Insta-Algorithm: Stand Out or Step Aside


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:


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.


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.


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.

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So What? 3 Reasons Why You Need a Social Media Strategy


Social Media bandwagon - Image courtesy of Prepare1.comBecause of the ease and low-cost associated with space on social networks, most businesses opt for a “shot-in-the-dark” strategy rather than approaching their social media presence, strategically.

In fact, a significant amount of marketers (80%) incorrectly begin with tactics instead of goals when it comes to social media strategy. They consider the creation of a Facebook page or twitter handle to be “free” and place them in the “as time permits” category.

This passive approach has led to one of the largest challenges in social media marketing as of late: How to measure and determine the ROI of your social media marketing efforts. The creation of a social media strategy is the only way to adequately answer this question, as it provides a critical context for evaluation of these efforts.

Your brand is too important to be treated so casually!
If you jump on the social media bandwagon by thinking about tactics first (e.g. creating a Facebook page or Twitter handle), you risk spending time on something that might not actually make strategic sense for your brand. Here’s why:

1. Time is Money – First of all, all of these “free” social media networks should take real time to manage properly, especially if you want to be successful. The time you or your co-workers spend updating each of your social media profiles, creating content, and (hopefully) optimizing it, all equals money.

2. Opportunity Cost – Think back to intro level economics. When you spend time updating your status, tweeting, pinning, creating videos etc. you’re not spending time doing another activity. Our time is not infinite, so we must make choices on how we spend it. As such, it makes sense that we should spend our time on activities that are proven to drive revenue or generate leads. But how can we determine if our time is well-spent with no measurement tools in place? That brings me to my next point…

3. Measurement & ROI –  The key to determining the worth of your efforts is creating metrics to follow and measure throughout the course of the campaign. Here’s the problem: without actual goals in mind, you are unable to delineate key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure your activity. Sure, you can do daily maintenance and discover, for instance, that funny quotes get more retweets and that shorter YouTube videos get the most shares. You might even track how many hits to your website you get from each of these channels. But…so what? All of this means nothing if you have no plan in place or goals to work against. Without measurement tools, you’ll have no idea whether it is actually worth your time to maintain these social media profiles. You’ll have an even smaller idea about whether your target audience or customers are even receptive to these efforts – or if they even know about them?

Essentially, without goals and a strategy your efforts are seemingly purposeless. You’re posting updates, tweeting, blogging, and creating content all in hopes that something is going to move the needle. The problem is that you have no clue how you’d know if it did move or how.

The bottom line is, in order to determine the ROI of your efforts or to justify the budgets and time allocated to social media marketing, you must create a strategy that starts with clear business goals.

Why else might a social strategy be useful?

This is the second in our series of “So What?” blog posts, introducing social media to brands. As we move throughout this series, we will cover topics such as ROI, the social consumer, analytics, and more. Click here to read the first in the series: Why Embrace Social Media & The Groundswell.

Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using Metrics

How to Measure Social Media ROI – by yourself


ROI (Return on Investment) has been THE buzz word for the past six months or so (well before Facebook became an IPO and stole its thunder). Why? Because now that social networking sites are here to stay, marketers are being forced to carve out a place for it in their overall marketing budgets, instead of using discretionary funds for “emerging technologies.” But it’s no easy task to get the buy-in on a whole budget dedicated to social media marketing (SMM) – especially if you work for a small business.

First of all, many people perceive that social media marketing is virtually free.

Networking sites themselves are “free” to be a part of, but managing them correctly and devoting the time necessary to developing a strategy and creating unique content is in no way FREE. Large corporations have huge sectors and agencies and freelance writers devoted to keeping their blogs and social networks alive. That’s a lot of actual dollars and cents.

To boot, if you ever took an intro level economics class, you know about “opportunity costs.” These are the costs you incur by not doing something else. For instance, if you spend 2 hours writing a blog post, you’re losing 2 hours where you could have been creating an email. If your emails on average garner about $800 each, then to make spending your time creating a blog post worth it, you’ve got to at least generate $800 in revenue from it, right?

If only it were that simple. Social media marketing is a little different from traditional marketing- it takes time to build a base, a reputation, and to increase your site’s SEO. If your ultimate goal by participating in SMM is to increase revenue, then you’ve really got to think about three things:

  1. The resources you have involved in it – How much money do you have, how many people do you have to draw on for the effort, how much time is your team spending on social media?
  2. Your more immediate goals – be they awareness, engagement, purchase intent, etc.
  3. How much value you associate with each social networking touch point (a twitter follower, or a facebook fan etc.).

