Three Quick Tips for Success with Your Instagram Strategy

If you’ve been on this popular app since it was introduced more than a decade ago, you’ve watched it rapidly change over the years. The most recent shifts since becoming a Meta platform are also perhaps the most challenging for social media marketers to contend with. These tips will help you better utilize Instagram’s features for success.

Reels are the #1 way to get discovered organically

This tip may or may not lead to more followers instantly but reels, short video content similar to Tiktoks, are what is most likely to go viral on Instagram these days. So, if you want people who have never heard of your brand to discover it, make use of reels. The shorter the reel, the more likely users will watch the whole clip. And don’t worry about “likes” when it comes to reels. Pay closer attention to the number of views they get as a metric for visibility.

While you can use trending audios for your reels, the drawback to this is two-fold: the algorithm doesn’t register this as original content and sometimes popular audios get taken down. This means your reel you spent valuable time to create may have no sound and won’t be prioritized by the algorithm. So keep this in mind when using an audio that you don’t own–it's okay in moderation but it is important to create original audio tracks for the majority of the reels you post.

Here is the most important thing to know about reels: do not delete a reel for under-performing. If a reel no longer fits your niche or you realize you need to upgrade the messaging–sure. You can delete a reel in those cases but generally reels take time to get views and interaction as they are being pushed to users who have never seen your account before. A reel may go viral days or weeks after it is posted so don’t delete it because that could happen long after you’ve moved on to posting new content.

Engage strategically

You know you need to interact with your audience. Replying to user feedback doesn’t have to happen instantly but if you reply to comments and create conversations under your posts this tells the algorithm it is a worthwhile piece of content. It will then be pushed onto more users’ feeds.

Asking open-ended questions in the body of your captions or your reels invites users to type answers longer than a word or an emoji. Longer comments are more of a priority for the algorithm and create more vibrant discussion among your followers.

The strategic tip you maybe haven’t considered is to respond or simply “like” the comments in your comment sections right after posting something new. This will send notifications to everyone who left comments and while they’re on your page, they are more likely to see and engage with your new post.

Accessibility is key

Don’t skip on alt text descriptions for photos and captioning your reels. Not only does this help potential customers who are deaf or hard of hearing–which needs to be a priority–it also means the people viewing your video content with the sound off can read along. Many users will simply swipe within seconds if this is not done and it only takes creators a minute to add to posts.

With captioning also comes the ability to highlight specific keywords which helps viewers retain the information from your reel and subtly draws attention to the most important elements of your script. Users are scrolling through hundreds of reels. Make yours catch their eye with highlighted keywords.

AI for Business: Now and to Come

With the rapid expansion of data, more businesses are looking for ways to quickly and efficiently comprehend how to use it strategically. In recent years, artificial intelligence has emerged as a powerful tool for extracting insights from data. By harnessing the power of machine learning, AI can quickly identify patterns and trends that would otherwise be difficult for humans to discern.

As consumer data continues to grow in size and complexity, AI will become increasingly important for making sense of it all. It will help businesses automate more tasks currently performed by human workers, such as data entry and complex analysis. As machine learning becomes more widespread, it will have a transformative impact on the way successful businesses operate.

What does this mean for businesses today?

There are now many AI-powered tools on the market specifically created for business operations that can assist with monotonous tasks, from customer service to marketing to accounting. AI has some clear advantages, including increased accuracy, efficiency, and ease in growth strategy. For example, AI can be used to automate customer service inquiries, product recommendations, and some sales processes. This can free up team members to focus on more valuable tasks like product development.

Businesses can currently use AI for effective marketing by targeting potential customers with personalized messages and offers. It can also monitor behavior and preferences, allowing businesses to quickly adapt their products and services to meet customer needs without the use of surveys or human outreach.

AI can automatically check data for accuracy, eliminating some of the need for human review–but errors can still happen. Businesses need humans to communicate with customers sometime because it instills trust that AI cannot provide.

AI presents problems for data security. As more businesses store data on AI-powered servers, there may be greater risk of it being hacked or stolen. As machine learning improves, human scammers also learn more methods for obtaining sensitive customer information. Data breaches often lead to losing customer confidence and a decline in sales as a result.

