Coined sometime in the mid-1990’s, though nobody is positive by whom, the term “social media” wouldn’t become household for another 20 years. Today, Facebook, Google, and other heavy hitters in the internet industry are making a push to get the whole world connected sooner rather than later, harkening to a future where everybody on the planet is always online, all of the time.
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Older bloggers will remember a time before the Internet, back before AOL startup CDs marauded mailboxes monthly, and before the sound of the Internet groaning to life preceded every session of “surfing” the World Wide Web. Privacy was a different thing back then. It existed on its own, without the word “settings” or “policy” attached as suffixes. Finding somebody meant looking them up in the local phonebook, provided that they were actually listed.
Today, social media has replaced the archaic phonebook, and in the same way that we’ve lost the white and yellow pages, the line between the personal self and the professional brand has also been blurred. As the web has evolved and grown more complex as a technology over time, so has our relationship with the web itself. Our identities live online, as do our bank account numbers, our lists of friends, and every public tweet, status update, and pin.
We are no longer simply living with the Internet–we are living in it.
From Making a Living In It, to Simply Living In It
Once dismissed as an impossibility, we now live in a time where a business that can survive without the Internet, let alone a social media profile of some kind, is very rare. In the same way, human beings without connected social media profiles or a digital/social footprint are also rare. We all know somebody (who knows somebody that knows somebody) who lives “off grid,” but, for most of us, that simply isn’t possible–especially if that grid is how we make a living!
Kashmir Hill, writer for Forbes, calls our obsession with the Internet, and more specifically, with social media, “digital dope”. She points out that social media has permeated our lives so completely, that most of us won’t trust somebody if they don’t have a profile on the Internet, preferring to believe that they’re more likely hiding something than that they’re technologically illiterate or simply “opting out”. Some might even go so far as to call the inability to be contacted easily at all times “socially irresponsible”.
Interestingly enough, the rules (or what you might call the “social norm”) regarding internet visibility for both businesses and individuals have become almost indistinguishable–and this is why those with a career in blogging are poised so opportunely to succeed.
You Are a Personal Brand, Whether You Like It Or Not
Marc Ecko, in his 2015 book Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out, makes one of the most significant statements that a blogger in the modern era should pay attention to.
He says: “I am a brand, but I am not a label… you too are a brand. Whether you know it or not. Whether you like it or not. A brand is not skin-deep. Labels are skin-deep, but a brand–a true, authentic brand–is made of blood and bones, skin and organs. A brand has a heartbeat.”
This quote says a lot. It brings to attention the fact that even if you aren’t “self-employed” that you are still always visible to the rest of the world, “advertising” yourself via your social and digital footprint. That footprint is the closest thing the majority of this world will come to experiencing the “blood and bones, skin and organs” that makes up you. This is what the world sees as “your most authentic self,” and whether you think it’s mixed in with your personal brand or not, the rest of the world will associate your brand with the flesh and bone “you”.
The fact that fresh high school and college grads are regularly advised to review and purge their social footprints to appear more appealing during the job search serves well to prove this point, as does the fact that 48 percent of hiring managers in 2015 decided not to hire a candidate due to something they found on social media. With bloggers and blogs, the stakes are even higher. Both a blog and its writers are constantly criticized for their authenticity. A faceless brand, even if it does have a social profile, is bound to be much less trusted than a brand with a spokesperson.
In the same way, a blog without an author (beyond the “default” wordpress account it comes with) will not gain–and I daresay does not deserve to gain–the trust of its readers. Even bloggers that use pen names will either merge or create new social and digital footprints with and for those names. This is called providing social proof when applied to conventional business, and represents an opportunity for real people to connect with what they see as an “authentic” brand–but be wary. As the title of this article states, you can also be broken by your social footprint, and it’s much easier to do than you think.
Avoid Becoming Your Own Worst Legal or PR Nightmare
From Home Depot’s infamous race-related Twitter debacle to Pigalle chef Marc Orfaly’s reprehensible Facebook tirade, it seems like the world can’t go a week without somebody attracting the collective ire of the Internet. Watching what you say in terms of political correctness and authenticity are going to go a long way. To put it more simply, bloggers should always simply be polite and tell the truth. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive to be yourself on social media, or to say that you can’t make jokes or be risqué–it just means that you really need to watch what you say. One bad joke could mean the end of your career.
Justine Sacco provides the perfect example of a tweet gone wrong and how it can flip a person and their brand upside down. For anybody unfamiliar, Sacco, a PR rep with 170 followers at the time, tweeted a racially insensitive joke before boarding an international flight to South Africa. By the time she landed, her tweet was the number one trending topic on Twitter. She ended up deleting her account after being fired by her employer, and goes down as one of the most well-known victims of online shaming in recent history.
