x A4 prints

Pure Paw Paw Strawberry Paw Paw Ointment

Scotch Assorted stationery items

Tavalon T.V.L Beauty Hand Cream

The Bronzer Gradual Tan

The Goat Skincare Original Bar soap

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COMMUNITY
BONUS

We have 5 bonus prizes to give away during the week. These will be awarded for creative and community merits.

You could win:

Cafe Skin Scrub Original Coffee Scrub

The Bronzer Gradual Tan

The Goat SkincareOriginal Bar soap

Pure Paw Paw Strawberry Paw Paw Ointment

Note: Bonus prizes will be awarded for great contributions to our community such as: Regular participation, outstanding support of other community members etc


To find out how you can participate in our 2nd birthday celebration and win these amazing prize packs please visit our Creative Challenge page for the full entry details. 

Instagram’s new auto posting update - is this a scheduling feature we actually want?

 Photo by  NordWood Themes  on  Unsplash

Any seasoned Instagram user can relate to the struggle of missing that prime posting window or forgetting to hit upload because real life gets in the way. Imagine not having to sneakily duck off to the loo at work or your family event to hit publish on your next post. You could be there for your ‘gram fam and your fam bam at the exact same time!

Although scheduling is quite commonplace on most social media networks, Instagram has not previously permitted any apps or social media management systems to auto post images on your behalf. While there are some services like Schedugram, Hopper and Onlypult than can do this for you, whether you should is an entirely different matter.

The Instagram interface did not allow access to third-party apps to post on your behalf and it was warned that automating your account like this could get you banned, blocked or penalized. To get around these limitations, most scheduling apps, like Plann, that exist today use a ‘safe’ notification system which simply alerts you when it’s time to publish your planned posts.

A month into 2018 we finally got the announcement we had been waiting for - Instagram was finally rolling out a scheduling feature. Finally we could plan our posts in advance and have them post for us at the exact right time. Those of us that live and breathe Instagram might have even done a little happy dance, that was - until we read the details and discovered all of the limitations.

Now that the dust has settled and we have had a couple of weeks to explore and trial this feature, let’s discuss the details, along with the not-so-great aspects, of this new feature:

All business, no pleasure

This new feature is only available to those who have registered Instagram for Business accounts. It is easy to switch your account over from a personal one but in order to do this you must also have a business Facebook page. The other thing to note is that your account must be set to public to be switched over to a Business account so if you value your privacy this feature is not for you.

 Photo by  Arnel Hasanovic  on  Unsplash

Access only via third party applications

This feature is not something that you can access or schedule within the Instagram app and can only be accessed through Instagram’s business partners and approved third party apps. This means you will be subject to each individual provider’s conditions and associated costs.

Cost to access

Unless you are a business with a marketing budget behind you, accessing this feature right now could be an expensive exercise for the average user. As more third-party programs jump on board there are likely to be more options for stretching your budget but the average price per year is around $20 per month.

Some of the apps that are currently approved to operate and their associated costs are:

Iconosquare: $9 per month or $81 paid a year in advance (capped at 100K follower limit)

Tailwind: $15 per month or $120 paid a year in advance
HootSuite: $228 per year paid in advance.

Oracle Social: $24 per month or $288 paid a year in advance

Sprout Social: $99 per month per user.

Planoly: Free (for 30 posts per month) or $9 per month unlimited

Note- This list is growing at a rapid rate so keep checking with your favourite social scheduling or management tools to see if they have added this feature. If you want to give any of them a try for yourself a lot of the above apps offer free trials.

Limited content

You know all those new features you love like sharing video and image carousels? Well you can count them out, the auto posting update only works for basic single image posts with no additional filters or tags.

Here is the full list of what you can’t include in your scheduled post:

  • Stories

  • Multi-Image Posts

  • Videos

  • Drafts

  • Locations

  • User Tags

  • Shopping Tags

  • Branded Content/ Paid Partnership Tag

  • Filters

Reach restrictions

Along with not being able to include any tags on your image, it also seems that any hashtags included on your post are made redundant resulting in a decreased reach. Many users that have tested this feature claim that the images are only served to their immediate audience making it hard for new accounts to discover their posts. If a hashtag strategy is a key part of your personal or promotional reach then this alone may be a complete deal breaker.

 Photo by  NordWood Themes  on  Unsplash

The verdict

Depending on your budget and your current use of the platform, the above limitations may have no impact on your instagram strategy. For some of us (myself included) this update has more negative than positive attributes. Being able to schedule your images in advance suddenly sounds far less appealing when you take into consideration the impact of limited visibility.