Another potential risk of integrating AI into your business operations is decreased customer trust when utilized for client-facing work. AI mistakes and human mistakes are different and detectable by consumers. A typo may easily be disregarded when a person is obviously on the other end of a customer service line.

Businesses have long relied on technology to gain an edge over competitors. More are now turning to AI for task automation, improving human decision-making, and complex data analysis. AI can already be effectively utilized in business when human employees are also checking for mistakes and overseeing operations.

Some amount of automation is expected by most customers but the human touch is still an invaluable asset for long-lasting, positive client relationships. AI can do the heavy lifting with large-scale data comprehension and internal insights while people need to fill in the gaps to ensure overall business health and strategy success.

On Facebook, Everything is New Again

The rules have changed for effective marketing on Facebook. Paid ads are still a valuable tool to reach your targeted audience but there are more ways to expand brand awareness and generate sales now. Here are some recent Meta updates to consider for adapting your outreach strategy.

Who is using Facebook?
Before designing a new strategy, here are some statistics to help you learn about your potential audience. There are 2.93 billion monthly active users globally. Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of people on Facebook are between ages 24-35. Of these users, most are men. Facebook ranks #1 for daily usage and time spent on the app followed by Tiktok and Twitter.

Facebook “groups” are now called Communities
Most of the organically posted content within Facebook communities is interactive. Users ask a question or for opinions of other members within the group which generates discussion. Even if some of the responses are negative or controversial—these types of posts are an opportunity to expand awareness of the topic. Many communities have rules against promotional posts but some are dedicated to the promotion of specific types of businesses. Joining communities related to your niche (even those with rules against advertising) may give insight into potential customers’ daily routines and habits. And there are subtle ways to share rule-abiding, relatable content that will eventually lead consumers to your products and services.

Consider creating a Facebook community for your brand
The downside of this may be that someone needs to moderate this online space but the benefits far outweigh the potential challenges. This is a free way to keep people talking about your brand and it’s a space within your control, unlike public reviews. Pages often have one or more related communities linked so as you create content for your business’ public page, it can be seamlessly shared within the private community without being repetitive. Consider posting themed daily or weekly interaction threads. “Freebie Friday” or “Show n’ tell Saturday” for example.

It is essential to encourage engagement in this group beyond promoting new products or announcing sales to avoid appearing spammy. Yes, even in this dedicated online space for your customers. The more it appears on members' timelines, they’re subtly reminded of your products. You can get Facebook users interested in joining the community by advertising that it will be the first place you introduce exclusive offers but users will stay active in these spaces when they’re given opportunities to share personal information about themselves. If it’s a fun gathering place, they may even invite friends who’ve never heard of your brand and introduce them to your company’s ecosystem.

Not only does this help potential customers feel valued beyond their buying power, you’ll also gain access to valuable intel directly from them about their needs, desires, and ways you can improve their experience. Facebook communities are an often overlooked opportunity to connect deeper and build trust within your customer base. Creating one specifically for your potential and repeat customers is a no-brainer.

Facebook is starting to prioritize video content
Now that Instagram and Facebook are both Meta platforms, it is easier to seamlessly share organic content and paid advertisements between the apps. Following the successful format of TikTok, Instagram announced officially that the algorithm favors video Reels. And Instagram Reels have become one of the best features to use to reach users who aren’t aware of your account. Facebook is now paying some creators to post video content which is what Instagram did to get the fresh reels and generate interest in the new feature.

Content creators are paid per view of their original Reels, so there is an extra incentive to go viral beyond exposure. Influencers and brand accounts alike may be offered this deal directly from Facebook but if you’re not, the point is short videos are the future of Facebook marketing.

Human faces in reels and profile images seem to hold user attention
This has not been verified by Facebook officially but frequent Instagram users noticed human faces seemed to appease the algorithm more than posts that didn’t do well in 2021. We’re seeing Facebook trends and features follow the example set by the other Meta app. While it isn’t confirmed, it may be that social media users simply feel more comfortable taking in information that has the image of a person attached.