TechCrunch reported that the value of a Twitter follower is less than one cent. Others think Twitter followers are worth closer to $3/month. There’s really no conclusive evidence because it’s always a case-by-case basis.

Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using MetricsSo how do you figure out what the ROI of your social media marketing strategy is?

1. Instead of associating value directly to dollars, associate value to your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Ex. How many of our twitter followers shared our content or purchased our product? 

2. To delineate your KPIs you have to think long and hard about what your end goal is.

Is it awareness about your brand? Is it to influence purchase decisions? In what part of the marketing    funnel are you trying to reach your target?  

3. Determine how active your followers are on average. Some indicators of their engagement level on various social networking sites are how personalized their Facebook or blog comments are and by how much time they spend on your landing page or site.

Do they visit your page, whether it be your Facebook page, blog, etc., once and then never interact with it again? 

Some advocate for creating a social media scorecard. This method incorporates manually grading or balancing different interactions (a video view versus a tweet).  These “grades” are dependent upon your SMM goal(s). You basically create a weighted scale to help you determine your ROI.

After you figure out the value of each KPI, you can put them in order and then multiply the number of interactions with the grade. Add them all up for a total campaign score. More about this method to come.

What factors do you include when calculating your social media ROI?

Social Media Madness: 5 ways to be a real NCAA bball fan & a great social media strategist


As some of you may know, I am a huge UNC Basketball fan. To some we’re “North Carolina,” to others we’re “the tarheels” and to me, we’re “#1.” Okay, I had to throw in that last one.

You can’t be a great NCAA basketball fan without a few key characteristics – including being crazy. And the same is true for being a great social media strategist, or marketing professional in general. So, I thought I’d sum up some of the most essential aspects to being great at one, or the other, or, for me, both.

  1. Understanding the strategy: If you want to be a really great fan, you have to understand your team’s underlying structure. Does Roy usually bulk up on great defensive players, power forwards, or 3 point shooters? When we look at great SMM campaigns, the best ones have strict objectives and creative strategies to accomplish them. This way, not only does everyone know what the plan is, but everyone also knows what the measurement for success is and how often to evaluate it. To be a great college basketball fan, you have to know what the coach is up to when he puts certain players in, otherwise you wont know if the team is actually doing what they set out to do (or win to cheer)!
  2. Knowing the rules: There are rules to every sport and while I haven’t mastered the differences between college football and the NFL, but I am well-versed on NCAA bball rules. Why? Because of the high level of competition, oftentimes the games come down to free throws or which star player is benched due to foul trouble, if you don’t know the rules, then you can’t understand what’s going on. To be a great fan, you have to know why these things are happening and what ways your team might be able to use these rules to their advantage. Each social platform has its own rules – some of the most namely are Facebook’s contest rules. To be a great social strategist you need to know how to embrace these rules and creatively use them to your advantage, otherwise your great idea might get shut down! If you know the rules, you can play on the line in just the right way. Remember Burger King’s “Whopper Sacrifice? ” Though it was eventually shut down by Facebook, its creators knew the risks associated with it and were able to promptly put up new images when it was dismantled.
  3. Keeping track of your competitors: This is one to remember. Because the social world is always discovering new technologies, it’s always changing. That means your brand’s competitors probably know something you don’t. It’s inevitable. So, it’s to your advantage to keep abreast of the new happenings in your category. Constantly evaluating your competitors efforts will help you to stay in front of their efforts and to use their failures as advice for your brand’s future campaigns. You better believe that I know which teams are the teams to beat. Everyone knows that UNC’s #1 rival is Duke, and I know every year they’ll have great 3-point shooters. Because I know about their competition, I also know that the Tarheels have to be tight on perimeter defense when they’re playing the Blue Devils.
  4. Having a schedule: Always, always, always have a schedule. Be flexible, but have a schedule. Creating a calendar helps you to remember your goals for a particular month (or week even) and what your ideas are for achieving these goals. That way you’ll always stay on track for a campaign. Without a schedule, your strategy can become muddled and unclear – and then you can’t track its success! Obviously, to be a good fan you have to watch every game. To do that, you need a schedule with which channel the game will be on, what time the game is, and who they’re playing.
  5. Being a little crazy (super passionate): The best social strategies are the ones no one else could have thought up. They use a platform in a different way or have an underlying idea that’s kind of, well kukoo. Think about the Old Spice campaign. Mustafa? Really? It’s brilliant. When you’re starting to create your strategies, give yourself 10 minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible. Don’t rule any out. Then spend the next hour scheming what would need to happen for each idea to come to life. Then you can evaluate the elements it takes to make the idea work to find out if it will work for you and your brand (considering time constraints, available resources, & metrics for success).

What makes you a great fan & strategist?