Instagram: Open for Advertising

Instagram: Open for Advertising

On Tuesday, Instagram announced that it opened the gates of advertising to all businesses on their platform.

Though ads have been tested by a few large companies and organizations over the last several months, it's now possible for businesses of any size to hop on board and advertise to the platform's 300M+ users (which is roughly the same audience size as Twitter.)

So how does one go about advertising on this platform? The site offers a few tips for those considering taking the leap:

1. Start with Clear Goals

Think about how Instagram fits into your overall marketing strategy. Is your objective to increase awareness, shift perception, or reach a new audience? Pick an objective that can be reached by connecting with Instagram's highly visual and creative community.

2. Tell a cohesive story

Choose images that tell a story about your brand and are include captivating imagery. Create posts that follow these themes for a diversity of content that also remains consistent over time.

3. Take the time to create high-quality content

Work with your brand or creative team to produce images and videos that are well-crafted and feel at home on the platform. Or, if you're a smaller team, study your competitors and favorite brands to study their strategy for images that catch your eye.

They also recommend utilizing features such as hashtags and filters to enhance photos even more.

Instagrammers Who Understand Curation

Advertising is only one facet of a larger Instagram story, which is to communicate a visual representation of what your brand stands for.

Think of it like this: Instagram is a place where you create a general story, look, and feel behind your brand. Image what your ideal customer's life looks like when complimented by your product or service, and then emulate it visually through your business account.

A few of our personal favorites who do this well are:

Madewell

Their focus is always around the product--but not the hard sell. Instead, they curate a series of lookbook and lifestyle images that have a uniform appearance.

The Peach Truck

The Peach Truck knows how to make its product (peaches) look mouth wateringly good on Instagram. Bonus: They make great use of the 16 second video clip there, too.

Enjoy Illinois

This tourism organization leverages fantastic photographs to inspire the wanderlust in all of their followers. They focus on color, crisp images, and locations that have a story to tell.

Instagram Advertising: The Next Social Media Advertising Frontier

Will ads on this platform be successful? It's too soon to tell. But being under Facebook's wing sure helps (as their advertising numbers are up year over year.)

We'll be testing ads to see how users respond to different types of ads on this platform. Stay tuned for results.

 

 

Improve Your Writing With a Vacation

Improve Your Writing With a Vacation

Having just returned from a vacation, this topic seemed especially relevant and top-of-mind.

Everyone knows that vacations are wonderful. They're a chance to step away from the day-to-day hustle of work and can really recharge your mental batteries.

But what we don't sometimes fully realize are the benefits it provides to our writing abilities.

Today, let's talk about this theory: Going on a vacation can actually sharpen your writing skills.

The Power of Observation

Exploring new places puts all five senses on high alert. Your brain is constantly taking note of new sounds, smells, sights, textures, and tastes around you. This is in juxtaposition to a non-vacation day, in which your setting probably becomes a bit stale and your senses fall into their comfortable, low-gear state. Same office, same familiar faces, same tasks.

But during a vacation, your brain shifts. Sometimes this inundation of new sensory data can be information overload. However, it offers major advantages for the descriptive imagery part of your writing brain.

Think about it: You're noticing all of these new, interesting intricacies of your surroundings. The way a city street sounds after a heavy rain. The smell of a sharp, peppery spice wafting past you from a restaurant window. How sunlight plays through leaves of an unfamiliar tree. These observations and nuggets of descriptive gold go into your mental storage and can be incorporated into a writing task when you return.

Being Uncomfortable

Many of us fall into a very familiar cadence with writing when we get into a routine. Pieces start to blend together; all structured the same with similar syntax mirrored throughout. Going on a vacation reminds us to step out of the comfort zone and try something new.

One example of being uncomfortable comes from our recent experience with international travel. In a very local restaurant where we didn't speak the language or know what to order, we had to surrender ourselves to feeling out of place and not knowing if we'd like the results. It turned out to be a great experience (with delicious food!)

This lesson translates into writing as well. Approaching a writing piece from a new angle or perspective often feels uncomfortable, but can bring new life to your message and can open doors to new audiences. Don't just stick with one style because it's what you've always done.