Offer unique replies to potential customers’ questions
Have you ever looked in the comments of a Facebook ad? Usually there are questions about the products or services being advertised. Leaving room for curiosity and questions in your advertising is a good strategy for boosting engagement but  you may notice brand accounts not answering or replying with the same canned answers—some even repeating the exact same words copied and pasted as replies to different users’ questions. This looks lazy to potential clients and makes them feel like a number rather than a person worthy of a well thought-out reply.

Use their name in your reply and mix it up even if the question has been asked multiple times and the answers have to be similar. The users asking may not convert to paying customers but someone scrolling who sees these interactions might.

Grow Your Business Social Media Accounts: 7 Tips for Every Platform

We all want to see our social media following count and engagement grow, but keeping up with new features that vary between platforms can feel overwhelming. While you may want to do more in-depth research for specific platforms you want to see growth with, here are seven simple tips for growing your business accounts for any platform.

Be consistent
Stop worrying about how to make your posts go viral and focus on showing up consistently. If you can’t post daily, experiment with posting every other day and notice when your audience is more active online. Post when you know people are scrolling and show up at these times to build an expectation with your community. Consistency in your brand’s messaging is also key in building trust with your current following and attracting new followers.

Observe what works for successful competitors
Don’t copy. It doesn’t work reliably for long and weakens trust with your followers. Do consider successful engagement strategies you observe in your competition. Notice that people seem to engage more with a certain type of content? Try your own take on that method.

Use reliable formulas
Look at your impressions and see what post did best. Is there a part of it you can replicate for fresh content? Try recreating it with another post idea. Creating posts in a series where you share behind the scenes or insider tips is one approach to creating your own formula for successful postings without coming up with a completely new idea each time you want to share content.

Share original content
Getting inspired by other brands in your niche and their successful social media strategies is not plagiarism but it’s important you’re not relying on others to craft your content. If it’s too similar, it looks scammy and it’s unsustainable.

Tiktok, Facebook, and Instagram have made it easy to use other users’ “sounds” for your short video posts. This isn’t copying because your visual content and text are meant to be different. Another example is using a popular meme format to convey a specific idea related to your products, brand identity, or industry. This type of posting is okay in moderation and may help you go viral but it’s important to create your own original content and set trends rather than hopping onto whatever the new obsession is this week.

Take advantage of paid ads
Organic posting that’s easily shareable and educational is a focus for many brands just getting started on social media because it’s free! If a post doesn’t do well, at least you didn’t invest money in pushing it into the feeds of your target audience. Once you know what posts your followers engage with most by looking at your impressions, then you can tailor your paid ads around what gets the most positive attention from your potential customers.

Share clear CTAs
Make it so easy to engage with your content that your audience will do so without thinking twice. It is a good idea to tell them to engage. Keep it simple. “Hit the like button if you enjoyed this video”, “subscribe for more”, and “check out the link in our bio” only take a moment to say but help convert more passive users to engaged followers.

Try Humor
Laughter works! And sells. There’s a reason it’s called the universal language. If your audience perceives that you’re having fun and able to laugh, they’re more at ease while viewing your products and services.

While not every brand can easily find ways to add in jokes, sometimes the unexpected nature of memes and injection of funny content is exactly what your followers will interact with and share.

What's been working for you?

Micro-Influencer Marketing 101

Since its inception, social media has significantly impacted consumer buying habits and approaches to marketing strategy. Instead of advertising on billboards, commercial breaks, and print media, targeted ads are now in consumers’ pockets, on the devices we use to stay connected. Social media has become ubiquitous and become increasingly intimate.

The feeds of the major platforms like Tiktok and Meta offer a window into potential customers’ habits and routines. These online gathering spaces contain valuable information about our needs and wants and an avenue to expose products and services to more people than ever before. Around 4.6 billion users are now scrolling for their daily dose of memes, celebrity gossip, and to check in on their favorite influencers. And the number of users is growing; up 10.1% in the past year. The influencer marketing industry is projected to reach $16.4 billion in 2022.

