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In London on 26 May 2016, the Facebook for Business team held an event on the topic of ‘Unlocking Europe’s Digital Economy’. As a social consultant at Organic, I decided to go along. My aim was to gain deeper insights into Facebook’s long-term strategy and to consider its implications for brand development.
At the end of the event, I didn’t leave disappointed.

Facebook on facing the future

Over half of the world’s web users are also Facebook users. As such, the social media giant has the ability not just to understand where the digital world is heading – it also has considerable power to nudge it along.
Orla Malone, Facebook’s SMB Manager, confirmed several points that I personally and we at Organic already believed to be the case:

  • ‘Messaging’ is the next revolution and it’s already started. We’ve seen this from the rise of messaging apps, to bots, all the way to broader social trends and behaviours – young people in particular engage with each other online more through messaging than posting. Messaging is going to get even bigger and brands need to prepare for it.
  • The power of images, and their centrality to Facebook’s strategy, is hard to overstate. Our brains can analyse images 60,000 times faster than words.
  • People are consuming video content differently. Mobile devices now account for 45% of video views globally. (It’s reasonable to assume this figure is even higher in developed, urbanised countries with better mobile networks and more Wi-Fi hotspots.)

Relative to the above three points, Facebook’s approach to Virtual Reality (VR) has been more ambiguous since its purchase of Oculus Rift, at least to those outside the company.
It’s clear to me now, however, that Facebook sees VR as infinitely more than a specialist tool, novelty item or piece of hardcore gaming apparatus.
At least as far as Facebook is concerned: VR is The Next Big Thing. Brands had better to get to work.
Facebook sees the evolution of digital content as a logical, linear progression:
My own flowchart would look slightly different, but still follows the same overall trajectory:

What’s next for content?

Let’s take a few steps back. In reality, whichever form the content takes, whether we’re talking about traditional long-form articles, live video or next-generation VR, many of the same considerations apply.
I believe these four points are more important than ever.

Discovery is king

Thanks to digital, various media that were once only available to the biggest companies are now in the hands of some of the smallest. It’s unsurprising therefore that the gap between the content available to us and our ability to consume it is continuing to grow.
In this environment, discovery has become king.
Given the likelihood that average or low-quality content is more likely than ever to be lost in the crowd, it follows that more effort should be directed towards higher-quality content. This is true even if it means reducing output in terms of quantity.

Stop thinking ‘desktop first’

As digital consumers we’re all on our mobiles, but as developers and designers we’re still optimising for desktops. A good indication of this comes from Orla Malone’s striking statistic that 93% of daily Facebook use is mobile.
For all brands a mobile strategy is essential – this should go without saying! – and this strategy should not be merely an afterthought.

When two become one: The merging of the online and offline worlds

The online and offline worlds are becoming increasingly interconnected. Social media was never meant to function in a vacuum, so it’s quite surprising to see how some brands use social as a separate channel on its own.
Rather, social is a reflection of one’s life experiences and emotions, and one of the supplementary tools for communication. Social works best when it makes a connection to real life. It’s no wonder then that experiential content does so well on social.

I want it all. And I want it now

Users must find what they are looking for, or they will leave instantly. Of course, serving them the content and services they need involves a relentless focus on on-site optimisation.
But it’s about far more than that. For example, an ad that offers specific products or services but takes users to a generic landing page is likely to fail. User expectations need to be aligned with content.

A case in point: Look Fabulous Forever

I’ve tried to focus this article on high-level trends and their implications for brand strategy. But before concluding, I’d like to mention a few points raised by Tricia Cusden, the founder of Look Fabulous Forever. Her experiences and best practice tips were one of the highlights of the event.
A key insight that informs Look Fabulous Forever’s content strategy is that older people are often irritated by ‘anti-ageing’ messages. Most are happy to be ‘old’. Therefore, the brand asks: shouldn’t we be celebrating age instead?
Their social media channels are mainly used for sharing interesting stories. This minimises social media spend, as users are actively seeking their content.
Stories are created by the target audience. This takes the guesswork out of creating relevant, resonant content.
Furthermore, the owner herself often gets involved. She filmed a video tutorial (using her webcam) during which she put on makeup herself. This created trust in the brand and, more directly, caused an instant increase in sales when it went online.
Brands can no longer rely on an effective monopoly of the means to produce average-quality content. As such, it’s incumbent on them to produce higher-quality work, giving your users both what they want and what you promised.

