Sometimes it is simple; sometimes you need a role model

Richard Branson’s “Five rough guidelines for creating a successful business” stopped me in my tracks this morning as it is one of the best summaries I have seen.

Pay special attention to #5.

After five decades in business, I’m often asked if there is a shortcut to success. Unfortunately there isn’t — or if there is, I haven’t found it yet. Creating a successful and profitable business takes time, since you build your reputation as customers learn to trust and rely on you, one by one. 

Richard Branson

Image from John Armstrong Photography

Also, there’s no guarantee that spending a huge amount of money on marketing will slingshot your business forward. If you spend your time looking for shortcuts, you will find one — right out of business. 

While there are no set rules for succeeding in business, I have embraced some rough guidelines that can be very helpful:

1. Create a useful product or service

Image from Virgin Orbit

Above all else, you should not go into business purely for financial reasons. Running a company involves long hours and hard decisions; if you don’t have a better reason than money to keep going, your business will more than likely fail, as many new businesses do.

So it’s important to create something of use that is going to benefit society as a whole. If you do something you truly care about, you will be in a much better position to find customers, connect with them, and keep them coming back. 

Once you have decided on the type of product or service that interests you, focus on how to do things differently from the competition: Do your research, find a gap or an area ripe for innovation, and position your business in a way that sets it apart. 

2. Simplify your message

richard_branson_taking_notes_-_image_by_john_armstrong_photography.jpg

Image by John Armstrong Photography

Customers don’t just shop for a brand and its products, but also identify with its core values. Ask yourself, why did I start my business? Be honest – this will help you establish an authentic value and voice. Then break your message into something simple.

At Virgin, we stand for great customer service, good value and innovative alternatives to our competitors’ offerings. Most importantly, we view business as a force for good. Knowing who we are and what we stand for ensures that we don’t waste time or money on messaging that doesn’t represent us or resonate with our customers. 

3.  Market yourself

Richard holding his daughter Holly as he celebrates launching Virgin Atlantic

Image from Virgin.com

 Marketing is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. My mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, a man who had started a company to challenge British Airways on their home turf, gave me some invaluable advice when I was starting up Virgin Atlantic. Knowing that we couldn’t match the more established airlines in terms of marketing budget, he encouraged me to drive the publicity myself: “Use yourself. Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won’t survive.” 

I took his advice and I’ve been thinking up fun ways to stand out from the crowd and draw the media’s attention to our company ever since, from breaking world records to pulling pranks. 

While I’ve always been interested in sports and physical challenges, that might not be the route for you. Find your tone, know your brand, do things your own way, and create waves. The free advertising will follow.   

4. Embrace social media

Image by Owen Buggy

Tools like Twitter and Facebook are wonderful ways to get your message out to a wide audience. Social media is not only more cost-efficient than advertising, but it also offers great opportunities for innovative engagement with your customers. Use it to your advantage.

Remember that there is a difference between selling and marketing. In my experience, selling a product through social media doesn’t always work – it’s better to simply communicate with your customers in an authentic way and have fun. As you build an online profile that people can identify with and trust, you’ll find that they will soon become customers. 

The feedback you receive on social media can be invaluable, especially when your business is just starting out. Listen to your customers’ comments about your company’s offerings to gain an understanding of what you are doing right and wrong. You can also use this feedback to sharpen your social campaigns and measure the effectiveness of your calls to action. 

5. Keep on enjoying what you do

Image from Virgin

If you genuinely love and believe in what you do, others will take notice and share your enthusiasm. 

If you find your interest flagging, it’s time to make a change — switch from operations to management, move on, expand into new territories, anything that interests you. To find success, you need to be fully committed or your work will show it.

What is the Secret to Reaching Millennials? If you are producing an event…

Capturing the attention of millennials and the Gen Z crowd (also known as iGen) has been the holy grail of goals for meeting and event planners in recent years. Old-school methods and formats aren’t effective anymore. This new generation of attendees demands innovation and interactivity and expects social media shareability.

At the Center for Generational Kinetics, which specializes in generational research and solutions, an in-house team of experts, keynote speakers, and consultants work with clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups across industries such as automotive, banking, financial services, restaurants, hoteliers, and retail, to figure out what works and what doesn’t. (Hint: PowerPoint, no. Video, yes.)