Content creators spend years building relationships with the people in their audience. Users often choose to follow influencers with whom they share common interests or lifestyles. Creators consistently connect with their following through short engaging videos, sharing educational resources, and life updates. One trend is that more and more people are exhausted by the hype of “mega influencers” with tens of thousands of followers and are intentionally turning their attention toward more relatable, authentic accounts. Users are seeking out more down-to-earth content from creators who have grown slower and more organically. These “micro influencers” typically have fewer than 10,000 followers and tend to produce more organic, less polished social media posts but get more engagement than celebrity influencer content. “Nano influencers” might have fewer than 1,000 followers and are appealing to work with as they're viewed as authentic, regular people.

Micro and nano influencers are perceived as more personable and available to their audience than mega influencers, so they offer a unique opportunity for brands to reach new customers. Smaller influencers have a limited reach but their followers are loyal and are more likely to view them as friends or peers than online celebrities. Brands can also stretch their advertising budgets by working with multiple small creators in their niche across different social media platforms.

When you know your potential customers you can easily select small creators who engage consistently with their followers who align with your specific demographic data.

Direct Marketing that Gets Results

What would you do with a custom list of prospects and the best quality data for reaching them directly?

For a limited time, Accurate Append is offering free custom direct marketing list-building services with the purchase of phone or email data. You can create your list based on criteria like income level, language, home ownership status, age, business ownership, and hundreds of other interest and occupational criteria. Add our best-in-class contact data and you’ve got the platform to make a winning pitch.

Ask your account manager how to get started.

How will you make first contact with your new prospects? Here are three creative and influential ways to make your contact meaningful and engaging:

  • We once toured the offices of a direct mail marketing company where the founder had saved examples of the best campaigns over time. Some were framed on the wall, but most interesting were the larger objects he’d mailed for clients. For example, a treasure chest meant to get even the most cynical businessperson to open up and see what’s inside.
  • Zoho recommends research and analysis surveys to reach out to target audiences to help form conclusions and determine how best to market to them.
  • Catalogs and other direct mail (featured in Crazydomains’ guide to direct marketing) are a great way to grab customer’s attention and highlight your products after customizing a list using our free selects and premium products such as mobile phones.

With our direct marketing list building service, you can target your prospects by state and down to zip code. Reach executives, students or the self-employed with ease.

Whether you’re working with us daily or it’s been a while, if you have a project in mind where custom list building could fill in gaps in your data, just give us a call—we’d love to help.

Inflation Reduction Act: Solar Professionals, Start Your Dialing…

Whether you have your own list of prospects, or would like us to pull you detailed targets of homeowners by wealth and zip code, there’s no better time for solar professionals to run an append project that will make sure you’re reaching the right consumers. That means triple-scrubbed email addresses, plus up-to-date phone numbers graded with their likelihood of an answer.

Why now, solar installers and clean, green energy professionals? You know it: the major new federal spending bill, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), includes hundreds of billions in renewable energy funding, including tax incentives and rebates for solar and other green building projects. In fact, not only can we help you connect with more qualified consumers, we can even provide a modeled score predicting how likely they are to support green lifestyle choices.

“It’s basically just a big green light for everyone—for the consumer, for the companies making these products, for building owners, for utilities, everybody—to start doing this stuff,” Ben Evans, federal legislative director of the US Green Building Council, tells Wired.

What is in the IRA?

  • 30% tax credit for solar projects, up from 26% after previous homeowner credits had begun to phase out.
  • Rebates for heat pumps, electric water heaters, and stoves.
  • Expanded credits and planned on-the-spot rebates for electric vehicles, and much more.

“The need for families to take control of their energy and for broader U.S. energy independence has never been clearer. All of us at Sunrun are focused on scaling as fast as humanly possible to provide customers with a more affordable, clean and resilient way to power their homes and lives,” Sunrun CEO Mary Powell says.

Uncertainty about tax credits and funding for solar manufacturing weren’t doing the green energy sector any favors. Now, it’s full steam electrification ahead. Give us a call at Accurate Append today and we’ll help with the data you need to win more business—now—from consumers ready to move on solar and other energy efficiency projects.