Facebook’s changing image rules: how many words is an image worth?

Advertisers take note: Facebook has recently changed its image/text policy. It’s no longer about whether ads are ‘approved’ or ‘disapproved’. The new policy is a bit more complex as the 20% text rule has ceased to exist. Instead, advertisers can use as much text on images as they like, though the word count will impact the advert’s reach and the CPC. In other words, images with no text should get the best reach and the lowest CPC, images with lots of text will get very little reach and the highest CPC. In fact, images overfilled with text might not reach any users at all. So it seems an image is worth a lot more than words.

What’s not OK?

There are officially four categories of advertisement that classify the amount of text on images:
OK (little or no text, our estimate: <5%)
Low (fair amount of text, our estimate: <20%)
Medium (text heavy, our estimate: <30%)
High (our estimate: >40%, these ads probably won’t reach any people at all)
If your image is not ‘OK’, you’ll be notified after uploading it and before placing an order.
Facebook image text categories
According to Facebook, there are going to be some exceptions to the rule. The new text policy won’t be applied to:

  • Movie posters
  • Book covers
  • Album covers
  • Product images (where an entire product can be seen and not just a zoomed-in image of the product)
  • Posters (for concerts/music festivals, comedy shows or sporting events)
  • Text-based businesses – calligraphy, cartoon/comic strips, etc.
  • App & game screenshots
  • Legal text
  • Infographics

This is good news for those who would otherwise be limited by the former 20% text rule, however, it’s unclear how accurate Facebook will be at identifying the above exceptions.
During the days of the 20% text rule, the grid tool would tell creatives how much text could be used. This tool is no longer there to help. There are no set percentages for each category (at least not officially – the percentages mentioned above are our estimates). Furthermore, there are other elements that will almost certainly count as ‘text’. These are:

  • logos (all text-based logos)
  • watermarks
  • numbers

All factors worth considering when planning your ads.

Less is not more: less is everything

Unless it’s one of the above exceptions advertisers should avoid using text on images where possible. Be aware that if you do use an exception you will likely have to contact Facebook’s support team in case your image won’t fit the OK category.
The changes will no doubt encourage marketers to replace the usual – often ‘cold’ – stock imagery with more authentic images that tell a story. There might be instances when putting some text on the image is unavoidable, but before you do, don’t forget to use all the text fields that are at your disposal: 1) engaging post copy, 2) attention-grabbing title, and 3) proper link description, before you consider placing text directly on the image itself.

Can commercial chaos make for better user experience?

Though straightforward, the 20% text rule was limiting. It may take a little time to get used to the new rules, but ultimately Facebook has demonstrated once more that by improving the quality of the ad it places user experience at the forefront. The increased reach (and lower CPC) for text-free ads is simply another initiative that will support high quality and informative copy supported by authentic and visually appealing imagery – something that all good marketers should be doing already.

Platforms can come and go, but how people engage with them is pretty consistent. That’s because users’ intangible core needs remain the same. It’s how well those platforms recognise and respond to user need that determines for how long they stay. Technology has a short lifecycle, and those that survive are the ones that adapt.
Twitter as a social network has been stagnating for some time. Its inability to attract new users is reflected in its share price, which is lower than ever. It’s not really a surprise, then, that the channel is striving to do something about it. We’ve already seen a lot of changes in the last year and we can expect to see yet more activity being implemented to revive the network. Last year, Twitter acquired the live-streaming platform, Periscope, which is now almost fully integrated into Twitter. It introduced Moments, a feature that showcases news and trending topics. It swapped stars (favourites) with hearts (likes) – and engagement increased by 6% as a result (read more here). It made some changes around direct messages, so users could receive direct communication even from those they didn’t know or follow. Furthermore, character limits have been lifted, opening the door for a better and private customer service. Users were invited to make use of a poll feature as well as to use GIFs in their tweets. Recently, the company has introduced an algorithm that allows users to see the most ‘relevant’ tweets at the top of their news feeds first.

