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Instagram: the King of Engagement


Do you ever find yourself mindlessly opening Instagram the second you unlock your iPhone? I do it all the time. I admit it – I’m an Instagram addict. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing that little orange heart emerge on your iPhone screen to notify you that someone has liked your photo.

 Since its debut in 2010, the platform has garnered huge success, generating 300 million subscribers. The “double-tapping” feature to like photos is now an integral part of our social scrolling ritual. By providing instant updates, Instagram has become an essential resource for people to access information in a way that is both aesthetically appealing and user-friendly.

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Photo courtesy of Social Times. 

 With its Explore feature, content is curated to the user based on the people that he or she follows and the most popular pages. The targeted Discover page takes you to new realms by presenting fresh photos and accounts to follow daily. See where your fingertips take you.

This week, Instagram revitalized its explore page, taking after Twitter and Facebook by presenting news and trends first and foremost on the landing. Now at the top of the explore section, users will find trending hashtags and places. 


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Photo courtesy of Social Times. 

Thanks to Instagram’s intuitive features and smart classification of information, you can see the world through other people’s eyes. The abundance of perspectives available on the app can enhance our lives in a number of ways. For example, if I were wondering what to order at a restaurant, I would search its Instagram page to see photos of the food. Chances are that the most Instagrammed dish is also the most delicious one. Or say that I wanted to plan my next vacation to Mexico; my first move would be to check the Instagram photos of my desired destinations to help me build an itinerary.

So what makes Instagram a winner in the world of mobile apps?

There is no better forum for engagement. With its flaw-hiding filters, users can’t help but double tap. According to a recent study by Yahoo labs, filtered photos are 21% more likely to get clicks and 45% more likely to get comments than unfiltered ones. 

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Photo courtesy of Social Times. 

The app’s success skyrocketed this year with a 15% increase in engagement. For companies, the platform will remain a crucial channel for establishing brand identity and attracting a social audience – especially younger users. 68% percent of millennials say they engage with brands regularly by clicking liking, following and commenting. With that being said — Instagram on, my fellow Instagram addicts!


Social News Roundup | June 29, 2015


1. Instagram Updates Explore Page, Adds Places to Search

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Photo courtesy of SocialTimes

Instagram’s new update allows users to search places and view real-time trending hashtags on the Explore page. The Explore page will also display curated content of interesting accounts for users to check out. See the full update here.

2. Facebook Testing ‘See First’ News Feed Customization Feature

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Photo courtesy of SocialTimes

Facebook is testing another news feed feature: “See First.” This feature will allow users to select certain friends and pages whose content will always appear on the top of their newsfeeds. For the full details, check out this article on SocialTimes.

3. Twitter Wants You to “Favorite” Tweets with Hearts Instead of Stars

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Photo courtesy of Mashable

Say goodbye to favoriting tweets with a star because Twitter is now testing the use of both circled and borderless hearts in place of the original star. Would you favorite this idea


4. Top Markets by Percentage for WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat (Infographic)

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Photo courtesy of SocialTimes

GlobalWebIndex recently conducted a study that revealed that Whatsapp is most popular in South Africa, while people in China prefer WeChat. See the full infographic here.


5. Google’s Ad-Supported Streaming Music Service Arrives on Web, Android Devices

Google Play music app

Photo courtesy of Mashable

Google beats Apple to its Music debut by releasing its own free option for the music service on Google Play. Find out the whole scoop.

6. What Are Users Doing on Facebook? (Infographic)

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

In the past month, 68% of all Facebook users clicked the like button, according to GlobalWebIndex. Check out this infographic to see what else active Facebook users do.

GIFs: Back and Better than Ever


The GIF, pronounced “JIF” in case you weren’t sure, was invented in 1987 in order for weather maps to save bandwidth on a dial-up Internet connection. So, why are we talking about GIFs now, in 2015?

This format, a combination of pictures that create an endlessly looping, moving image, has been around for a while. However, the recent introduction of autoplay and emphasis on short-form video on many social media platforms has made GIFs relevant again—this time as a new and unique advertising tool.