Early TV and Human Performance

"The luminous screen in the home carries fantastic authority," radio and TV historian Erik Barnouw writes. "Viewers everywhere tend to accept it as a window on the world... It has tended to displace or overwhelm other influences such as newspapers, school, church, grandpa, grandma. It has become the definer and transmitter of society's values." It's not just the camera passively transmitting visual and auditory data. The very invention of television required human performance.

This might explain why the earliest TV broadcasts, including experimental ones, featured theatrical productions rather than, say, nature shots or people just standing around and talking. The journey begins with WGY, a Schenectady, New York radio station with a long and important history. Although it's a Clear Channel station now, in 1903 (119 years ago) the station was a licensee of General Electric, who had contracted with inventors and researchers to develop high-frequency stations. A few years later, the station was also broadcasting television signals, as were experimenters around the world. By the 1930s, a limited amount and type of commercial programming was available.

Theatrical and cinematic performance were a driving force behind television content production. A 1928 article reads: On September 11, 1928, WGY, the first station to organize a dramatic group and present plays regularly to the radio audience, established itself also as the first station, anywhere, to broadcast an actual drama with the aid of television: transmitting images and voice simultaneously on separate radio channels . . . It was highly effective, and held the attention and interest of the rather critical audience as closely as if it had been the highest-priced dramatic hit on broadway."

That's the thing with TV–you need to be performing something, being active, creating a spectacle of some kind, in order to justify being telecast. Even the reality TV of the present time, seemingly showing non-actors in real life situations, is performative.

Another obvious performative subject matter for early television was sports. In 1937 the Wimbledon tennis tournament was broadcast on live television, announcers explaining the difficult nature of the project. In 1939, live baseball games were televised from Columbia University.

And then there was news. By the end of the 1930s, networks like NBC had started to simulcast some of their content on radio and television simultaneously. Keep in mind that TVs would not become household necessities for a few more years yet. But in 1940, famous news pioneer Lowell Thomas began simulcasting the news regularly, every weeknight. Initially, the telecast was only seen in New York City, on the WNBT channel. During the Second World War, production of television sets stopped, but the war itself became a subject of broadcasting for somewhat serendipitous reasons: RCA had been developing cameras for bombers to help remotely guided glide bombers reach their targets. The cameras didn't work very well that way, but the technology helped shape remote broadcasts from various war sites. And so war itself, already well-established as a spectacle, became a spectacle capable of reaching, and affecting, the masses. Television is about affect as well as effect.

UFOlogy: It's Weather Balloons All the Way Down

We're constantly being treated to new or newly reexamined evidence of UFOs–now called UAPs–and the Pentagon's commitment to taking them seriously has accompanied additional (contentious) evidence such as video and FOIA documents floating around the UFOlogy communities. An FBI memo purports to admit to the Roswell event really being an alien ship.

The FBI has since said the memo conveys secondhand accounts, but how do we know, the communities ask. Videos and photos, unverifiable by their social media audience, fly around the internet.

But it's weather balloons that are the silent, neutral enemy of the good UFO/UAP story. Weather balloons aren't hot air-powered, but rely on helium or hydrogen, and can go really really high–20 miles up–and can get really cold, like -95 C and -139 F. And they're white and shaped funny, particularly because they expand and contract and can thus manifest as different shapes at different times. These balloons carry instruments to measure air pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and more. Sometimes the balloons disintegrate or burst in their radically high altitude, and the instrument panels parachute to the ground. Other times, of course, the balloons themselves come down, and are perhaps confused with crashed spaceships.

Last week, in a town of 35,000 where my friend lives, a few people spotted a distinct speck of white in the sky, stationary, hanging. Some of them snapped imperfect pictures and took to social media asking if anyone knew what it was. Some, in their posts, preemptively said they suspected it was a weather balloon. It looked like two objects in the sky, one above the other. Soon, their suspicions were confirmed. I saw it too–it looked like two tiny white dots, untethered from each other but connected, floating perfectly still together. Of course, they are tethered together in real life.