Is the new algorithm a game changer?

The algorithm was created so users would not miss out on the best tweets and to increase the quality of tweets in the news feed. The algorithm shows users the most ‘relevant’ tweets since they last checked – which doesn’t necessary mean the ones with the best engagement. This is good news for all small users and doesn’t eliminate the chance of posts going viral. However, only part of the feed is affected by the algorithm and it is not even a default feature. Why? Well, the hashtag #RIPtwitter may have caused this decision as many core users did not approve the change. Arguably, what is not there by default is not there at all, as seen with Facebook privacy settings: given the choice most will share content with friends only. Therefore at this moment, the move is not a game changer as the effects on users are relatively modest.

Problems to face

Twitter is working to add features that will make the platform more desirable and encourage people to spend more time there. But the reality is changes need to be significant to turn its fortunes around. It’s doubtful that the above changes will convince new users to join. Plus Twitter will have to deal with the following challenges:

  • If you’re small (not a celebrity) it’s hard to get attention. Paid promotion is a possible solution, but people have to trust the platform before spending money on it
  • There are a great many inactive users and fake accounts
  • Finding quality content is a challenge
  • The platform needs to promote its purpose to the general public
  • Twitter has a difficult relationship with developers and ‘partners’: Instagram images are not visible in streams, and Meerkat was denied access after Periscope acquisition

Can Twitter continue to contend?

You have friends on Facebook. On Instagram you have visually appealing content. On LinkedIn you can make professional connections. What does Twitter offer up that the others can’t?
Twitter was built for tech conversations, not for the general public, and the transformation will undoubtedly alienate some of the core users, but change is absolutely necessary if the platform wants to grow. Twitter needs to be simple, uncluttered, and people need to take joy in using it. Twitter will never be Facebook and the comparison really hurts Twitter: the platform has not been able to forge its own identity clearly enough and distinguish itself.

The problem of quality

Where are the easy-to-navigate filters? That is, how can you search for what people are saying about David Cameron or The Oscars? How can you filter the content you want to engage with: the real-time news, sport, live events, politics, music, fashion, movies, or recipes? The Newsfeed is chaotic with political tweets mixed with music and tech. Even Moments, rather than simplifying the platform, serves to add another layer of complexity. Users want to personalise their accounts by selecting favourite topics, celebrities, TV shows, and so on. People want the right content at the right times.

Is the battle lost?

Thanks largely to mobile advertising, Twitter’s revenue is actually growing by 48%, which is much better than expected. There is also the will for undertaking the necessary changes inside Twitter, as well as externally to the platform. Twitter continues to possess a massive influence over the world concerning breaking news and trends (e.g. Arab Spring, Ice Bucket Challenge, #BlackLivesMatter, etc.). Stories are picked up by all major news outlets and even people that are not using the platform directly will get access to the information on it eventually from the news, on other social networks or from individuals. All that remains is for Twitter to find a way to encourage non-users to create their own accounts so they can access the information they want first hand.

Change is the only constant

The only constant is change. It’s not enough for platforms to introduce arbitrary features in the hopes of coaxing flagging or disengaged customers back into life. Twitter was compelled to introduce gifs because of their popularity with people, it was not something they bestowed upon customers from a top-down position. Platforms like Twitter need to recognise what they need to do to adjust by engaging with people first rather than throwing functionality at the problem.
At Organic, we recognise that change is driven from grass roots level, so it’s important we are attuned to how customer and user need informs technologies rather than imposing technologies on them. If platforms like Twitter adopt the same philosophy they can continue to remain in the spotlight and occupy centre stage.