GIFs, and other short-form animated content, are perfectly aligned to be advertisements on most social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram now all have an autoplay feature where video plays automatically, without user action. Additionally, this short-form moving image is just the right length to be uploaded to Instagram and short enough that users will actively pay attention. GIFs can also be directly embedded into a tweet or a Facebook post, making the viewing process user-friendly.

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GIF courtesy of Giphy

Instead of advertising through words and still frames, some brands have started to work with Giphy and Tumblr to create branded GIF content. Brands like DiGiorno Pizza, seen above, have used these animated loops on Twitter and found that they increased engagement among followers.


How Brands Use Cinemagraphs to Capture Audience Attention Heinekin Brandfolder

Cinemagraph courtesy of Brandfolder

A specific type of GIF, the cinemagraph, has gained popularity on Instagram recently. This type of GIF is a still image with one animated component, and was popularized by digital artist Kevin Burg and photographer Jamie Beck.

The cinemagraph is seemingly hypnotic and draws consumer attention when scrolling down one’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram news feed.  Toyota, Heineken, and Gilt have all used cinemagraph advertisements on Instagram and many other brands are following in their footsteps on Facebook as well.

With the advent of autoplay and the infiltration of advertising content on social media platforms, the use of GIFs and cinemagraphs can be a strategic way for brands to differentiate themselves and capture consumers’ attention. However, it is important for brands not to abuse and overuse GIFS and instead use them only when it is the best way to tell their story.  

FitBit fuels the future of wearable technology – what's next?


We all love a little competition. Pairing fitness with wearable technology, FitBit inspires an active lifestyle by tracking the number of steps one takes daily, encouraging users to meet their personal fitness goals. These accomplishments are rewarded within the mobile app, instilling motivation to maintain one’s health and well being. According to its website, FitBit has inspired users to take 43% more steps. Wow, that’s a lot of calories burned!  

But FitBit specializes in more than just footsteps. The wearable device also tracks sleep cycles, counts calories and allows you to foster a little friendly competition with your friends through leaderboards. 

In just eight years, FitBit has taken huge strides, debuting on the global stage last week with its IPO surging to 20% in its second day of trading.  

FitBit has paved the way for wearable technology, taking its traditional black band up a notch by offering more fashionable options with partner Tory Burch.

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Photo courtesy of FitBit’s website.

Now, that’s something I would wear. FitBit targets a niche audience of active people, namely females; 54% of activity tracker ownership is by women. Men, on the other hand, would rather wear a smart watch. 

However, ownership of either device is relatively low amongst the general population, with 11% owning activity trackers and 3% owning smart watches. So, is FitBit still in its honeymoon phase?

According to one study, nearly a third of activity tracker owners stop using these devices within six months. How can FitBit (and other wearables) retain users and continue to fulfill their needs?

First and foremost comes fashion. Users are not going to don a device that is too futuristic or tacky. Wearables must serve a dual-purpose in providing both service and style. Secondly, the device must have a clear function, fulfilling a need that the user didn’t previously know he or she had.

For example, everyone talks about trying to reduce cell phone use, especially during dinner. A year ago, Ringly, a smart jewelry company, introduced an elegant ring that notifies you when you have notifications, whether it be an email, a text or an upcoming meeting. Problem solved!

 Screen Shot 2015 06 22 at 2.20.28 PMPhoto from Ringly website.

It will take fashion-forward thinkers along with innovative engineers to continue to fuel the growing market for wearable technology. With $745 billion invested in the industry in California alone, the opportunities are endless. What new brands will emerge to compete with the FitBit and Apple’s Smartwatch in the domain of wearable technology? Time will tell (pun intended).

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Social News Roundup | June 19, 2015


1. Study: Facebook Posts to Brands’ Pages Fall on Deaf Ears

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

87 percent of posts to brands’ Facebook pages go unanswered. Active pages responded to only 37 percent of posts to their page. Find out more about what page administrators should do here.


2. How to Improve Organic Reach on Facebook (Infographic)

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

There has been a consistent decline in organic reach for brands on Facebook. Social Times offers some possible solutions. 


3. Social Media is Stuck in the Workplace Friend Zone (Infographic)

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

Most people see social media as a useful way to keep in touch with friends. Its reputation as a distraction keeps social media from becoming valuable in the workplace. See the full infographic

4. Pinterest Unveils Smarter Search Feature and Verified Accounts

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

Pinterest users can now see what topics are trending on the platform. Additionally, brands can become verified with a red check mark so that users know that their pages are legitimate. Find out more here.  