The center deems those born between 1977 and 1995 as millennials. The center’s president, Jason Dorsey, who, at 40, rides the cusp of this generation, has spoken in front of many millennial-packed audiences at events, meetings, and conferences, including the Financial Brand Forum, GS1 in Mexico, Ultimate Connections Conference, and EO Nashville. Here, he shares his insights into planning a meeting or event that successfully taps into the mindset of this group.

What are the key elements that millennials look for in events?
Millennials want to be included in all aspects of the event. This means not having to sit in the back of the room because they have more junior titles or fewer years of experience. Millennials also want digital integration, fewer PowerPoint slides, more video, and more all-around interactivity. We have come of age in a time of instant feedback and collaboration, and we want our in-person events to include more of this before, during, and after.

What’s the main difference between reaching a Gen Z audience as compared to millennials?
Gen Z are younger than millennials, in some cases 15 years younger, so they are on the very front end of their careers. [Right now, Gen Z is up to age 22.] We find they value training on how to make the most of events, how to use technology to connect with people and resources at events, and interaction that drives new connections—as they likely know fewer people at the event than other generations. Gen Z also looks to other social media platforms, such as Snapchat rather than Facebook, which changes the type of digital interactions they want to create while at an event.

What’s the best way for planners to reach millennials at conferences and meetings in particular?
In our work with planners around the world, the best way to reach millennials is to create the foundation for a great event before the event happens. This includes videos, behind-the-scenes collaborations, and building up the excitement for the event before it takes place. Our work with meeting planners who have events with lots of millennials also reveals that millennials want the event to be tailored to them, when possible, and to give them options to find content and tracks that meet their specific needs including career and life stage. Millennials want speakers that are high energy, engaging, and who pull into the message and meeting, rather than traditional PowerPoint-heavy presentations with someone behind a podium.

Lastly, continuing the conversation after the event is key so that all the great content doesn’t just disappear, but drives engagement, enthusiasm, and action when everyone returns to work. We frequently work with meeting planners to film videos and create other content that is specifically designed to be delivered before and after the event, including live conversations post-event.

What types of speakers are most effective at engaging millennials?
Millennials get fired up about my take on our generation because I explain how millennials are actually two generations [early and late millennials], not one. This is a big deal and why many of us feel like we don’t fit in the generation. Other speakers I’ve seen that resonate with millennial audiences include Jay Baer, Rory Vaden, Erik Qualman, and David Horsager. All of them are very entertaining presenters with lots of great stories and humor, which is important as millennials have very high expectations for entertainment when it comes to speakers.

Is there anything that’s a major turn-off for millennials in terms of events? 
Yes, boring speakers with lots of slides, being treated as if they are not as valued an audience member as those with bigger titles, not having diverse food options, and events that are in hotels where they charge for Wi-Fi.

This article was posted here with thanks to the writer Michele Laufik and came from BIZBASH. http://www.bizbash.com.

YOLO!

We should all live like this …. Expedia just released new data about how Generation Z is redefining the world. (Wow that is a big statement!).

Generation Z, are people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, and who make up 25% of the U.S. population,making them a larger cohort than the Baby Boomers or Millennials.

The study says this group of consumers are YOLO – You Only Live Once.  They are open to new experiences, are deal-driven and have a long list of bucket experiences.

So ask yourself – who isn’t?  I hope they are right about this group, who are right behind Millennials, and can teach all of us about living in the moment.

Here’s a great chart from Expedia that shows the data as it relates to travel decisions. It applies equally to marketing and PR pros who are defining messages to reach all consumers.

Here are some things you should know about how Gen Z are shopping for, booking, and traveling when you are looking to reach and influence this new generation of travel enthusiasts.

  • They want a good deal.Seeking the best deals and most value for their money is universal among travelers of all ages, but especially for Gen Z, who are not yet or are just starting to be financially independent – and may still be spending mom and dad’s money. Gen Z are heavily influencing family travel decisions, and in the coming years, as more Gen Z enter the workforce and increase their disposable income, their prioritization of travel and their growing budgets will unlock myriad opportunities for marketers.
  • They are more open to influence.Two-thirds of Gen Z travelers are undecided on a destination when they decide to take a trip, and their diverse trip preferences illustrate broad opportunities for marketers to entice them. Seventy-seven percent of Gen Z travelers are open to help and inspiration when planning a trip, and nearly 70 percent use their smartphone when looking for travel inspiration.
  • They are social.Eighty-four percent of Gen Z travelers said social media can be influential, particularly deals or promotions and travel pictures or videos from friends or experts. Appealing deals and images are also impactful for the more than 60 percent of Gen Z who said advertising can be influential, revealing a receptive audience for travel marketers.
  • They are going to grow the bleisure travel market.Although Millennials are currently outpacing Gen Z in business travel – 6.4 business trips per year versus 4.8 trips – both generations are capitalizing on and saving for opportunities to extend business travel for leisure, or bleisure. Sixty-six percent of Gen Z business trips were extended for leisure, and 88 percent of Gen Z travelers save for bleisure travel. Bleisure travel will likely increase as more of Gen Z enters the workforce in the coming years, illustrating a burgeoning opportunity for travel marketers.