In the most extreme cases, losing your job, damaging your personal brand, and pissing off the entire world is just the tip of the iceberg. Just as social media can be used as evidence in civil suits, misuse of social media can also bring business lawsuits to self-branding entrepreneurs and bloggers. Inc.com’s advice on how to avoid a social media lawsuit mentions that copyright and trademark laws, FTC advertising laws, privacy laws, and laws concerning illegal app development are what most brands usually end up in hot water over violating. Illegal app development is the doozy here, as bloggers that use social media for promotion are generally most at risk of running illegal social media contests without even knowing it.
Just Be Nice and Tell the Truth
The takeaway here is to remember that you, as a blogger, are the living, breathing, flesh and blood embodiment of your blog. Your social media efforts, and, in effect, your social footprint, can either be one of your greatest tools for driving traffic, or your personal brand’s death knell. Liz Borod lists 10 excellent tips on Mashable for bloggers looking to beef up their social media, but the most applicable piece of advice bloggers can follow regarding their social footprint can be summed up as such:
Be authentic, be professional, and be nice–otherwise, don’t be surprised if you end up as one of the most hated people on the Internet.
Instagram Checkout and the Move Toward Frictionless eCommerce
The number of hurdles standing between online shoppers and completing transactions is dwindling. The path to purchase is getting smoother as retailers move toward frictionless ecommerce. Gone are the days where shoppers must visit an ecommerce website to buy a product, especially if they originally spot the product on a social media platform.
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Nowadays, social shopping is capable of enabling people to reduce the number of steps to checkout by allowing them to buy without exiting social media. Instagram Checkout is the latest feature geared toward making it easier to complete deals. Here’s more on this announcement and its potential impact on the ecommerce industry as a whole.
First, What Is Frictionless Ecommerce?
When you hear the word friction, you probably think of resistance. This force can be useful, like using sandpaper to smooth down rough wood. Or this force can be a hindrance, like trying to slide a piece of heavy furniture across the floor. In ecommerce, friction is undesirable because it means shoppers are meeting resistance when they try to proceed through the sales funnel.
Frictionless ecommerce is something sellers are seeking out because it allows them to “integrate buying opportunities as simply and seamlessly as possible into consumers’ everyday activities and natural environments,” according to BLM Technologies.
One of these natural environments is social media, an activity in which many users are spending a larger chunk of each day. It only makes sense to try to sell to people there, rather than requiring them to visit a separate website each time they want to browse or buy.
The ethos behind frictionless ecommerce tells us reducing the number of steps it takes to buy products online will motivate more people to stick around for as long as it takes to convert. Less hassle translates into more sales and a better customer experience.
Of course, it’s still vitally important to set up a responsive, fully featured online store complete with secure checkout. After all, some people won’t use social shopping. Today, leading platforms like Shopify offer free ecommerce website builders to help retailers run their stores. Branching out into frictionless ecommerce in the form of social shopping will help merchants capture even more sales by offering shoppers flexible options.
Building a Trusted Brand and Following Will Still Apply
As you can imagine, with more than a billion active users on the Instagram platform, it’s going to get quite competitive when it comes to ecommerce advertising. With that being said, this is where traditional authentic and organic followers and engagement will come into play.
We recently talked about the power and effectiveness of using a tool like Kicksta to automate the audience targeting and engagement process. For ecommerce and online stores, this is one of the best ways to put your Instagram marketing efforts on auto-pilot, which also reaching new audiences daily.
This also leads to better paid advertising and remarketing options as well. Once a user starts following your account, you have a clear indication that they are interested in what you have to offer.
Set up a new Instagram ad campaign that targets your existing followers, then compare the results with your outside targeting and default ad campaigns. We are sure the existing follower audience set will perform much better. You can visit their website here and watch the short video on their homepage to see how the process works.
The Rise of Instagram Checkout in Ecommerce
Instagram is a highly visual platform, allowing brands to connect with users through engaging images, videos and captions. If you’re an Instagram user, chances are you know the feeling of seeing something you like and wanting to know more about it — or perhaps even conducting an impulse purchase it on the spot.
Instagram Checkout aims to tap into the marketing prowess of this app by “allowing users to complete product purchases without having to leave the app.” It’s all of the convenience of online window shopping without even having to go into the store, except people can still get their hands on the product. Plus, after Instagram users enter their payment data once, the app saves it for future purchases. Thus, the purchasing journey remains inside a single app — making it more convenient and tempting for mobile shoppers who follow their favorite brands online.
At the moment, Instagram Checkout is a feature in beta testing available to about 20 top brands. An advanced version will be available to more merchants down the line, which means we all need to prepare for the wider acceptance of social shopping. Once this becomes the standard, online users will crave ultra-convenient experiences.