5. Twitter to Advertisers: 100% Viewability on Autoplay Videos- Or It’s Free!

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

Twitter will only charge advertisers for videos if they have been watched for at least three seconds and are fully in view on the device. As users scroll through the Twitter feed, native videos or GIFs will play automatically, but sound will only play when the users taps on the video. Learn more here.


6. Here Are the 12 Best Facebook Marketing Campaigns From the Past Year

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Photo courtesy of AdWeek

Check out this year’s most successful social campaigns on Facebook, including the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Always’ #LikeAGirl.

Taking Over Advertising Ten Seconds at a Time


With all of the different platforms and outlets we can now access, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Wait, what were we just talking about?

Snapchat hopes to capitalize on the limited attention span of its 13-34 year old audience by advertising to its 100 million daily users in under 10 seconds. Yet with the introduction of advertising on the platform, many marketers are beginning to question its potential effectiveness.

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Photo courtesy of Financial Times

Snapchat, an app that allows you to send pictures to friends for a set amount of time, has taken off in the last four years.  The platform, created by Evan Spiegel and his fraternity brother at Stanford, now has 100 million daily users and is valued at more than $15 billion. Inherently, the app is not just for sharing selfies for five seconds, but is a way for friends to communicate where they are and what they’re doing.

Snapchat as a means to advertise

In terms of what advertising on Snapchat would actually look like, the platform has multiple ways for brands to share their messages. Geofilters, or location-specific overlays, allow users to easily share where they are. Numerous airports nationwide, big cities and even small towns have geofilters that are accessible to users in that location. Recently, companies like McDonald’s have created a geofilter for Snapchatters to use while at their establishment. A Snapchatter can then send this picture to friends, or even share it to all friends at once by adding it to “My story.”

The app has special live stories, where users at a certain sporting event, music festival, or even college campus can add their own pictures and share with thousands of viewers in the same region. After the Warriors won game six of the 2015 NBA Finals, a special live story called “Warriors Win It” could be viewed nationwide.

Additionally, the app has a “Discover” section where eleven brands, including Cosmopolitan, People, ESPN and National Geographic, can share short articles and visual content. Cosmopolitan, for example, has featured sponsored content from Maybelline and reaches 1.82 million users a day. The content shared by these big media brands creates a unique, interactive experience, specifically for mobile, that is curated for short attention spans.

Spiegel has also discussed the importance of “thinking vertically” when it comes to creating ads for Snapchat. He emphasized that viewers are nine times more likely to watch a complete video if it is vertically oriented and takes up the entire mobile screen.


Some pitfalls

While many brands wish to stay ahead of the curve and explore Snapchat as an advertising option, many others believe that there are too many issues with the platform as a means of advertising.

Snapchat initially over-gauged advertising interest and wanted to charge $750,000 for a 24-hour campaign. The price has now dropped to 2 cents per view, or $20 per 1,000 views. When the “Discover” page first came out, the content was extremely popular. This has since dropped off; however, the page is still a way to reach a mass audience on the platform.

Many marketers are skeptical of advertising on a platform that has not been widely tested and is extremely hard to target and track. Snapchat is designed with anonymity in mind, the complete opposite of what most marketers want: campaigns with very visible targets.

Snapchat’s unique layout would force brands to create specific content for the app, which could not be reused on other advertising mediums. Advertisers question whether the platform is worth the energy and money.

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Photo courtesy of LA Times


Young audiences have gone mobile

The bottom line: Snapchat utilizes word-of-mouth in a whole new way and targets a young audience. Word-of-mouth is at the core of most campaigns and is vital for the success of a brand. Introducing this type of word-of-mouth campaign encourages brands to think differently, explore the world of mobile marketing and tap into a young target.

This app has the potential to be a successful advertising platform, contingent on carrying out Spiegel’s idea: that if marketers integrate ad content into the system of Snapchat, it will no longer seem like a burden to consumers. But will brands want to create the content? Will Snapchat be able to prove itself as a viable option in comparison to other platforms, like Facebook and Instagram? Or will others follow in the footsteps of McDonald’s, BudLight, Coca-Cola and Macy’s and try out Snapchat advertising?