Get the full study, “A Look Ahead: How Younger Generations are Shaping the Future of Travel,” for more data and actionable insights that marketers can leverage to reach Gen Z and Millennial travelers.

This article came from Expedia Group, expedia.com and was written by Lisa Lindberg.  Here is a link to the article:  https://blog.advertising.expedia.com/how-younger-generations-are-shaping-the-future-of-travel?utm_campaign=Blog%20promotion&utm_source=3rd-party-ads&utm_medium=Smartbrief&utm_term=display&utm_content=travel-feat-cont

 

Secret Sauce? – “Like Their Friend In The Newsroom Made Sure They Knew What They Needed To Know”

Whether it is a newsletter, a video, a social media post or a cocktail party – the basics remain – think about your audience and be interesting.  Below is the recipe for the secret sauce to communicating, and engaging, your audiences.

shutterstock_698002942 purchased July 2018

The New York Times recently announced that it now has 14 million subscribers across its 55 newsletters. According to Elisabeth Goodridge, The Times’s editorial director of newsletters, the “secret sauce” to good newsletters is as follows:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Have an expert write it (or be quoted)
  3. Design it beautifully
  4. Maintain it with best practices in mind
  5. And, perhaps most important, “offer something valuable that you can’t get anywhere else.”

It should also be an intimate and controlled space. “We want it to be a friction-free experience,” said Andrea Kannapell, the editor of briefings at The Times. That means shorter, lighter sentences; a conversational voice; and information that equips readers to take on news conversations at work and at cocktail parties. “We want them to leave the briefing feeling uplifted,” Ms. Kannapell said. “Like their friend in the newsroom made sure they knew what they needed to know.”

Thank you to the American Press Institute for sharing this article.  Blog readers:  Isn’t this what our jobs are too?  Whether it is delivering information TO a journalist, or shareholders, or employees or our communities … these simple steps are indeed the recipe to the ‘secret sauce’.

I am a subscriber to several of these NYT newsletters and usually I take the time to review and read them; they are that worthwhile.  This is a free service, delivered online, so I encourage you to take a look, experience their ‘secret sauce techniques’ and see if one of these 55 newsletters might be what you need to know.  Laura

Have You Decorated … your social media channels?

10 Creative Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season

Yes it is the holiday season, and nothing matters more the other times of year than our social media efforts, so include them in the holiday spirit too! #BennettHolidayMarketing  #HappyHolidays2018

As a long time PR professional, I am always looking for really great ideas, that are business-like yet have impact. 

Thanks to Wix (where I host the wwww.BennettandCo.com website), here is a list of 10 great and creative marketing ideas, and examples of how they were implemented for the Wix brand:

Months ahead of the holiday season, retail stores start decorating shelves with tinsel, candles and festive lights. It seems that every year, the holiday prep starts earlier and earlier. Call shop owners overeager, but planning ahead actually has its perks. This is especially the case when it comes to marketing. Planning for these predetermined dates can prevent your business from getting hit with unexpected snowballs – like last minute promotional campaigns, holiday re-designs, and battles with creative blocks.

As a small business owner, it’s worth taking a lesson or two from these retail giants. Although you’re going to need to put in some work, we promise that it will be nothing short of fun. That’s because we’ve included inspiration for holiday content for your website, decked-out social pages, creative newsletters and much more to dress up your business in festive and seasonal attire. And after you’ve implemented these holiday marketing strategies, your business will be just as jolly as a proudly-standing snowman (carrot nose and scarf included). So without further ado, here are 10 effective and fun marketing ideas you can implement on your site for the holiday season:

01. Decorate your social media channels

Just like putting up lights in your front yard or garnishing your front door, the point of decorating your social channels is to signal that your small business is well aware the holidays are in full swing. So, how will you begin? Pull out your digital arts and craft supplies and start creating some holiday content. For social media, upload a new cover photo that features a design of a simple festive image, a holiday wish written over a patterned background, or a promotion of a holiday sale. If you want to create your own designs, you can use a graphic design tool, like Canva, which allows you to choose your social media image size, then easily layer that base with customised photos, shapes, and text. Once you save your design, you can simply upload it to the corresponding social channel.