Instagram Checkout is an exciting new development on the horizon for ecommerce brands, and stores must embrace the move toward frictionless ecommerce to stay competitive.
7 Instagram Features Every Business Needs to Use for Marketing
Instagram is a fun platform for sharing pictures and video. However, as far as it pertains to businesses, it’s a lot more than that. For businesses, Instagram is a marketing device and quite an effective one at that.
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Are you interested in using Instagram to market your business? Then read on. We’re going to teach you about 7 Instagram features which will enhance your business marketing campaigns.
Taking Advantage of Instagram Features When Marketing
A great many of Instagram’s features lend themselves to marketing. The best of these features include the following.
Instagram Stories work in the same way as Snapchat Stories, allowing you to post photos and videos for 24 hours before they disappear. Popular among all types of Instagrammers, they are frequently viewed and are great for attracting new followers.
Businesses have two options when it comes to using Instagram Story video: 1. They can post stories on their own Instagram pages, or 2. They can use Instagram Stories Ads. While the first option will provide some exposure for your business, the second option will provide more.
Why? Because it involves placing ads for your business in between the stories of Instagrammers that you don’t even know. As a result, you’ll be reaching customers who are entirely unfamiliar with your brand.
While Stories Ads cost money to post, they often end up bringing in more money than they cost. In other words, they’re usually worth a try.
2. Push Notifications
Another terrific feature for marketing on Instagram is the push notification. These are notifications which automatically send to specific followers upon the publishing of new posts. They work to keep top followers invested in your page.
Note, however, that getting followers to accept push notifications can be challenging. Unless your content is undeniably great, you’re going to have to be a little aggressive in getting followers to accept push notifications for your page.
One of the keys to doing this is to utilize calls to action. Simply telling visitors to enable push notifications for your page can be quite effective.
The other key is to post great content on a consistent basis while keeping non-value content to a minimum. The more valuable the content you post, the more valuable your page becomes, and the more your followers will want to frequent it. This leads to the enabling of push notifications which, in turn, leads to the conversion of more sales.
If you run a brick-and-mortar business, geotagging is a hugely valuable Instagram feature to utilize. By geotagging the photos you post, you make your business more visible on geographical searches. This is a great way to attract Instagram users who live in the geographical proximity of your business.
Note, however, that you must always be cognizant of whether you have geotagging turned on. If you’re not careful, you could accidentally geotag a photo or video that you wished to leave geographically anonymous.
4. Live Video
One of the best ways to build credibility and authenticity with your Instagram followers is by utilizing live video. Live video occurs in real-time, allowing you to communicate directly with your followers through page comments and voice.
Afraid that you might say something embarrassing? It won’t last for long. Instagram live videos disappear as soon as they’re done being broadcasted, ensuring that your faux pas isn’t picked apart by the masses.
You can use Live Video to discuss project updates, to show off new products, to showcase charitable efforts, and more. It’s all about making yourself and your business more familiar to your followers.
5. Photo Filters
A big part of marketing is building a brand. The goal is to evoke a feeling which is representative of your business. In evoking this feeling, you make your business instantly identifiable among the masses. Photo filters are also great for social profile branding. Take a look at these top brands that are doing social media profile branding correctly, then also consider how you can implement these same visuals into your own branding efforts.
There are a number of ways to do this on Instagram, but one of the most effective ways is through the use of photo filters. Using the same photo filters on all of your posts will provide your Instagram page with an overarching theme. This theme will become part of your brand and will help followers to identify your business.
Our advice is to experiment with different filters until you’ve found something you like. Then, once it’s established, you can hit your followers over the head with it.
When it comes to using Instagram for marketing purposes, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of hashtags. Hashtags are not only vital in building a brand, but in attracting non-followers as well.
Dropping trending hashtags into your posts is a great way to bring your Instagram page into the loop. Not only does it show that you’re part of the culture, but that your page might be worth visiting.
There are also many other famous hashtags too like;
In short, hashtags increase exposure for your business. The more exposure your business gets, the more sales it will convert.
7. Emoji Polls
One last Instagram feature you should consider using is Emoji Polls. These allow you to ask questions and receive direct feedback from your many followers, increasing familiarity among potential customers and allowing potential customers to feel as though their thoughts have an impact on the operation of your business.
One way to use Emoji Polls as a business is to ask followers how they feel about a specific product. However, you don’t need to strictly talk about your business. Inquiries about current events could get followers involved as well.
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There is no shortage of Instagram features, each of which can help businesses to market their products, services, and brand. While the features reviewed above are the most effective for marketing purposes, they comprise only a handful of what you have available to you.
