Insta-Algorithm: Stand Out or Step Aside

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Originally written & published on Digitas Dose.

Oh how timely.

Right after #PiDay (the number that never ends) and in the midst of the biggest tech nerd gathering of the year, Instagram announces “See the Moments You Care About First”. Read: Algorithm. What they want you to read: Relevance.

Now, for all of us in advertising, it’s no surprise that Instagram would change a user’s feed from reverse chronological to personalized. What’s interesting is that this change comes after Instagram’s ad revenues have increased from $0 in the beginning of 2015 to a projected $5.3B by 2017. A very different approach than its mama bear Facebook took – i.e., implementing an algorithm and slowly removing organic reach from brands to rapidly increase the need for paid Facebook ads. Only time will tell what this will mean for Instagram’s overall revenue, but my only assumption points to more money, more problems.

These observations aside, there are a few other implications for this algorithm (other than our impending necessity to allocate paid dollars) to consider in the coming months:

STAND OUT OR GET LEFT OUT

Millennials are already visiting Instagram around 10X per day – it seems crazy, but I have to tell you it is OH so true. Even so, users miss, on average, about 70% of the posts in their feed. So by optimizing the posts you see first based on your historical interactions with the people and brands you follow, the 30% of posts you do see should be the best ones. And if users are seeing the best, you’d assume they would stay on the platform longer. The longer users stay on the platform, the more ads Instagram is able to serve. The more ads Instagram is able to serve, the more important it is for your brand’s ad to stand out.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

Though Instagram is one of the most popular social networks, it’s always been my perspective that it’s a platform more concerned with quality than quantity. Whereas tweeting regularly is important to keep your followers interested, and posting at least daily on Facebook helps maintain a brand’s reach and overall engagement, frequency is of less importance on Instagram. It’s a network that is all about beautiful photography, artwork, fashion, food, etc. And, aside from the Kardashians, the accounts that are followed the most are the accounts that maintain that standard. With their feed change, this difference will become even more important. Brands MUST focus on quality to elicit the highest engagements per post. This is what will keep them top of feed and top of mind for users versus posting every day.

REPURPOSED FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM ADS

Now, Facebook will tell you that you can use their ad platforms interchangeably, publishing the same ad across both Facebook and Instagram. But this feed change tells me otherwise. If we’re constantly looking at the best of the best in our feeds, then the only conclusion I can come to is that the ads we see would need to be pretty supreme. They will need to be beautiful, be platform-first, and they’ll need to focus on a user’s Instagram habits. Because what are they on the platform for? Inspiration, beauty, exploration. It’s not the same as Facebook, and so it’s important that your production dollars and time are spent focusing on the nuances that make it differ from Facebook.

As this personalized feed rolls out, we’re sure to hear some outrage from Instagram diehards. But as with Facebook’s timeline and every other change we see, that is sure to die down. But will our use of Instagram die down as well? Time will tell.

See more at: http://www.digitasdose.com/2016/03/insta-algorithm-stand-out-or-step-aside/#sthash.xqSfvi3P.dpuf

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Originally written for & published on Social Media Examiner.

Want to make sure your ads stand out on Facebook and Instagram?

Have you tried Carousel Ads?

While many businesses use Carousel Ads solely to promote products, the ads also provide an excellent opportunity to showcase your brand’s unique narrative.

In this article, I’ll share how to use storytelling in carousel ads to promote your products and stand out from your competitors.

Discover how to tell stories with Facebook and Instagram Carousel ads.

#1: Grab Attention With the First Image

The first rule of storytelling (and advertising for that matter) is to start out strong. Be sure the first image in your carousel ad series grabs attention and makes sense on its own.

Since users may not scroll through all of the images in the series, you want to get your message across right away. Otherwise, you risk confusing your audience and wasting impressions.

For example, in Progressive’s #ActYourAge carousel ads, the first image immediately stands out.

progressive carousel ad

Make sure the first image in your series grabs attention and can stand on its own.

It uses a white background, which is very different from normal photography on the platform, and has a man playing with a baby’s mobile (also known as a carousel). The picture is so unexpected and kooky, the user can’t help but read the line below: “Dump your parents’ car insurance company. #ActYourAge.”

While your first image shouldn’t rely on any of the others to get its point across, it should still be intriguing enough to get users to swipe through to the end.