As the biggest and most powerful search engine, what Google says goes. So when Google changes something like its Blogger Guidelines users feel the impact of that move very quickly. Their most recent change centres on how brands and agencies engage with influencers. If you are a blogger, media owner, brand-marketing manager, digital agency employee, then you need to know what has changed and how it could affect your SEO ranking.

Link Wars

Google has been waging a war on link building for some time and has already unleashed a number of weapons to combat ‘unnatural linking’. These weapons have taken many forms over the past 5-6 years, including manual action penalties and the Penguin updates, so Google can clamp down on any paid for, unnatural, link building.
Now Google criteria for what constitutes an unnatural link has altered further to include even more than the vetoing of an exchange of money for a link. Guidelines now state that the following can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results. The Guidelines forbid, ‘Buying or selling links that pass PageRank’.  This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link. Therefore brands and agencies that look to approach bloggers or media owners with a gift, service or a product to review will be in breach of Google guidelines unless the post is flagged-up as sponsored and any links within the content is ‘nofollowed’.
No follow tags need to be used where appropriate including in reviews where bloggers are ‘paid’ with products. This includes links to social media accounts and app store as well as their websites. Disclosure is now even more important and bloggers are encouraged to clearly state they are getting a product free or are being paid for a review.

What This Means For Bloggers

Bloggers will be most affected by this change. For years brands and agencies have reached out to bloggers with gadgets and goodies to compel the blogger to review the product on their site with the idea that the blogger would respond by linking to the product or brand, which would assist in SEO performance. This transaction supported both parties: not only would it supply the blogger with content and free stuff, they would supply the brand with links that were potential leads or customers.
Now, if you are a blogger who is approached by a brand or agency with a product, you can review it but you must:

  • State in the copy that the post is supported/sponsored/in collaboration with the brand in question
  • Nofollow any link to the brand
  • Make sure that your content is unique and not copied from the brochure

As Google will most likely add this change in guidelines to their algorithm and not just their manual review process, bloggers should review old posts and all supported content should be disclosed to avoid incurring Google’s wrath.
Head of Social at Organic, Marisa Thomas, said, ‘Really Google’s blogger guidelines serve to support standards that are already in place. The US advertising watchdog recently rebuked a fashion firm for their Instagram influencers not sufficiently signposting their reviews as commercially motivated. There’s a very real possibility of brands flouting advertising rules if they don’t comply with Google’s guidelines, which is never good for business.’

What This Means for Webmasters/Owners/Agencies

The effect this change will have on business will depend on what you’re looking to get from your engagement with bloggers. If you seek to increase traffic, brand awareness and general coverage for a product or service, then contacting influential bloggers is still going to be a great way to achieve your KPIs, but there are some elements you’ll need to make sure your influencer includes:

  • Disclosure of your relationship with the blogger
  • Nofollow any links to you/your client

If you have been using ‘free’ products as a way of building SEO links for your brand or client, then this new change is much more of an issue. If you are to follow Google’s guidelines, then the tactic of giving a product for a link/post is no longer one that can be used for SEO. With the blogger having to Nofollow the link, there will no longer be any authority flowed through to your site to help authenticate your SEO.

So how can brands generate authentic links?

Outreach is changing and your strategy needs to change too. Instant results are hard to achieve, so investing in social media and blogger outreach to get your content seen by more people may be the next best ethical way to try and earns links.
While this approach works in theory your content has to be worthwhile to encourage ‘natural’ links and garner the right exposure. Quality trumps quantity but also raises the greater issue around measurement and time frames in which you can expect to see results, which remains the ongoing SEO/social challenge.
The question, then, is how else can brands reach influencers authentically? David Tapp, Head of SEO at Organic, says, ‘Undoubtedly this development will force brands to consider content first to gain natural links to their sites rather than depending upon techniques to compel links. Strategies for accessing targeted influencers might include using social ads to lead them ‘organically’ to your product for review’.