Creativity Reboot

Looking at a computer screen or mobile device day in and day out isn’t inspiring or helpful for your creative juices. When you allow yourself to be fully removed from work mode, you can open your eyes to new scenery and settings that get the creativity flowing again.

Do you have to travel a long distance to make achieve this effect? No. But you have to get out of the office and let your eyes feast on some new, mentally stimulating material. When you get back to work, you might find you have a fresh take on an assignment that is all thanks to stepping away.

Whether writing is the main focus of your work or merely a byproduct, it’s the season to take a quick break and enjoy the world around you. Let your experiences shape and inspire your words.

 

How to Write Better Blog Posts

How to Write Better Blog Posts

Ever came across a blog post and realized it's garbage within the first five seconds of scanning?

Maybe the blog is too formal and isn't fun to read.

Maybe the text is too packed together and looks overwhelming.

Maybe by scanning you realize there's no real substance there.

These are just a few of the things that set off those internal alarms and make your brain scream, "Stop reading!"

Your blog posts shouldn't fall into that category. And really, the fix for that is simple. Are you going to get it right every time? Probably not. But with a few tweaks to your blog writing approach, you can certainly make a vast improvement that keeps readers interested (and hopefully coming back for more.)

Be more conversational.

Nobody wants to read a textbook. They'd much rather read an email from a friend. Therefore, you should approach your blog as if you were sitting at a coffee shop talking with one of your friends or peers.

It all starts with your opening. Once you've decided on your topic, speak to the reader in a way that resonates with their pain points, struggles, and obstacles but with a friendly, conversational tone.

Here's an example. Say you're writing a post about how people can increase the open rate for their email campaigns. You might start with something like this:

Ever noticed that there are a few emails you'll always open, but there are some you send straight to the trash? What is is about those emails you open that have earned your respect? There are certain habits of great emails that increase open rates time and time again. In this post, we'll talk about what they are and how you can start using them.

Be original.

When everyone is running in the same direction, that's the time when you should do the exact opposite. In doing that, you stand out from the crowd.

Right now, there are tons and tons of blog posts out there with tons of "Top 10" lists and very generalized, "duh" subject matter. It's 500 words of...blah. Don't be afraid to step away from this format and try something different. That might look like:

  • A deep dive into a process you use with a step-by-step how-to
  • A case study that showcases interesting research you've conducted
  • An opinion piece that goes against a commonly held belief
  • A blog that taps into comedy and pop culture references

One of my favorite blogs that does this well is UnBounce. Not only are their titles fun and intriguing, but they give actionable tips to make readers better at what they do. Also, they incorporate gifs, which never fails to make me laugh.

Be honest.

Some of the best blog content comes when writers can share personal experiences--both good and bad.

If you've had an experience that you can turn into a relevant lesson for your readers, take the time to craft a story that explains your journey and arrives at the big conclusion. Maybe this is a time you failed. Maybe it's a time you took a big risk and saw success. These stories are old news to you, but completely fresh for your readers.

Brad Farris over at EnMast does this time and time again. He spotlights his mistakes and turns them into rich content for his blog that, in turn, creates a larger story (and builds trust with his personal brand.) It's not easy to say, "Hey, I messed up." But when you use it to help others learn from your error, it takes on new life.

Be Aggressive. B-E Aggressive.

Blogging shouldn't be a passive activity that you do whenever you feel like it. You need to have your mental wheels turning all the time about what your next post will be about, how you'll phrase it, what examples you'll use, etc.

Gary Vaynerchuk has said it before: "People have a strong BS meter. They know when you're not trying."

When you're irregularly blogging and it's clear for all to see that you have no real direction, they have no reason to 1) Trust your authority, 2) Come back on a regular basis and 3) Make a conversion and decide to work with you.

And for most people, those three things are the main reasons for having a blog at all. Be more aggressive and put hard work into your blogs. It'll pay off.

The #1 Obstacle

There are lots of people who would love to take these tips and put them into action, but they have a major hurdle to face: They don't have the time.

In these instances, it might be time to consider looking for freelance help. You don't have to take on a full time employee and you still get the content you're looking for. It's a win-win.

Is this a service we offer at Lumen? Absolutely. And we'd love to help you.

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