You can also use your FacebookInstagram, and Twitter profiles to post some holiday cheer. To create social posts, one effortless tool is Wix Social Posts because it enables you to simply pick a pre-sized, flawless design, then drag and drop your text, and add stickers (graphics) and images for a personalized look that speaks to your brand identity. Then, save and upload your design onto the social channels of your choice – or even onto your website. The type of content you can share is anything from upcoming events to promotions for the holiday season, such as contests, themed sales, and blog posts full of holiday inspiration. And don’t worry, we’ll cover all of these points and more in the tips to come. Just focus on filling your pages with joy and spirit for now.

holiday marketing ideas for social posts

02. Create a themed version of your logo

A logo certainly holds the core position of your business and branding efforts. It also represents your business’ personality – like Google’s playful color palette, for example (learn why they chose a green ‘L’ with this cool article about the stories behind famous logos). As an ambassador of your personality, it only makes sense that your logo reflect that your business is also celebrating it up during this holiday season. This holiday version can be as simple as replacing the dot on an ‘i or the letter ‘o’ with hanging lights or candles. Even if these letters don’t apply to you, you can incorporate a tinsel or glittery border into any design. Get as creative as you wish here.

If you don’t have a logo, not to worry we’ve got a solution. You can always turn to a trusted logo creation platform that can create a professional logo for you in seconds: Wix Logo Maker. All you need to do is simply answer a few questions about your company, industry, and style preferences. Then, watch the artificial intelligence technology work its magic and generate numerous logo options faster than you can wrap a present. And the best part is that they’re all completely customizable, which will allow you to make it as cheerful as you wish.

Creating a themed logo is a holiday marketing idea

03. Invent a festive hashtag

One proven way to get people talking about your brand is by creating a unique hashtag. In short, a hashtagis the combination of a ‘#’ symbol followed by a keyword or phrase that allows the accompanying post to become searchable. There are millions of popular hashtags that can certainly help with post engagement, particularly on Instagram and Twitter. However, a self-created seasonal hashtag or one related to a specific holiday date will stimulate a potentially viral campaign.

But first, let’s take a step back and discuss the phrase ‘user-generated content (UGC).’ This is the concept where everyday users create content for your business and share them online – essentially advertising your brand for you. Typically, these online posts are accompanied by hashtags, which funnel all of the UGC content to one central location. So, let’s make up an ultra specific campaign idea. For example, say you have a business, Ruth’s Vintage Apparel, and you want to host a costume contest. There are two requirements: participants must wear a clothing item from your online shop, and they must post about it using the hashtag #RuthsCostumeContest. This will generate hype around your brand because consumers will be enthusiastic to participate and check out the competition (hence, they will browse more of your posts for items from your store via the hashtag). It will also benefit your business by expanding your promotion reach much more than physically possible to do on your own.

04. Hold a competition

Anything from an ugly sweater contest, to a race to sign up for a free scented candle, will generate buzz around your business. It’s similar to the previously mentioned concept of creating a hashtag. User-generated content is certainly relevant here, as well, in order to spread the word about your company. Yet, the main difference between a hashtag and this strategy is that a contest needs to be incentivising. Whether you’re giving away a product, gift card, or featuring a customer on your website, you need to offer something in return to the chosen winner of your contest.

While the options of the type of contest you hold are endless, there are a couple of basic competition guidelines you should consider:

  • Set a clear goal: All that you do regarding your marketing strategy should have one clear goal in mind. Is it to get more followers on your Instagram account and Facebook page? Or is it to promote your newest holiday product? You’re going to want to come up with a game plan of how you can reach that goal. This includes everything from choosing the platform to researching the guidelines of hosting a contest there.
  • Entice your audience with a prize: Let’s face it. This is the entire reason consumers will be interested in playing. Whether it’s a gift card to your online store or a holiday gift (really, everyone loves scented candles), keep it relevant and in the spirit of your chosen festivity.
  • Include all of the rules: For legal purposes and overall transparency, this step cannot be neglected. Think about all the possible factors that go into your contest and write them down somewhere. It can certainly take up a lot of room on your social feed, so it might be worthwhile to make and link a PDF at the bottom of your contest post, include it as a section of your website or even create a one page website dedicated to the competition.
  • Promote your competition: Some promotional efforts are free (like email marketing), and others might cost you a bit of money (like Facebook advertising). Decide on your budget, content, and design. Then, throw your flyers into the wind.
  • Post about your winner: The final place you can truly make sure your first goal is met is by sharing the results. It’s the last opportunity you have to generate more content from your activity. So, make sure to create exciting content centered around your winner and company, and share it all around – your website, your blog, a newsletter, your social media, and more. Just don’t forget to get the winner’s permission first.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fwix%2Fvideos%2F10155805870270429%2F&show_text=0&width=560