How Organic approaches outreach

At Organic we take a user-first approach to all outreach. We provide analysis of our clients’ audience by accurately identifying the types of content they engage with and share. This allows us to build links naturally by creating high-quality content, interactive widgets, videos and more, that the user will genuinely want to share. Content takes the shape of anything that will resonate with and emotionally engage targeted users. We can evidence great results across a rich variety of clients through content such as quizzes, competitions and other interactive content.
It is inspiring, imaginative, creative and evergreen ideas that are richly supported by PR and social media that compels influencers to authentically engage with products. We are confident that with authentic and captivating content there is very little requirement for artifice and in this way we continue to respond with agility to whatever Google sends our way.

Who cares how you feel?

The answer to this is actually, quite a few people. And we’re not just talking about your immediate digital social sphere. The advent of a range of ‘reactions’ on Facebook has long been in the offing, and now the redesigned ‘like’ buttons have finally been rolled out across the channel. The new reactions allow users to express feelings beyond the mere ‘liking’ of a post, which in theory should liberate users to be more expansive in how they communicate their feelings.
Until last Thursday if you declared yourself to be ill in bed, then any ‘likes’ garnered might have felt inappropriate, and yet a quick emotive response or expression of empathy is still sometimes required that doesn’t demand the typing of an entire message. Therefore the new ‘sad’ icon can instead be deployed to express the appropriate empathy. Similarly, users have struggled to express visual engagement for political or difficult newsworthy items relating to human tragedy for instance, but arguably a ‘sad’ or ‘angry’ face could be construed as a little facetious depending upon the content. That being said, overnight the scope for quick visual expression has increased options for users looking for a quick click.
The new icons are fitting for an age in which feelings are expressed concisely and visually, hence the rise of emojis, GIFs, and vines (in 2015, the Oxford English Dictionary even declared an emoji to be the ‘word’ of the year). You might say that we’ve communicatively come full circle having moved away from using lettering to convey our feelings, back to basic paralinguistic features, or at least signifiers of these in lieu being able to stand next to that person to communicate our feeling of support, anger, astonishment or amusement with a gesture or facial expression.

What do the new ‘reactions’ mean for marketers?

Although the ‘Like’ button will retain its strong position (it remains the icon that is privileged beneath a post), there will likely be a decrease in the comments users supply – perhaps a significant decrease.
The data Facebook can capture through users’ icon use will be valuable in assisting the channel with future algorithms. Certainly marketers will benefit from this data to target users based on the emotions they express. However, we do expect to see challenges in how reactions are measured. At the moment, new data is not available through APIs, so third party tools won’t be able to help. The goal is to get actionable insights that will have a positive effect on ROI, not merely allow the facility to languish like a novelty toy.

How can brands benefit from this change?

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 16.30.05Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 09.44.17Given the competition from rival social channels, in part this move has been necessary to keep users engaged. The more Facebook can tailor content to the user, the more time the user will spend on that channel.
The major benefit of the new reactions for brands is that it provides deeper sentiment feedback on the content, which can be now be measured quantitatively and minus complex analyses. Brands can gain precise insight into their audiences and how to generate the response they require, which assists significantly with targeting content.
This change also presents an opportunity to incorporate the reactions feature into marketing messaging and visuals, as illustrated in these examples from Graze and Chevrolet. Campaigns can furthermore encourage people to express their love or fight negative sentiment by playing with the new icons.

What about negative sentiment?

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 09.45.49Ordinarily, those who wish to express negative sentiment towards a brand would do so through the comments, which would probably be even more harshly expressed than by clicking on an angry emoticon.
However, the angry emoticon won’t always mean users hate the brand; they might simply be expressing that the content makes them angry, or that ad is not relevant to them and therefore an irritant, as illustrated by this Adobe stock post.
It’s doubtful whether a large number of angry faces will have a negative effect on a post’s reach, but its presence could influence other users. Angry faces may actually present an opportunity for leveling up the customer service on Facebook as brands can reach out to these people individually and try to generate positive and personalised engagement.