The motivations behind this update are clear, making life easier for marketers means bigger ad spends and money lining Facebook's pockets. Will this update encourage better practices online and help us create more captivating content and better connect with people? Probably not.

Like a lot of the new features being rolled out, it’s all leading Instagram to be a little less instant. The photo sharing platform featuring inspirational accounts and authentic content we originally fell in love with seems to be slipping further and further away. Facebook claim to have realised that we don’t want to spend all our time on social media being marketed to and has changed tactics to prioritise content that is personally relevant to us.  On the other hand, Instagram seems to be rolling out all the bells and whistles to distract us from the fact that it is no longer the platform we once signed up for.



 

2017 Community Survey results

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What you told us

Our wonderful community continues to grow and evolve and it's nearly two years now since we held our very first creative challenge. Although the format hasn't changed much since then, we’re always thinking of things we can do to add value and support the people that make Creatively Squared the place it is today. An important part of this is listening to feedback from you, which is why we put out our community survey throughout January.

We are so grateful to everyone that took the time to help us and as promised, here are the key things we learned from reading your responses.


How long have you followed Creatively Squared?

How long have you followed us?

Key learnings: We have a lot of newcomers to our community and mustn't forget that not everyone will be familiar with our format or know how to get involved. We believe we should be regularly reminding people of how to participate in our challenges and how to best engage with the rest of the community.


What do you enjoy most about being part of the Creatively Squared community?


The challenges, for both participating in and being inspired by. It's a very chill supportive group. I also really enjoy the blog posts! 😍

Being part of a community that supports and lifts people. Having the option to participate in weekly challenges that offer the chance to win amazing prizes.

The friendships gained (even if only online), the weekly challenges(even though I've been slack on those!) and how friendly and encouraging everyone is who is part of the community!

Key learnings: We were very happy to see that the most common themes you reflected on were the inspiration and community support. This is what we believe to be the heart of our community and what makes it such a special place. We will endeavour to keep inspiring and encouraging you while helping you upskill. 


How many times have you submitted an entry to one of our Challenges?

How often do you enter

It seems the most helpful thing everyone needs to submit entries is more time, which is something I'm sure we all need. Some people mentioned that they need to build their confidence, or that they don’t think they’re good enough to participate.

While we do have prizes each week for our best entries, what we love to see the most is people just having a go. We’ve seen so many people since we started grow, become more creative and improve their skills over time, and our community is great at supporting everyone. 

Key learnings: We really want to encourage more people to have a go and join us for the first time so we will be brining back our #cs_newbie tag . We will also be having more prizes for first time entrants this year in addition to our usual weekly prizes so look out for this if you have been interested in taking part.


Which brands and themes would you like to see?

We saw a variety of responses but it was very clear that you want to see a mix of small creative brands, independents and some big name brands as well.

We all love the floral and coffee faffing and of course we’ll continue to have lots of our flatlay favourites, but you told us you also want to see some more challenging themes - food, places, abstract, colours.

Key learnings: We will continue to mix this up, we know not all themes and sponsors will appeal to everyone but we will do our best to bring you lots of variety in 2018


What would you like to see at Creatively Squared?

What would you like to see?


This is great feedback for us and we’re going to try to implement as much as possible.

  • We’ll be including more interviews with our sponsors, hosts and creative community.
  • Instagram Live workshops are coming - if you would like to run an Instagram Live workshop for our creative community, get in touch here.
  • In addition to the 55% that chose live meetups and workshops, an overwhelming 88% of you said you would like to attend an event in your city and we can’t wait to start making this happen. It was fantastic to meet some of the community last year in London, Singapore and Brisbane, we’ll be hosting more meetups this year so to register interest in your city head to our events page.
  • In March we’ll be running our first challenge where our community can vote for the weekly winners on our website, so keep an eye out for that.

Highlights from our other survey questions

  • 72% of you told us you would like to join a Creatively Squared Facebook group, we’ll be launching this soon. The best thing about Creatively Squared is the creative people you meet and we want to make it easier to connect with and learn from each other, so we'll have a strong focus on sharing creative skills, tips and techniques
  • More than half you you regularly read our blog so look forward to more how to guides, interviews and digital marketing content as well as our content creation tips and tricks.
  • Almost 20% of you have joined our Messenger list, we’ve had great feedback about this since launching it in December.

