Instatips 2.0

It's been several months since I was interviewed about instagram and while many of those tips still hold up today,  I've added a few more.   Things change quickly!

Keep it Short
While you should never post a photo on Instagram without a caption, keep your captions as short as you can.  The real star of instagram is the photo.  The bottom line is: Nobody reads long captions.  While there’s not definitive data that short posts work best,  the top brands on Instagram keep their captions short and simple. 

Short, universal hashtags perform better. 
Hashtags serve two purposes: 1)  to make posts searchable and more likely to be found by users that don’t already follow you, or 2) to add comedic impact or context.   While I’m a fan of using long, complicated hashtags to add sarcastic comedic value to my personal posts,  these types of hashtags don’t work well for business and too many of them will make your posts too long. 

Limit your hashtags.
Some Instagram users will end a caption with an endless string of hashtags to get more followers. While some evidence shows that the more hashtags you use, the more engagement you will get,  too many hashtags will damage your user experience.  (It looks annoying, pathetic and spammy.) And while you may gain a few followers,  you’ll also likely lose some.

Limit Emojis.
The cartoon-like characters available on our smartphones can (at times) add a little bit to a caption and the colors will likely grab users’ attention.. They can be used at the end of a sentence like punctuation or in the middle to bring attention to something important.  But if you use too many (IMHO more than 3) and people will not only be distracted by the length and cluttered nature of your post,  they may think you’ve been hijacked by a 10 year old girl.  Also keep in mind that. not all emojis can be seen by every user.  Pick an emoji that isn't universal and people will see a blank white box.

(Full disclosure:  I personally find emojis annoying and juvenile.  Maybe that makes me biased against them but keep in mind that for everyone who thinks they are cute, there's someone out there that doesn't like them.)

Use a location. 
A recent study by AdWeek found that Posts with a location get 79 percent more engagement. 

1-  Limit your post length.
2-  Use 3-5 short hashtags.  (see #1)

3-  Limit Emojis.
4-  Use a location.

Product ads: A Facebook first for me!

Playing around on Facebook today and I came across this!  A product ad that allows me to click through and order the product in question, enter a shipping address and charge the card that facebook already has on file for me in 3 clicks.  What?!?1  I'd heard talk of Palo Alto testing out a feature like this before but I'd never actually seen it.  This could be a game changer for many small businesses.  Can't wait to see how it pans out when it's rolled out to everyone.  Here's what it looked like:

What changes can we expect in 2015?

What changes in marketing can we expect in 2015?  Here's what I predict:

Facebook reach for overly promotional content will decrease even further. 

One of my favorite networking groups in Lafayette is Acadiana Entrepreneur Group.  Why?  Because they adhere to a strict no-sharking policy.  This means that if you go to their events with the sole intention of pitching future customers,  you will be asked to leave. (I’ve seen it happen!) They understand that point of networking is to build relationships so that if you are a good fit,  you may one day do business together. 

Nobody likes sharks. They are probably the main reason people (I) avoid networking events.  We don’t like them in real life and we don’t like them online.  Facebook has taken note of this and in January 2015, it will begin rolling out new newsfeed algorithm rules that will weed out overly salesly content. What does this mean? If all you ever post are products you have for sale, you will be penalized.  Content and context matter!

Personally, I’m glad to see these changes as both a consumer of social media information and a marketer. Though it may hurt a few, those who do social media well will benefit. 

Instagram will grow but this will make it more difficult for marketers.
There’s no question Instagram is popular and will continue to grow.  It’s especially good (right now) for aspirational lifestyle brands and visually oriented small businesses. 

It’s appealing because consumers using the app are about 60 times more likely than those on Facebook to interact with branded posts.  This is likely due to a cleaner format with less content than other sites but it’s also important to note that Instagram doesn’t filter out branded content like Facebook does. 

Unfortunately,  as Instagram grows in popularity,  I expect the high levels of engagement experienced in 2014 will be on the decline in 2015 (as does Forrester & the WSJ).   With more users comes more content and Instagram (i.e. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg) will be forced to filter content like Facebook does.  If they don’t,  users will spend less time on the app or self edit to follow more friends and less brands.  

Other drawbacks that I believe will limit its use for small business and marketers include that it doesn’t have built in metrics like other networks, it doesn’t allow clickable links and it’s much less viral than other networks.

Facebook ads are going to get (a lot) more expensive.

Facebook has spent a lot of time in 2014 making it’s ad platform much more user friendly.  With no plans to increase the ratio of paid-to-unpaid content on the site, Facebook has a limited amount of ad inventory.  Unlike a magazine,  it can’t just squeeze in a few more pages to make an extra buck.  With ever decreasing organic reach and an easier to use ad platform,  advertisers should expect to see a large increase in demand for the limited ad space available.  Four years of studying economic theory tells me this can only do one thing, drive up prices!

Data and targeting will matter more. 

With low prices on social media ads,  it’s not as important to focus on targeting.  But as prices rise, reaching the right people will matter more.  To prepare for the changes,  I recommend marketers pay as much attention to data as possible and begin using tools like facebook retargeting now.   They’ll have a jump start on the competition when demand drives up the price for limited ad space.  I also recommend using tools like graph search to try to learn as much as you can about your customers and those of your competitors. 

Email Marketing will see a resurgence.

Though it not all that long ago some experts declared it a dying medium, email has never gone out of fashion.  In 2014, Facebook gave up on its futile effort to replace it when it killed the facebook email feature.  Many years of abuse of email marketing and black hat practices led marketers to shift focus away from email marketing.  When even small local businesses built up fan followings in the thousands and tens of thousands (most of whom saw all their posts),  it was much easier and took less effort to disseminate messages through social media.   And then reach dropped….


Ideally you’ve been using the momentum and trust gained in the last few years via free social media efforts to collect a list of opt-in email addresses. Smart marketers in 2015 will renew their efforts and retool their email marketing strategies.  Why wouldn’t they?  Email messages are delivered more than 90% of the time unlike social media posts which are delivered to less than 10%.  People still open all the emails sent by their favorite companies (as many as 70% according to  The trick is to use customer experience both online and offline to become and remain one of your customers’ favorite brands.

Along with renewed email efforts, we’ll see renewed efforts to improve website presences (owned media) and marketers will work harder to entice potential customers to visit their websites regardless of whether they directly sell products or services online.

Brevity, diction and wit matter.

The biggest trend in social media is the ever growing body of content that is thrown at us.  Too many words in any platform means people won’t take the time to read what you’ve worked so hard to write.   If they don’t read it,  they certainly won’t interact with it and without interaction,  you’ll lose any traction and chance of being seen in the future.  That’s why writing still matters.  Those who can say more in fewer words and be interesting will continue to come out on top.  Autocorrect and MS Office may have long made spelling irrelevant (unless of course you’re a hashtag junkie) but being able to write is an increasingly invaluable skill in the post-digital age.