So has engagement increased or decreased post ‘reactions’?

Because Mashable has very high engagement (thanks to their high publishing content and general avoidance paid promotions), we analysed their Facebook page and discovered that the data did support our predictions. There was a 59.47% decrease in comments since the new reactions were rolled out, while, on average, reactions consists of 77.15% Likes. We anticipate a similar trend across Facebook. Perhaps this is because of the novelty of the mechanism, and the time-saving element which negates the requirement for articulation of feeling. We’ll soon find out.
Watch this space for further insight into the impact the reaction changes are having on brands and how these might assist you in your marketing campaigns. Let us know your thoughts on Twitter.

There are some straightforward but highly effective steps you can take to help your brand messages emerge from the digital noise in 2016.

1. Ensure your brand is mobilise

The vast majority of digital transactions and interactions now take place via mobile. Brands that don’t allow for swift, super-easy, minimal-click purchases on mobiles, or those that have not yet fully made the transition from laptop/desktop, will lose out. High quality, shareable, social-specific video content should also be at the forefront of a brand’s online presence with a strong call to action at the end. 

2. Focus on customer experience

Online and offline worlds must be coherently aligned. Often customers who physically shop in-store use their mobiles to ‘research’ the desired item prior to or even while in-store, so the physical/digital worlds need to be fully joined-up to supply continuity to the customer’s shopping experience. Furthermore, with channels like Facebook and Twitter being used to broadcast brand marketing messages and to deal with customer complaints and queries simultaneously, the voice of the customer relationship manager needs to be consistent with marketing messages. Through aligning customer service with marketing know-how there exist great opportunities for reinforcing brand personality and establishing good PR. 

3. 1-click purchases

Big brands like Amazon have made the purchasing experience even easier: the customer looks for, clicks on and purchases the desired item without going through a protracted payment process. Acknowledgement is received by email. By optimising the user’s journey and supplying secure forms of payment like Paypal, ApplePay and Samsung Pay, there is no need to depend upon prolonged security-checking processes to make a purchase.

4. Data rules

All successful marketing activity is underpinned by robust data, otherwise expensive creative content is too easily wasted and marketing messages are lost. How data is captured, used and analysed will build a deeper understanding of customer behaviour, allowing for flexibility and relevance to the user. Secure data-driven insights are the backbone to quality content creation which forms the infrastructure to any content plan.

5. Keep it personal

Algorithms are making advancements in directing relevant ads to individual buyers. At the moment content is served based on cookies and user preferences are indicated through ‘likes’. Information has become increasingly targeted, presenting the user with what’s most likely to appeal to them, for instance via effectively directed ads that are relevant and don’t intrude on the user’s journey. E-newsletters might remain abundant, but it takes a very strong call to action to get the recipient to open one. Rather, younger people will elect to track down deals online or in response to a call to action at the end of a video. 

Stars versus Hearts

Two little icons that signify so much. The heart: indicative of love, affection – even passion. The star: symbol of the heavens, hope and excitement. Both optimistic; both deployed across social channels to encourage users’ engagement.
The ‘like’ button has long been successfully utilised on Facebook. It’s ok to ‘like’ something. It’s not too strong – not too forceful. ‘Liking’ communicates a wealth of sub-emotions, from gentle appreciation or wry amusement at an ambiguous drawing by a child, to emphatic enthusiasm for a trending political cause. It’s safe because you can have degrees of liking something. But is this true of a ‘favourite’? Semantically speaking, the answer is surely ‘no’. A favourite is a superlative. Furthermore, how many favourites can one reasonably have before all your preferred content forms a nebulous bank of ordinariness with nothing to distinguish one item from another beyond a little yellow star?
Of the social media platforms, it is Twitter’s growth that has slowed in recent years and consequently it has sought ways to encourage users to engage more with content. At the beginning of November, Twitter exchanged the star ‘favourites’ button for a heart button in the hopes of simulating the success of Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. At Organic we undertook a little research to discover whether this seemingly subtle feature shift would have a measurable impact on user engagement.
Stars versus Hearts

Contenders, ready?