Foodies for the win! How to optimize engagement on Instagram


Food infiltrates our thoughts countless times a day. Where are we going for dinner tonight? Wow, that burrito looks good; I wonder where he got it from.

With its hashtag and geotag features, Instagram delivers a multitude of opportunities for restaurants, cafés and sweet shops to become more than just destinations – it allows them to establish and promote their brand from the palm of their hand. 

Following its advent in 2010, the platform has since reached 300 million active users and 70 million photos posted per day  – and many of these photos are food-related. With hashtags such as #food and #instafood populating the captions of 178.6 million and 56 million photos, respectively, Instagram is an essential domain for fostering engagement with all things edible.


Photo courtesy of AdWeek

Food-related accounts are not only fun to follow, but they also provide a necessary service in guiding others on what and where to eat. From this exposure, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafés and little coffee shops are attracting visitors from all over the world. One such account is Baked by Melissa, which has gathered 135K followers by promoting its miniature cupcakes in various places throughout New York City and by keeping up with holidays, movie premieres, sporting events and more. The burgeoning cupcake bakery drives engagement by encouraging customers to post photos of their favorite “Baked by Melissa” moments to be featured on their website.

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 Screenshot of Baked by Melissa’s Instagram account. 

One thing is for sure: these food accounts are doing something right. If Sprinkles Cupcakes can rack up 280k followers, then so can your brand. Of course, these cupcake shops are famous for a reason – they exhibit smart, simple marketing strategies and share-worthy content.


For example, Sprinkles invites customers to like their page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to learn the secret word of the day, which can be whispered at each Sprinkles location to earn a "buy one, get one free" deal. I think “free cupcake,” Sprinkles thinks “free followers.” Therefore, it's a win-win.

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Screenshot of Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Instagram account.

While free cupcakes are fabulous, here are three takeaways from these sweet shops’ social strategies that may be helpful for any brand:

1.) Track the trends. With hashtags such as #NationalDonutDay generating 18k posts online within an hour, it’s crucial to put out content that aligns with social media’s most buzzed-about events, holidays and news, all the while connecting back to your own brand. 

2.) Encourage engagement with questions, calls to action and contests. Users are more likely to engage with content with which they feel a personal connection, for example, if a photo caption prompts me to comment with the team I want to win the NBA Championship, chances are, I will (Warriors, obviously). 

3.) Show some love. Engagement is a two-way street. To keep your followers hungry for more, it wouldn’t hurt to throw them a favorite, retweet or a quick comment to let them know that their opinion matters.


Social News Roundup | June, 12, 2015


1. 3 Surprising Benefits of Scheduling Your Tweets 

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Photo courtesy of AdWeek

Scheduling your Tweets ahead of time helps to create a stronger and more consistent brand voice, allows you to be creative and can relieve stress. Read more here.

2. American Pharoah May Be The Most Brand Friendly Horse Ever

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Photo courtesy of AdWeek

The last time a horse won a Triple Crown, 1978, was years before many advances in the digital world and ad industry. Even before American Pharoah’s win, he had marketing deals, and was making history in advertising. See some of his deals here

3. 5 Ways to Maintain Brand Cohesion on Social Media

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

Social Times shares the 5 ways to make sure that your brand has a consistent voice on social media. Check out the full infographic.


4. May Media Publishers Report: Bleacher Report, BuzzFeed Video on the Rise

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Photo courtesy of AdWeek

BuzzFeed Video has seen the highest increase in engagement- 45% up from April- across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

See the full report.


5. Instagram Cleans Up Its Website To Mimic Mobile and Make Photos Pop

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Photo courtesy of Mashable 





Take a look for yourself.


6. Facebook Now Wants You to Explore What’s Trending in 5 Topics

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Photo courtesy of Mashable

Facebook is testing the organization of its Trending section on the homepage. The updates to this area will help make Facebook an effective distribution platform for publishers to share their content.

Here’s more information.

WWDC 2015: Software Updates, Apple Music and Drake


On Monday in San Francisco, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference featured several software updates, app improvements and a subscription music service. Here’s the rundown in case you missed the live stream.