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Attract More Instagram Followers with Kicksta
With its incredible reach and unparalleled level of user engagement, Instagram has quickly become the social media platform of choice for brands, agencies and influencers alike. But because of this remarkable popularity, it can prove challenging to get noticed and to gain a substantial following, especially if you feel like you’ve hit a plateau. How can you reach new audiences and convert them into a loyal fan following?
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If you’re interested in getting real followers who will actually engage with your content, you might want to give Kicksta a look. It’s an automated platform that will free up hours of your time, so you can focus on creating awesome content, curating real relationships, and converting your newfound connections “into more gigs, paid partnerships and sales.”
What Does Kicksta Do?
Instagram, like all other social media platforms, is predicated on two main tasks. First, you need to create the kind of content that users actually like and engage with. This is true whether you are a brand hoping to attract new customers or an influencer looking to extend your influence (and land more branded content deals). There’s certainly no shortage of resources online that can help you achieve just the right Instagram look.
The second part puts the “social” in “social media.” It’s all about engagement. It’s not enough to treat Instagram as a means of broadcasting your message to the masses; you need to engage with actual people too. And if you want to grow your following, you need to engage with users who are not already following you. That can be very time-consuming to do manually, because you want to seek out individuals who align with what your Instagram account is all about.
What Kicksta does is zero in on these potential followers, “liking” one or two posts from each of these users. The goal is to get their attention. When they see that you’ve liked their post, they may come around to check out your page. And when they see that you have the content they’d like to see, they might start following you. Organically. This automated process repeats at scale, so you can continue to grow and attract real followers each and every day.
You Are Not Buying Followers
There are at least a few key factors that differentiate Kicksta from seemingly similar services. You’re not playing the follow-unfollow game. Kicksta will not go around following accounts on your behalf and then unfollowing them if they don’t follow back. This is a practice that’s questionable on a number of grounds. Similarly, Kicksta is not going around posting canned comments on random posts (i.e., “Great post! Check out my account for similar content!”), because that can easily be interpreted as spam. You’re also not “buying” followers, which is against the Instagram TOS.
Instead, the objective is to appear as organic and natural as possible. When you first get set up with Kicksta, you enter your own Instagram credentials. Then, you provide information about the audience you’re trying to attract. With the “Creative” plan, you can target up to 10 accounts whose followers might be interested in following you. For instance, if you’re a food blogger, you might target other food bloggers.
If you upgrade to the “Professional” plan, you can target up to 40 accounts; you can also target based on gender, location, and hashtag. The “likes” appear organic, leading to “real” Instagram growth, because the targeted users are following you of their own free accord. This automated service frees up several hours from your week to focus on other efforts.
Navigating the Dashboard
Getting around the user interface with Kicksta is a relatively simple affair. You can connect and manage multiple Instagram accounts if you’d like too, but each will need its own monthly plan.
After connecting and selecting your account, you’re shown a general overview where you can review the engagement on your most recent post, your best performing post and your worst performing post. From the main navigation, you can also click to see all your posts to see how many likes and comments they received. More importantly in the context of Kicksta, though, is adding your targets for the tool to decide what posts to “like” on your behalf.
Clicking on “targets” shows your current targets, and then adding a target is as straightforward as adding the username of the account whose followers you’d like Kicksta to engage with. Once targets are added, you can toggle them on and off. You can also see the performance in terms of conversion rate and overall quality of the target. With these two features, you can experiment with what targets work best and only enable those.
There is also a section with analytics where you can review followers gained for a defined date range, as well as your net followers gained day-to-day.
But Does It Actually Work?
It’s important to note that Kicksta cannot guarantee any specific number of followers, because users are real people and they’re choosing to follow you on their own. What they can guarantee is that they’ll consistently keep up with liking one or two posts per user; you need to have the quality content they desire if you want them to follow you. In other words, your mileage may vary.
Kicksta shares a number of case studies on their website to illustrate some of their notable success stories. These include a bridal company that generates 50% of their revenue through Instagram, an e-commerce giant that drives 15% of their online sales from the platform, and an influencer who grew from 2,000 followers to over 12,000 followers in two months using Kicksta.
Really, the only way you’ll know whether it works is to try it out yourself.
How Much Does It Cost?
As mentioned above, Kicksta offers two monthly pricing plans, depending on the level of growth you desire.
The $49 Creative plan promises “moderate” growth with smart filters and up to 10 targets. The $99 Professional plan (discounted from $149) increases the target count to 40, adding in gender targeting, hashtag targeting, location targeting, blacklisting, premium email support, and live chat support. There’s a 14 day money-back guarantee on both plans, no questions asked, and you can cancel at any time.
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