Also tethered together: alleged flying saucer sightings and weather balloons as the unending official explanation. A google search of "UFOs" "weather balloon" yields 47,900 results. Roswell is an archetypal contact event, and its official explanation was a weather balloon. Eliav Chohen's 2021 piece "Hot air balloons and UFO’s: A history of mistaken identity" at the Seattle Ballooning site also discusses weather balloons, emphasizing that "balloons found themselves at the core of a never-ending mistaken identity crisis with unidentified flying objects." Toronto's North York Central Library Blog ran a post about 8 years ago with the wonderful title "UFO or Weather Balloon? Choose One," although there was no such quiz in the actual post. Instead, the author created a useful list of definitive books on Roswell, both sides of the cryptic debate on UFOs, and some meta-analysis on conspiracy theory. The inclusion of The Roswell Encyclopedia was my best takeaway. And it's still happening: According to Mental Floss, "In 2017, a large balloon from the Google company X crashed in Colombia. Farmers who observed the downed object smoking and leaking 'strange liquid' thought they were seeing a UFO."

Photo credit: NASA/Goddard/BARREL/Brett Anderson

State Laws on Crypto Campaign Money

My friend says that the recent crash in crypto is the result of its being treated too much as a hot commodity and not enough as a tool of liberation. "It was never meant to be just another financial choice," she says, "not just a scam like an interest rate swap or easy money like gold and silver. Mark my words, scammer crypto will crash every time."

But there's at least one application of cryptocurrency that may have a direct relationship with public service, if on the dirtier side of it: campaign finance. The crypto-campaign-contribution scene is not consistent — some states explicitly allow it, others explicitly do not, and still others have no explicit allowance or prohibition, and others have limits (typically $100). Still, in both high profile and more local campaigns, candidates are accepting donations in cryptocurrency

The "youthful" orientation of the crypto crowd, whether the age numbers verify this or not, is one focus of media attention around these donations. Another common argument is that cryptocurrencies create easier "access" and efficiency of delivery. After all, a crypto exchange is just between the two parties, where a traditional exchange requires that transactions clear through banks or other financial institutions. 

Surely this makes cryptocurrency an attractive method of quickly (and perhaps discretely) contributing, right? "Well, but it's not just the laws or the ease of exchange or even the alleged freedom from government oversight" my friend insists. "It's the ethos. It's the CRYPTO ETHOS." 

Of crypto ethos, decentralized finance pioneer Andre Cronje has said: "I have long been vocal on my disdain of crypto culture, and my love for crypto ethos. Reading that might sound weird, but crypto ethos is concept like self-sovereign rights, self custody, self empowerment. Crypto culture is concepts like wealth, entitlement, enrichment, and ego." My friend finds the use of cryptocurrency to finance campaigns romantic. She sees it as a "noble pursuit" rather than just a means of moving wealth. 

Of course, the problem is that noble or not, crypto isn't doing well. Bitcoin has dropped 52 percent in value this year. The popular currency Coinbase laid off 18% of its workforce recently. Writing for MarketWatch, Kenneth Rogoff said that the sudden rise in interest rates surprised crypto players who had grown used to flat rates. And the temptation not to regulate crypto is strong, but so is the evidence that unregulated crypto is helping a lot of criminals become better at hiding their illegal transactions, particularly in developing countries. For whatever reasons, people are bailing out of these markets quickly. The "spent output profit ratio" used to track profit levels of digital currencies, is at its lowest level in a year. Which raises the question of whether crypto money in elections is actually worth investing in the first place. 

But enter the final boss: Recently, billionaire Democrat Sam Bankman-Fried says he could spend $1 billion or more in the 2024 election, which would easily make him the biggest-ever political donor in a single election. Bankman-Fried, at only 30 years old, is founder of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange. He called the billion dollar figure a “soft ceiling” that could increase "if former President Donald Trump runs again."  Like many his age, Bankman-Fried really dislikes Trump. Of course, with that kind of wealth, a billionaire could probably make campaign contributions in pennies, baseball cards, or sandwich coupons and someone would do the conversion for them.