We analysed the top ten Twitter brands, celebrities and media providers in the UK according to follower numbers. We looked at the last 20 tweets before and after the icon change (making allowances for the effects of paid promotion and virality). We found that there had been an overall average increase of 17.33% in favour of the heart over the star icon.

Round 1: Hearts beat stars

So why has this simple adjustment yielded such a significant increase in ‘liking’ activity? Could it be the familiarity users have with the option to ‘like’ something, as established on Facebook, Instagram and Periscope? Does this prove that a ‘like’ is more flexible than a firmly-committed gold star with its lofty celestial ‘favourite’ status? Certainly this appears to be the case when we examine the ‘celebrities’ and ‘brands’ categories. People aren’t reluctant to ‘like’ or ‘heart’ something Harry Styles has tweeted, for instance.

Round 2: Hearts take a hit

Perhaps not surprisingly, users were reluctant to ‘like’ something on media channels, given that news content is often alarming or negative. Instead, media channels experienced a drop in ‘liking activity’, perhaps because here the former star icon more appropriately signified importance over preference. ‘Likes’ weren’t abandoned on media channels altogether, however. Stirring events and human-interest stories such as the England vs. France football match at Wembley saw users hitting the ‘like’ button far more frequently. So where hearts were warmly engaged, likes followed.

The knockout

So what’s next? At Organic we feel the heart icon is a step forwards in terms of engaging users with the content, but it’s not the whole picture. Brands interested in more than measuring their success in ‘likes’ are best served by first generating content that will more substantially engage users, making it impossible for users not to share or enter into a conversation with the brand. This would signify a more meaningful engagement and would win them the battle for users’ hearts and minds.
Our Founder and Managing Director, James Moffat, also spoke about our research on The Wall. You can read his article here > 

What’s an image worth?

A tsunami of #NoFilter Instagram pix is sweeping the web, but is there something brands can learn from the authenticity vs. artifice debate?
People love to follow other people because the lives of others are interesting, even if – perhaps especially if – these lives are entirely manufactured, filtered, Photoshopped…in short, fake. There’s nothing new about this; it’s what soap operas and magazines have been about since the year dot. Even a heavily bearded Neanderthal most likely thought, ‘Ug, that Cro Magnon man is really rocking the clean-shaven look this spring’, and probably followed him around a bit, gawping admiringly. But we don’t just follow celebrities; we follow brands too, and for all manner of reasons. How we follow and engage with brands on platforms such as Instagram is an area that many businesses and organisations are keen to explore. For businesses that want to understand the way followers operate online it can be worth first taking a look at the presence of the Instagramerati, or Instars.
The motivation for following Instagram celebs might be down to their aesthetically pleasing, aspirational lifestyles, or perhaps because we sincerely care about the intricacies and nuances of their lives – real or otherwise.
So what could be more intriguing than an artfully constructed Instagram persona coming to life to reveal the personality beyond the filter? The blemished, the emotional, and the vulnerable person behind the image stepping out to say, ‘Honestly, it’s not real life’? Insta star and model, Stina Sanders, recently exposed how followers reacted to glam-free selfies by uploading shots of herself defuzzing, heavily hungover and even at the IBS clinic and at her therapist’s. Immediately – possibly predictably – 5,000 followers ditched her, but then something more interesting happened: people started to engage. Sanders revealed how she actually yielded more likes for her less flattering photos than her carefully styled shots – in particular from women. Her followers began to interact with her more authentic Instagram presence by reaching out on topics such as anxiety issues. Her newfound authentic Instagram presence had garnered sincere interest from her followers, who sought to reach beyond the mere click of a ‘like’.