05. Send a holiday shoutout

The most effective form of marketing proven again and again is email marketing. In fact, over 80% of retail professionals claim that email marketing drives customer acquisition and retention more than any other form of digital marketing – and yes, that number even takes social media into account. And the last, most important reason, is that it’s free or extremely cheap to send effective newsletters.

Have we convinced you to implement this holiday marketing idea yet? If so, send out a beautiful, easy-to-design and fully customisable email from your business’s own custom email address in order to make sure that your business looks as professional as possible to consumers this holiday season. If you’re a Wix user, you can easily send out a newsletter right from your account thanks to the all-in-one email solution, Wix ShoutOut. This tool allows you to customise your templates, sync your contacts, send out newsletters, then go back and track your stats to learn more about your community and how you can improve based on feedback and statistics.

When you prepare your email, include everything from the subject lineCTAs, and content, to themed images. (Here are some email marketing tips to get you started.) While crafting your email plan, make sure to think creatively, as you certainly won’t be the only business sending out a holiday email this year. You’re going to have to put in some work to stand out. Here are some creative examples for your inspiration:

  • Launch a countdown leading up to a specific holiday date: For example, you can list X number of products (with links to your online store) in descending order to entice readers to scroll through the whole email.
  • Animate with videos and GIFs: These are two engaging forms of content that will get visitors interested in your email.
  • Send a holiday gift: Anything from a voucher for an actual product to something much simpler, like a coupon or printable greeting card that they can share with their loved ones.
  • Announce a sales campaign: Sales are as inescapable as cut-out cookies during the holiday season. This is why you should considering creating a sales campaign for your eCommerce website.
  • Give out warm holiday wishes: Create a digital greeting card with a festive photo of you or your team – including your pets if you have any (because really that’s what people care about the most).

Wix Shoutout Email holiday marketing ideas

06. Highlight a sale on your website with a Lightbox

No, we aren’t talking about the box of string lights you stored away from last year, although we are sure that you can find something festive to do with those, too. Digitally speaking, a lightbox is an interactive message that appears on your website immediately upon a visitor’s arrival and then prompts them to take a specific action. So, if you’re hosting a sale, this is the perfect way to ensure that you’ve grabbed your audience’s attention. When you create a Lightbox for your Wix website, you can customize everything, including content, colors, fonts, layout and background images. This way, you can create a specific design to suit the holiday theme that you want to target. In addition, it’s possible to personalize the call-to-action (CTA) for your lightbox, such as a signup form to receive your sale discount or a link to your store’s sale page.

07. Write a festive blog post

Hmm… We wonder where we got this idea from? You can certainly take this article as an example for a holiday marketing blog post idea. Furthermore, not only is blogging a great practice to increase your SEO efforts, it’s also something that your customers will appreciate. If you don’t have a blog already, creating one is easy with this step-by-step blog guide. Here you can highlight anything holiday related at your company: a sale, a holiday gift or recipe guide, or a countdown of something. Then, once you’ve completed it, make sure to share your posts on your social media channels and marketing emails.

08. Wrap up your year with content

We can all learn from Spotify’s Wrapped Campaign. The music streaming platform used an algorithm to compile playlists for the top songs and artists of the past 12 months in order to ‘wrap up’ their year. You can use this awesome marketing campaign as inspiration for your business, whether it’s a list of best-selling products, the top social media posts, or other successful stats like new email subscribers and followers on Instagram. You can proudly display those results in any form you choose: an infographic, a blog post, Instagram Story, video, or Facebook post. This is one piece of content that can be promoted everywhere. It’s your time to flaunt the outcomes of your hard work and celebrate what your company has done this year.