    If you haven’t yet joined us on Messenger you can click this link to do so. Not only do you get early access to our challenge theme announcements each week, we also share our winners, blog posts and events and you can choose what you receive from us and how often.


Do you have any questions for us?

How are the winners selected?

Unless otherwise specified the weekly sponsor chooses the winners each week and judge the entries based on the following criteria:

  • Concept and creativity of entries in relation to the weekly theme
  • Dates - Images that are submitted during the live challenge period 
  • Captions - Opening captions that include the correct tags
  • Followings - Accounts that are following the weekly sponsor and @creativelysquared

Every week is a fresh slate and previous challenge winners and outcomes are not taken into consideration.

What do the sponsors look for in a winning entry? Do i need professional equipment?

Absolutely not! Our community does welcome a variety of people from talented amateurs to professionals from all over the world. Regardless of your background, your experience and equipment does not determine your ability to participate or the outcome of the challenge. Winners are not chosen on their flawless finish, it is all about how your share your creative ideas and ultimately more about concept than execution. 

What makes a standout entry?

Creativity and concept of the image in relation to our weekly theme.

Most of the featured images are flatlays, why is this?

We admit we do have a love affair with flatlays, but our creative challenge is for photos of any type. A lot of the entries we get submitted are flatlays which is why they account for large proportion of the featured images.


Thank you to everyone that donated their time to help us improve.

If you have feedback for us, theme or sponsor suggestions, you can still complete our Community Survey by clicking here

To stay in touch with everything Creatively Squared, join us on Messenger or subscribe to our Email Newsletter.
 

Hashtagging on Instagram… is it even #worthit anymore?

 Photo by  Suganth  on  Unsplash

Photo by Suganth on Unsplash

Social media platforms seem to be ever-updating their algorithms and it’s easy to feel out of touch with the ‘new best way’ to promote yourself online. We’re told that hashtags allow you to improve your visibility and share your content with interested users - but do they actually help?

Hashtagging and the deep unknown

Instagram, like most social platforms, doesn’t exactly advertise their algorithm updates and explain how to most effectively use their features. Because of this, we can only trust our own experiences, or take advice from others, on how to make sense of the hashtag mystery.

“How many hashtags should I use? Do I choose to include popular hashtags, or niche specific tags? Should I always use the same hashtags? In the caption or in the comments?”

I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves questions like these before, and if you do a little researching online… you’ll find no one really knows the true answer. At Creatively Squared, we have done some experimenting to try and bring some clarity to the mystery of hashtagging. We hope this blog can help you make sense of this feature and encourage you to do some testing of your own!

What does the data say?

While Instagram isn't forthcoming with all the details of their algorithm, they do provide users with business accounts some basic profile insights and metrics behind each post.

After looking into the data behind our own account we were quite surprised to discover that only 5-10% of the average reach, was from outside our profile's follower base. On a more in-depth study of the insights panel (accessible by swiping up) we were also able to see precisely how many (or more accurately how few!) impressions came from hashtags. This was on average 5 hashtag views for every 1000 in feed impressions - not great is it?

 To investigate this further, we asked a few creatives from our community to share their post insights with us to see if they matched our findings. Their account insights all had very similar metrics to ours which supports our theory that hashtags have little to no effect on the overall impact of a post. In fact, when we crunched the numbers we found that on average only a measly 0.5% of all impressions came from hashtags!

Conclusion: This basic analysis of the data provided by Instagram definitely suggests that hashtag use does little to promote the reach of our posts.

 Photo by  Jon Tyson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Where should you put your hashtags?

There are a lot of people claiming that you need to post all of your hashtags into your opening caption in order for them to be seen. When the whole ‘shadow banning’ fiasco hit last year, users affected would disappear from public hashtag feeds but still be visible to those that were following them.

To put this opening caption theory to the test we viewed the same hashtag feed from several profiles (to account for any followed user implications) to see if we would get different results.

We found absolutely no difference in the hashtag feed when viewed from a variety of accounts and the images visible were a mix of posts with hashtags in the first comment and opening caption.

There is of course the possibility that some accounts that had used that tag were simply not visible at all to anyone. When we moderate our weekly challenge hashtag there are usually some discrepancies between the number of times Instagram says the tag has been used and the number of posts we can see, but this could also be attributed to people posting from private accounts.

Conclusion: Although we can see no obvious examples of posts not showing up in feeds due to the placement of the hashtags, if you are concerned it certainly can’t hurt to put them in your opening caption. 

How many hashtags should you use?