Instagram: Evolution or Revolution?

Essena O'Neill Famously Quit Instagram in 2015 The adage ‘image is everything’ may once have been true for Insta models like Sanders, and Australian Instagram star Essena O’Neil, who also famously eschewed a life of online celebrity for being tearfully ‘real’. But are these online stars actually bidding farewell to the social-media-verse entirely? Or are they simply swapping an artfully constructed portrait of perfection for another carefully constructed image of apparent authenticity? Either way, both will undoubtedly occupy public platforms in one package or another, be it a YouTube apologia, or a confessional soon-to-hit-the-shelves autobiography.
So what does this apparent shift in Instagram attitudes – a platform for which there have been over 144million #NoFilter hashtags – actually mean? Has there been a genuine revolution in perspective, a movement that has taken many thousands of people from a place of artifice to reality overnight? Or has there simply been a gentle evolution in the way Instagrammers are now offering up another, subtler viewing of their lives?

Vanity versus value

So what does this well-documented attitudinal shift among Instagrammers mean for businesses and brands? Increasingly, Instagram has been a successful social platform from which to flog one’s wares, with the parallel aims of attracting and researching visitors, enhancing reputation, or consolidating perception. How useful are the Insta stars’ lessons on authenticity to the average brand?
This all depends on what a brand is looking for. If posts successfully pull in impressive numbers of likes then this might be enough to satisfy one business or organisation; but is this simple vanity? After all, it’s easy to ‘like’ something and then leave it there; no emotional investment needed. On average, for every 33 likes, you’ll receive one comment. But what if the comments to ‘like’ ratio were increased? If a user responds to content with a more meaningful interaction – sharing pictures, or responding to images with a comment – then this is surely the more valuable and desirable response for businesses. The ‘authentic’ approach taken by the likes of Sanders and O’Neil is a trend that may well fall out of fashion in a few weeks’ time, therefore, brands must work hard to be conscious of how they can best cultivate a direct and valuable relationship with their followers beyond the harvesting of likes.

When you want to get people talking about something online where do you go? Facebook and Twitter are the obvious big choices. G+? It’s definitely got its place, and with the ubiquity of Google can’t be ignored. Then there’s Instagram and Pinterest for the more visually minded.

But LinkedIn?

The business person’s social media platform gets short shrift, but it can be just as powerful as Facebook and Twitter. In fact it can often have a bigger impact.

Why Use LinkedIn?



Well, check out some raw numbers first, because we like to back up the fluffy marketing stuff with data here at The Organic Agency:

  • LinkedIn currently has in excess of 364 million users
  • This is growing rapidly as more than 2 new members join a second
  • More than 39 million students and recent graduates are on the platform. It’s the fastest growing demographic, which proves this isn’t just Facebook for grey suited, grey faced, grey haired professionals

And when it comes to the nitty gritty side of business there are several reasons LinkedIn shouldn’t be overlooked.

  1. Reach A Targeted Audience. Nobody likes scattershot marketing. To be effective you have to reach the right person, at the right time, through the right channels. Few platforms can rival LinkedIn in this regard. It’s easy to find and reach out to people who are interested in what you’ve got to offer.
  2. Establish Yourself As An Authority. If someone throws something out there on Twitter people will take notice. But if you really want some weight behind what you say, LinkedIn is the platform. It has rapidly become the publishing platform for professionals, and the content on it comes from some of the biggest and brightest minds across all disciplines. Start getting noticed for your content here and partnerships and leads will follow.
  3. Make Connections. On other social media platforms you’ll get a fair few random followers and friends. On LinkedIn you’ll be able to make connections with people directly involved in your sector. From these connections all kinds of opportunities will arise.

If you want to take advantage of everything LinkedIn has to offer get in touch. From supercharging your profile to helping you create a content strategy that gets your message out there, we can help you make the most of this often unfairly overlooked platform.