09. Shoot a themed video

Consumers are 85% more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it. This and many other video marketing statistics explain why video content is the way of the future. If you’re scrambling to find a topic or theme to create a video about, then the holidays is the perfect excuse. Some ideas include describing a product, giving a behind-the-scenes look at your business, or ‘writing’ a blog post in video form. Just remember to make it festive 🙂

Based on the latest social media trends, it’s apparent that short videos are much more effective than their long-form counterparts. So, don’t stress about creating one longer than a minute, or even 10 seconds for that matter. You can turn to one of the many different video creation platforms to start building your mini film, like Magisto and iMovie. Once you complete your creation, save it, then share it on YouTube, Facebook, and your website. With Wix Video, you can effortlessly upload videos from YouTube or Facebook to your site, showcase them in stunning layouts, and then track their success through detailed stats.

10. Create a holiday Pinterest board

Pinterest and holiday inspiration go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. That’s why the holiday season is one reason to create an account on the platform and start using it for the excellent benefits it provides, like growing a community, increasing brand awareness, and driving traffic to your website. Pinterest is a visual discovery tool that allows you to find and share ideas for projects. Here, users can follow accounts, brands, businesses, and boards.

Pinterest Boards are the backbone of the platform, and each one represents a different category. You can create as many as you like on any topics you like. That’s why filling a holiday-themed board is an excellent way to bring in the festivities. Use this as a chance to share anything related to your company in holiday version, from recipes to beauty products, gift guides, infographics, design inspiration, and so much more. New to Pinterest? This guide explains everything you need to know about using Pinterest for your business.

Ready to hang some lights and sprinkle fake snow all over the Internet? Create a stunning website with Wix today!

 

Jennifer Kaplan
By Jennifer Kaplan
Community Writer, Wix About the Wix Blog

40% of US Consumers Began Holiday Planning and Shopping YESTERDAY! And… a terrific infographic

The Importance of Holiday Marketing in October – Less Cost +More Results

According to recently published research from Adroll, marketers should definitely consider launching their holiday campaigns in October (or mid-August for PR) in order to maximize performance and response.

Instagram Connects You With Your Younger (and Future) Customer

Instagram for Business: Everything You Need to Know

Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing app and social network. It was created in 2010, and in 2012, Facebook purchased it for $1 billion. According to Instagram, more than 500 million people use it daily, and it has more than 800 million monthly active users.

Instagram is photo- and video-centric. Users can edit and post images and short videos, record Instagram stories, and go live with video. Before using Instagram for your business, here is what you should know.

Although it can be viewed on a desktop, Instagram is primarily a mobile app, so you need to download it before you can sign up for an account. Instagram is free in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play store.

To sign up, you can either connect your Instagram account to Facebook or enter your email.

You will want to convert your brand’s Instagram profile to a business account to receive access to analytics and insights. To do this, you’ll need to connect the account with your business’s Facebook page by following the in-app prompts from the Switch to Business Profile option under Settings.

Once your Instagram account is created, you can go to the Profile tab and tap the Edit Your Profile button to change your name, username and profile picture, or to add a website and a short biography. To change the app’s settings, tap the gear button on the top right corner.

When you open the app, you’ll be taken to the home page. Here, you’ll see an endless stream of posts from the users you follow, sponsored posts based on your interests and your own posts, if you’ve added any.

  • Home button: This takes you to your home page or your feed.
  • Search tab: This tab helps you find interesting content and users to follow. Using the search bar, you can look for certain content, users or hashtags. If you don’t tap a category (People, Tags or Places), the app defaults to Top, which shows the most popular results for that search term. You will also see a horizontally scrolling row of photos called Trending Tags and, below that, a feed of popular posts, called Explore Posts. These features are great ways to find other people and brands whose interests align with yours, and following users with similar content may even earn you some followers.
  • Add button: With this button, you can add a new photo from your gallery, take a photo or shoot a short video.
  • Heart button: On the activity page (heart tab), you’ll see two tabs at the top of the page: Following and You. The You tab is the default; this is where you can see recent notifications showing who has followed you or liked your photos, comments other users have left on your photos or mentioned you in, and posts you’ve been tagged in. When you switch to the Following tab, you’ll see recent activity from the users you’re following – other photos they’ve liked or commented on and users they’ve followed.
  • Profile: Your Profile tab is where you can see all your posts and story highlights, edit your profile and update your settings.
  • Geotagging: Instagram allows you to add your location to your photos when you post them. Adding your location to photos displays that location above your photo in each post that has been geotagged. You can toggle your location on and off before posting an image.