Some users say that you should limit the number of hashtags to just several of your top ones and there are many rumours swirling that imply Instagram will penalise you for using too many.

Common sense tells us that it would seem a bit ridiculous for the platform to permit account holders to do something and then penalise them for doing it. We are in the school of thought that if Instagram lets you use 30 then why not just go for it and use all of them?

With our research already showing that minimal post traffic comes from hashtag use, why not spend your time researching a more refined set of tags. We think it’s much more effective to spend your time finding 10 amazing and hyper-relevant hashtags that you yourself would love to follow, than by putting a whole bunch up just for the sake of it.

Conclusion: Some users claim a sweet spot of around 11 tags however, with no definitive ruling from Instagram you’ll have to come to your own conclusion about this one or err on the side of caution and not use all 30.

How do you get your picture into the top posts of a hashtag feed?

We looked at the results of this from several different accounts and funnily enough there is one simple solution to have your image featured in the top posts - make sure the person viewing the feed is following your account. To verify this, we looked at the our own branded hashtag #creativelysquared from several different users accounts and no top 9 was the same.

From this you can determine that as well as popular posts, you are more likely to see the posts of accounts that you follow in the Top Posts section of hashtag feeds. We also considered other factors such as where they placed the hashtags or how many they used, none of which seemed to have any impact on its visibility.

What hashtags should you use?

While the business insights will usually tell you how many users saw your post through the hashtags, it won’t indicate which tag led a user to your photo or if they engaged with it. Unfortunately there is no clear way to determine how successful your individual hashtag selection is apart from overall post performance.

A popular theory at the moment is that you should mix up your hashtags and use different ones each time you post. Whether Instagram’s algorithm is monitoring this or not, we agree it is a good practice. By using a mix of popular and niche tags and mixing them up each time you post you will give your content the best shot of being introduced  to wider audience that will enjoy it.

Conclusion: The most important thing to do when selecting which hashtags to use is to ensure that the tag you are using is relevant to your image. Before you commit to using a particular tag take a good look at the feed and ask yourself - would I want to browse this collection?

One last tip - stay on top of the latest features

The latest hashtag feature introduced at the end of 2017 enables users to follow their favourite hashtags. Instead of manually searching hashtag feeds they love, accounts can have content from their favourite tags delivered straight into their feeds. For those, like us, who are not getting much traffic to their posts via hashtags this could be a game changer.

We have already started following our branded #creativelysquared tag as well as the weekly hashtags meaning bring our community even closer into our feed. In our experience, rather than show you every post from that feed, the algorithm will only show you the top posts and curated highlights from the hashtag stories.

As well as discovering more content that you are interested in, you can also look more closely at other peoples accounts and find out what hashtags they enjoy and are following. You can view this alongside the ‘people’ tab when you click on an accounts followings. Once this feature gains more momentum it will be key to conducting hashtag research, allowing you to more easily identify popular tags and refine your own hashtag selection each time you post.

Followed hashtags will also start appearing in our Stories feeds allowing you to expand the reach of your posts to a different audience. Try including your favourite tag or two when you next share Stories and see if you get some new viewers.

A Wrap up

So to answer our opening line - is it #worthit? Our conclusion that in general, probably not but if you have the time it can’t hurt!

There are definitely lots of positive things to be gained from the right hashtag use, such as getting your images shared by your favourite feature hubs or getting involved in online communities. There are lots of fun themed hashtags you can participate in like Instagram’s own weekend hashtag project and creative challenges like the one that we run every week on our Creatively Squared Instagram account. Discovering your favourite hashtags can help you find your tribe online and introduce you to other accounts that inspire you.

At the end of the day, hashtag use, along with many other social media features, is likely to remain a complete mystery. There is no way to truly know the perfect way to use hashtagging to maximise reach - unless, of course you work for Instagram and would like to share the answers with us!

With the introduction of users being able to follow hashtags, we believe Instagram is moving toward an updated kind of feed, where hashtags play a more integral role than in the past. Our best advice would be to jump onto any new features that Instagram release, like following hashtags and Story highlights and experiment with what works best for your account. Find your niche and participate in hashtag projects, join communities and follow your favourite hashtag feeds. Just make sure you are having fun! Best of luck with it all!

 

3 tips for writing great product descriptions

A great product description can be the make or break of your product. Many times, product descriptions are added as an afterthought when setting up an eCommerce store. Business owners tend to put down basic information such as the make and model, and leave it at that.