#2: Make Them Swipe

With any story, the point is to keep the reader engaged throughout and ultimately to read through to the end. Just as authors want to keep their readers interested, the same is true with carousel ads.

Once you’ve hooked the user with the first image, encourage continued engagement with the other images. This gives your brand more exposure and increased recall.

This carousel ad by Tesco Foods certainly elicits the “I can’t stop swiping” response. To see the entire photo users must swipe through all of them. This is a great example of drawing a user through a story and, in this case, a very delicious-looking one.

carousel ad example

Keep users engaged so they feel they must swipe through to the end.

Test out this concept for your brand. Use Photoshop’s splice tool (or play with pictures in your favorite design program) to cut separate images from a larger one.

#3: Create a Scene

Relating to your audience and evoking emotion are the other important parts of storytelling. To do these, provide the context necessary for users to feel like they’re right there with you. Place them at the scene.

Choose photos carefully to create imagery for carousel ads. Then write copy to draw in your audience.

The TV series Wet Hot American Summer did a great job getting their audience members to envision themselves at Camp Firewood. Pictures show the characters hanging out and doing things with their friends. Plus the image and copy pairing is so clever that users not only picture themselves there, they also remember how they felt when they attended summer camp years ago.

carousel ad example

Using images and text, set a scene that is relatable to your audience.

Obviously it’s easier to set the scene when you’re advertising something with a plot, like a television show or movie. However, for products and services, figure out how your brand fits into your customers’ lives and create a scene that demonstrates it.

For example, if you’re advertising a shirt, rather than show still images of it, think about the lifetime of the shirt. It goes from fresh and new in a package to being worn to being cleaned to being borrowed by a friend, etc. Photos that showcase a story create a plot, which evokes emotion from your customers.

#4: Think Sequentially

The order of events is essential to story comprehension. A well-edited sequence provides a natural pace to the story within your ad. Help move your users through your story.

Showtime did a great job incorporating natural sequence into its recent ads around the second season of Penny Dreadful. In just four photos you can tell the story is about a man on the run. He shoots someone, says goodbye to his girlfriend and runs away to a church.

carousel ad example

Sequence the images in your ad to increase story comprehension.

Keep in mind that sequence doesn’t necessarily mean chronological order. It just means every action captured leads to a reaction.

#5: Incorporate Visual Variety

In videography, visual variety means shooting multiple shots of the same scene from different locations, angles, distance and so on. Choose an assortment of images to build a story and ensure visual interest.

In this jean ad from Target, each shot has a role in painting the big picture. It brings the audience into the design studio, shares what the studio is like and displays what kind of jeans are being made.

carousel ad example

Use a variety of image shots to make your ads interesting and paint the big picture for your audience.

Most feature films show multiple images to set the scene. This is something you can easily do with carousel ads.



#6: Consider the Platform

No matter what your story, if you want to stand out, think about the channel first. Look at the platform’s audience, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, and what they expect out of it. Then design an ad that speaks to them.

For example, Buick hit it out of the park on Instagram with these ads about its new 24-hour test drive service. The photography is beautiful (an Instagram must), and it uses a popular photo filter. Buick is also leveraging some of the top content categories that receive the most engagement by users on Instagram: fashion and fitness.

carousel ad example

Make sure whatever story you tell, it’s in alignment with the platform.

Develop a channel-specific story that makes the best use of the platform, and increases engagement with your intended audience.

#7: Leave Your Audience Wanting More

If there’s a place to break the rules of storytelling, here it is: do not give a conclusion. Rather than offering a natural ending, lure users into clicking the learn morebutton, so they can finish the story on your custom landing page.

For example, Sour Patch Slurpee takes viewers through the first four images of a Sour Patch Kid story. So much excitement is generated that users want to see what comes next. After they click, they’re directed to a landing page that extended the “party” to its audience. This custom landing page asks users to share their #SPKSlurpeeSelfies.

carousel ad example

Create a story that leaves users clicking for more.

The purpose of carousel ads is to increase awareness and engagement. However, the ultimate goal is to get the audience to continue the experience and click through to a landing page. When that happens, you’re able to establish a relationship, continue the interaction and possibly capture your users’ information.

Final Thoughts

With today’s cluttered ad space, it’s getting harder to really stand out. If you want to build a breakthrough carousel ad, start by creating an engaging story that takes your audience along for the ride.

What do you think? Do you use storytelling in your carousel ads? What techniques are most effective? Which brands’ ads really stand out?