To post a new photo, tap the add (camera) button on the bottom of your screen. This will open your phone’s camera, and you can either take a new photo or record a short video, or select one from your camera roll.

Upon clicking Next, you’ll be taken to a screen with multiple options, including Instagram’s filters and an Edit button, which allows you to adjust the photo by changing the brightness, contrast, structure, warmth, saturation, color, fade, highlights and shadows. You can also add a vignette or tilt-shift the picture.

Once you’ve edited the photo to your liking, click Next. Then you can write a caption to describe the picture, add a location to geotag it, tag people and share it on other social media platforms. You also have the option to turn off comments, found at the bottom of the Advanced Settings page.

Before posting public photos, business owners should consider adding hashtags to their picture for optimal exposure. If you want to change or add something after you’ve published a post, tap the ellipses (…) button on that post and select Edit to update the caption or add a location or tags. You can also share the post on other social networks or delete the post if you’re unhappy with it.

Now that you know how to create a profile and post photos, here are the different ways you can use Instagram to promote your business.

Instagram Stories are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. At the top of the home page is a horizontal bar featuring photos of the people you follow and one for yourself. When you select the photo of yourself, it opens another screen with eight options to add to your story.

  • Normal: With the normal option, you can take a regular, still photo.
  • Live: This is for live videos.
  • Type: Type is the only option that doesn’t require a photo or video. Instead, you can choose from different background colors and fonts and type whatever is on your mind.
  • Boomerang: This option creates a GIF.
  • Superzoom: Superzoom allows you to zoom in during a video with dramatic sound effects.
  • Rewind: Rewind lets you post a video to your story that’s in reverse.
  • Hands-free: Records a video without requiring you to hold down the record button.
  • Stop motion: With this feature, you can take a long series of photos and Instagram turns the photos into a GIF.

With all options, you can draw, type and place stickers and polls on photos and videos. These features are very similar to those on Snapchat, so if you’re familiar with that platform, it should make it much easier to navigate. Instagram stories are a great way to promote a new product, give a behind-the-scenes look at your business or show a new blog post.

With Stories Highlights, you can group stories together into highlights and feature the groups on your profile below your bio. Highlights stay on your profile until you remove them. To edit or remove a highlight, just tap and hold it. Instagram also automatically saves your stories when they expire and keeps them in the Stories Archive, which is accessible on your profile.

In addition to Instagram Stories, users can take and stream live video that disappears – sort of like a combination between Facebook Live and Snapchat. You can give customers a live look behind the scenes of interesting aspects of your business, show products or answer live questions through the comments.

Once the video ends, it lives on your Instagram stories where it stays for 24 hours. If you want video that remains on your Instagram feed, you can upload video you’ve taken or shoot video directly through the app to post. If you choose to shoot or upload video, you can still add filters and change the cover. You also have the option of including sound.

There are many ways to interact with other users on Instagram. For instance, you can tag other users in your photos or privately message people.

  • Liking: Liking is a simple way to connect with other users. To like a photo, either double-tap the image or tap the heart button under the post.
  • Commenting: Next to the Like button is a Comment button – just tap it, and the app will take you to the Comments page for that photo with a text box where you can enter what you want to say and hit Post when it’s complete.
  • Mentioning: As on Twitter, you can use the @ symbol to tag other users in your Instagram comments or post captions.
  • Tagging: Instagram allows you to add tags before you post an image or video. To do so, tap the Tag People option before sharing your photo, and then tap where in the photo you’d like to add a tag. The app then prompts you to type in the person’s name to search for his or her account. Once you’ve tagged other users in your photo and shared the image, other users can tap on the photo to see the people who are tagged.
  • Direct messaging: To access Instagram Direct, go to the home page and tap the button in the top right corner. Here, you can send private instant messages, photos and videos to other users. To send a new direct message (DM), tap the + button in the top right corner, and select Send Photo or Video, or Send Message. Once you’ve sent the message, you and the recipients can message back and forth. Users who are not already following you will be asked whether they want to allow you to send them photos and videos before they can view your direct message

Using hashtags is a great way to help other users find your content on Instagram. Hashtags can include letters and numbers, but they can’t contain any non-numerical characters. For example, #DaveAndBusters works as a hashtag, but #Dave&Busters does not.

Because users can both search for hashtags and click on hashtags they see in posts in the app, using relevant hashtags can be a highly effective tool for getting noticed. However, make sure you’re using the right hashtags for your brand and don’t go overboard.