What they don’t realise is that they are missing out on a great marketing opportunity. Online shoppers are becoming increasingly selective about their purchases and since they can’t physically interact with the products, the description is crucial to help seal the deal.

Here are three tips to help you write beautiful product descriptions that work for you.

 

1. Define the problem you are solving

The first thing to keep in mind when writing description is that your are writing this for your customer, rather than for yourself. Talking about the work that went into making the product does not help the customer. What they want to know is; What problem does your product solve for them? How will it benefit them?

Your product descriptions are a way of marketing the solutions to the problems that you are solving for your customers. As management consultant Peter Drucker has said, “ The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

Customers appreciate it when companies demonstrate an intimate understanding of their needs. For example, let’s take a look at Clif Bar's Builder’s energy bar.

Cliff builders bar

This is a great example of a product description that solves a very clear problem: Aiding muscle repair and growth by including very specific ingredients in the energy bar. It includes a very detailed breakdown of its composition. This product description very clearly addresses the problem of helping to repair and build muscle. If the description had just read, “Protein bar comprising of 20g of complete protein” the problem being solved would be lost. In the same way, your product should always address the problem you are solving for your customers.

Of course, if you have lots of different products that solve different problems like Clif does, it's important and useful for you to have your product descriptions for each product saved along with all of the other product details, for easy reference and updating. Invest in an inventory management system such as TradeGecko that lets you create and save your product descriptions in bulk, to save you time and effort.

 

2. Sell the story.

The second way to write effective product descriptions is to focus on the vision of your brand. Why did you start selling these products? What does your brand stand for? In other words what is the story you are trying to sell?

Your product descriptions should tell the story of your brand. In order to do that, you first need to know what a brand is, and what your brand specifically, looks like.

This excellent definition of a brand by Seth Godin reads, "A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another."

What is the story of your brand that will compel customers to choose your offering over your competitors?

One brand that sells its story magnificently is the all-American footwear retailer, Minnetonka. The hugely popular brand has a long, rich history and is well known for high quality, handcrafted goods. It is also a brand that believes in social entrepreneurship and their product reflect its brand perfectly. Take this great product description for their women’s Me to We Moc moccasin;

Me to We Moc

This product description works because of its genuinity. The writer skips the boring details of what type of leather was used and what style the embellishments were meant to resemble. It focuses on the message behind the shoes and behind the brand. The purchase is more about what the product signifies rather than what the product actually is. The description tells you that you are doing more than buying a pair of shoes, you are “supporting the dreams of another woman”. In this way the product description captures the essence of the brand perfectly.

One additional thing to keep in mind when creating your product descriptions, is to make sure that the story is consistent between all of your eCommerce channels. Many retailers sell across multiple channels and it can be challenging to ensure brand consistency. Use an inventory management solution that allows you to manage your descriptions as well as other product details across multiple sales channels.

 

3. Avoid clichés

The last way to write a good product description, may seem like common sense, yet many business owners fall into this trap. The cliché.

Many business owners almost subconsciously use cliché phrases such as, “excellent quality product”, or “expertly crafted goods”. Although the best thing would be to avoid phrases like that completely. If you are going to use them, always substantiate your claims.

What makes the quality of your product excellent? Was it tested for durability? Who were the experts that crafted these goods? Are they world renowned? Using cliché phrases only clumps your products with the rest of the poorly described products in the market.

Instead, focusing on the specific strengths of your products gives it credibility and makes it stand out. One company that does this well is celebrated wedding shoe designer and long time user of TradeGecko, Rachel Simpson Shoes.

Rachael Simpson Shoes

 

This description of their Ophelia shoes is great example of a unique and targeted product description. The sentences use imagery to evoke a sense of comfort and support. The sentence, “The front part hugs your ankle beautifully & the ankle tie keeps you supported all day long” acknowledges that the wearer of the shoe is fashionable yet practical. It even implies that the wearer is ambitious or productive because they will be standing for long periods. The sentence is tailored for a specific audience. Focus on the strengths and the vision of your product when writing the description: Why should people buy you products over others? What makes it unique?
 

So the next time you considering how to describe a new product or are updating your eCommerce product descriptions, remember;

  1. Define the problem you are solving

  2. Sell the story

  3. Avoid clichés

And lastly have fun when writing your product descriptions! If you love your products and write about them with great passion and authenticity, your buyers will feel it too.
 

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Neeta Nelson is a Content Marketing Manager at TradeGecko: a cloud-based inventory and order management platform for SMEs, serving B2B wholesalers, distributors and eCommerce businesses.