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Photo courtesy of TechCrunch

OS X El Capitan

Apple’s Mac software, OS X 10.11 will be released next Fall for free, with a public beta available this July. “El Capitan” will feature improvements to Spotlight, with the option to search using phrases like “Files I worked on in August.” Many OS X apps have been improved, like new swipe interactions for Mail, as well as the ability to mute all Safari tabs with one click. Following in PC’s footsteps, Apple has introduced window management, which allows you to snap applications to one side of the screen. For developers, Apple has introduced Swift 2, the second installation of their its new programming language and Metal API for graphics.

iOS 9

In iOS 9, Maps will include public transit directions and Apple Pay will now be called Wallet and is soon available across the UK. Goodbye Newsstand, hello News! News will let users select certain publications and topics to appear on the app. The News app will even suggest content based on what you tend to read. Siri is becoming more “proactive” (in this author's opinion, borderline creepy). Siri will now automatically add calendar events, use context to suggest songs for your morning run and be able to figure out an unknown number by searching through your email.

These functions extend to the iPad as well, in addition to a new split screen and picture-in-picture option that allows you to view video while still using other programs.

iOS 9 has been released for developers and will be free for the public in July. 

Watch OS 2

Apple Watch already has a new operating system, after just a few months on the market. Watch OS 2 will allow users to change the watch face, make FaceTime audio calls, use HealthKit, HomeKit, Maps, Wallet and play back video. Developers can now create native apps for the watch and the watch can receive WiFi. Apple developers have even made it so that we can Time Travel. Just kidding, but by turning the digital crown, complications on the watch will adjust and tell you calendar events, anticipated weather and more.

Apple Music

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Photo courtesy of Billboard

Arguably the most exciting announcement of the day was the revelation of Apple’s new music streaming service, Apple Music. Apple, and a very nervous Drake, discussed Music and its three components. Apple’s new service includes; a  24/7 live radio station in partnership with Beats 1. There will also be a music social network called Connect where upcoming artists can share their music and pictures. The third part of Apple Music compiles all of your existing iTunes and downloaded content with a catalog of over 30 million songs for both online and offline listening. Apple also announced that a staff of music experts will be responsible for created curated playlists based on your preferences and that there will be a “For You” section of suggested content. Apple music will be $9.99 a month, or $14.99 for families of up to six people.

What will Apple’s improvements mean for companies like Spotify and Flipboard? 

Many of Apple’s new features resemble apps that many of us already use. The News app is essentially Flipboard, while Apple Music combines SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora and iTunes all into one platform. Will these companies be able to withstand the competition of multi-billion dollar Apple?

In the case of Spotify, much of the battle will be in which artists give exclusives to which service. While Spotify is already accessible in many places, including Uber, Apple Music is a streamlined way to access music. More here.

Social Media Changes the Landscape of Political News and Campaigning


If you wish to increase awareness of political news amongst the Millennial generation, Facebook is the outlet to use. A study by the Pew Research Center, Millennials and Political News, shows that 61% of Millennials received political news in the last week from Facebook, while only 39% of Baby Boomers had. A majority of Baby Boomers continue to rely on local TV as their primary political news source.

The amount of times that young adults, including myself, check social media news feeds on a daily basis causes us to be infiltrated with content. Along with a trend of increased exposure to social media among young adults, there is a general downward trend in political awareness and interest, compared to those of older generations, according to the study.Untitled:Users:renegade:Desktop:PJ_15.06.01_millennialMedia08.png

Photo courtesy of Pew Research Center 

Millennials are likely obtaining political news on Facebook not because they are actively seeking it out, but because they are seeing more of everything on Facebook.

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Photo courtesy of CNN

As we saw in mid-April with Hillary Clinton’s presidential run announcement, social media is effective in grabbing public attention and spreading a message quickly. Clinton’s campaign website was launched at 3 p.m. on April 12, a video was posted to Facebook 10 minutes later announcing her campaign and by 3:30 p.m. she had tweeted her decision to run. Time will tell if Clinton’s decision to utilize heavy social media efforts will help her to gain the support of voters aged 18-33.

This study enlightens marketers and political campaigners alike in that in order to capture the attention of the Millennial generation, despite a downward trend in interest in political news, an active social media campaign can prove to be beneficial in increasing political awareness and engagement among these young adults.

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