Hashtags such as #nofilter (a photo that hasn’t been heavily edited with filters), #selfie (a picture of yourself) and #tbt or #throwbackthursday (old photos) are all incredibly popular on Instagram, but they may not work for you or your brand. It’s a good idea to look at other established brands or even personal users and bloggers in your industry for examples of what to do when it comes to hashtags.

Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post or comment, but using that many would be excessive. The fewer hashtags you can use to get quality responses, the better. Using a lot of popular hashtags might earn you a lot of likes from other users, but it probably won’t increase your following all that much, and the interactions you get will likely not be from people who are interested in your brand but rather those who just saw and liked your image.

Once you understand hashtags, you can branch out and experiment to find which ones work best for your brand. It’s also smart to create a custom hashtag for your business or even an event you’re hosting. This way customers can use hashtags, and it’ll be easy to find their posts as well.

Like other social channels, businesses have the option to advertise on Instagram. There are three formats for advertising:

  • Photo Ads: These look like regular photo posts, but they have a Sponsored label above the photo. They also have a Learn More button in the bottom-right corner, under the photo.
  • Video Ads: Like the photo ads, these look like regular video posts, but with a Sponsored label on top.
  • Carousel Ads: These ads look identical to photo ads but feature multiple photos that users can swipe through.

All three ad formats appear in users’ home feeds. These ads support four objectives: video views, click-throughs to your website, mobile-app installations and mass awareness.

For more information about advertising on Instagram, go here.

Not sure how you can use Instagram for your business? Try some of these cool strategies:

Show off your products or services. Take pictures of cool new products as you get them in, or share pictures of your most popular products. Or, if you run a service business, like a hair salon or a restaurant, take the time to take photos of your work.

Go behind the scenes. Take pictures and videos to show how your products or goods are made, especially if the process is unique or interesting, or something customers ask about often. This not only provides interesting content for your Instagram account, but it shows your customers and followers exactly what goes on in the background.

Include your employees. Make your brand’s Instagram page more personal by including your employees in your posts. Share pictures of your team members hard at work or having fun at company outings.

Ask your customers to show off their photos. Put your Instagram handle and custom hashtags on your products or promotional materials to encourage customers to tag you when they share photos of your product, service or work. This way, other users who want to know where it came from can find you easily. Just make sure you’re checking them out, liking them and commenting on them.

Post exclusive deals on your Instagram. Give back to your Instagram followers by offering them discounts for following you. Share an image with instructions on how to use the deal. For example, you can create a coupon code users input when purchasing something on your website. Another option is you can ask users (when they’re paying for a product or service in-person) to show that they follow you. This will make your followers feel special, and it’s likely to get them telling their friends about your business, too.

To get the most out of your Instagram account, keep these tips in mind:

Links don’t work in Instagram captions. The only place you can share a working link that actually takes users to a website is in your profile. Links don’t work in captions or photo comments, so if you’re trying to direct people to a specific web page, you can change the default link in your bio to that particular page and note in the caption that the link is on your profile.

Make sure your posts relate to your brand. It can be tempting to share photos of food, fashion and animals because they’re so popular on the platform, but if your business has nothing to do with those things, this could make your social marketing look disjointed and confuse your followers. However, if you can find a way to incorporate pictures like these while still making them relevant to your business, it could make your social marketing strategy more successful.

Run giveaways and promotions. Post an image advertising your giveaway, sale or contest, and ask users to repost that image with a specific, custom hashtag to enter. You can then search that hashtag to see who has reposted it and pick a winner. Promotions like this allow your customers and followers to market your brand for you by talking about your promotion on their personal pages, and it drives more people to visit your profile.

Respond to other users’ comments. When people comment on your photos, reply to them. Interacting with customers and followers shows that you are paying attention and that you care about whether they see your photos and what they say. They’ll be more likely to continue following you and interacting with your pictures if they feel like they matter.

Embed Instagram posts on your website. From the desktop version of Instagram, you can get an embed code to add specific images and videos to your company’s website. This can show visitors that you’re active on Instagram and help you gain more followers. Just select the photo you want to embed, click the ellipses button in the bottom right corner and select Embed. This pulls up a box with the embed code and gives you the option of whether you want to display the caption. From there, copy and paste the code where you want it to go on your website.

Use Instagram influencers to promote your business. Influencers are people who have a large following on Instagram. You can pay influencers to market your products to their followers in a natural way. These sponsored posts typically are subtle and don’t look like an ad. This is helpful because people typically hate advertisements.

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