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Our Experts Explain How Instagram’s Algorithms Work So You Drive Better Engagement

By Content Marketing, Social Media No Comments

As part of its Creator Week event, Instagram provided insight into how its algorithms working, noting “they want to do a better job of explaining how Instagram works” so marketers can better engage with the right audiences online. The most significant takeaway shared is that there isn’t one universal algorithm, but, rather, separate algorithms for Feed & Stories, Explore and Reels.

Why is this important? 

Many people refer to “the Instagram algorithm” as one omniscient system. Insights like these help us understand how different parts of the platform work and how we can optimize to them: while the Feed/Story algorithm centers around contextual topic and interpersonal signals, the Explore algorithm centers more around topic clusters (they will show posts about a certain topic “without necessarily understanding what each post is about”); and the evolving Reels algorithm centers around content and creator popularity and heavily leverages surveys.

While leaning into key topics your brand may center around, (e.g. travel), will help you appear on the Explore feed of topic enthusiasts, this shows that brands need to think about their individual relationships with consumers to get on the coveted Feed and Stories placements.

It’s not enough for someone to follow you: they have to have a history of engagement with you. In fact, there are several key factors that drive the content visibility within Instagram.

#1: Interest

A customers’ Instagram feed isn’t only based on that customer follows, it’s also based on the accounts and types of posts that are of interest to that customer. When the Instagram algorithm thinks a person will “like” a certain type of post, that type of content will appear more often in that feed.

Basically, what your target audience sees in their Instagram feed is a combination of all of their Instagram behaviors, including their likes, tags, and – especially comments. This is why it is so important for brands to post consistently on Instagram.

#2: Relationship 

The Instagram algorithm prioritizes posts from the accounts your audience cares about. Thomas Dimson, a software engineer at Instagram, explains it this way, Instagram places a higher relevance on content from:

  • People whose content you like (possibly including stories and live videos)
  • People you direct message
  • People you search for
  • People you know in real life

#3: Timeliness

Not only does the algorithm pay attention to how much engagement your Instagram post gets, but it also looks at how long ago the photo was posted. Instagram’s algorithm cares about when you posted, because it always wants to serve you the latest, most interesting posts. This is a departure from the Facebook’s approach to timeliness in those feeds. You can find the best times to post on Instagram on another Acronym blog post here.

#4: Frequency 

This goes back to what we said about consistently posting on Instagram. Users who open the app more often will see a more chronological feed. Users who check the app less frequently will be served up content based on topic versus in chronological order. So, if you want to tell a specific brand story or connect with your customers around timely content, you should make sure you are posting often.

#5: Following

Instagram factors in each users’ following on the app. The more active your followers are, the more you will see their content and the more often your content will appear in their feeds. However, if you have inactive followers, Instagram will not rank your feed as high as brands with followers who regularly  engage with the app. So, you may want to conduct regular purges of your following to eliminate inactive accounts.

#6: Usage

If you spend a lot of time on Instagram, you’re going to see more posts as Instagram digs deeper into its analytics. If you spend enough time on Instagram, you can even run out of new content to see. Once this happens, the algorithm will serve you suggested content from new accounts — based on your previous usage.

What actions should brands take? 

Remember that engagement is king on the Feed, and think about how you can get someone to interact with your post, not just view it. So, post consistently with content that is of interest to your following and engage with your following through likes and comments. With social media, like everything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it.

If you’d like assistance in better leveraging Instagram or any social platform with paid and organic content, please contact us. We’re here to help.

The Potential Impact of Google Allowing Users to Opt-Out of Tracking

By Analytics, Content Marketing, Web Analytics No Comments

Ahead of an upcoming developer conference, Google announced it will let Android users opt out of being tracked by the apps they download from the Google Play Store. 

This move mirrors Apple’s roll-out of iOS 14, which gave consumers the option to opt out of tracking via the IDFA, or device identifier that tracks consumer behavior across apps. 

According to the announcement, this will be launched via a Google Play services update in “late 2021.” 

Why is this important?  

Since Apple’s iOS 14 announcement in 2020, advertisers have been waiting to hear how Google will respond to its competitor. With all three major smartphone players (iPhone, Android & Samsung) using either the Google Play Store or Apple Store, this means nearly all social media app users will have the option to disable tracking.  

Considering that more than half of all worldwide web traffic so far this year was generated via mobile devices, the option to disable tracking will significantly impact first-party data.  

What is the impact on brands? 

This update will further decrease audience size, bringing higher CPMs and less qualified targeting via website data, in the same way Apple’s iOS 14 does. However, the severity of this decrease will depend upon whether this switch will be automatically pushed to users, or if this switch is simply an option users will have to manually turn off in settings. 

What action should brands take? 

First party data will be the name of the game in this privacy-first era. We recommend brands continue to find ways to leverage and foster first-party audiences, whether by creating a newsletter that requires email, a Facebook Store where shoppers interact, or leveraging video ads that can track people who watch most of the video or engage with your ad. 

If you’d like help identifying the best approach for your brand and your specific audience, please contact us. Our experts are available to help.

 

POV by Acronym’s Paid Media Team

Learn how to stop selling and start helping with Acronym’s Mike Grehan & Emetrics Summit Founder Jim Sterne

By Content Marketing No Comments

If you’re looking to establish long-term relationships with your customers, tune in to SEMrush’s upcoming webinar, Understanding Intent: Stop Selling, Start Helping, with Acronym CMO Mike Grehan and eMetrics Summit Founder Jim Sterne.

Mike and Jim will discuss why the best advertising is emotional – not persuasive – and connects with consumers far earlier on the path to purchase. You’ll learn precisely how to identify and engage these consumers, as well as how to sustain the relationships. Hint: AI and machine learning are invaluable in helping map content to intent.

You’ll also have a chance to ask these industry heavyweights your own questions about brand building and making emotional connections.

It all takes place Wednesday, December 13 at 12 ET/9 PT.

Register for the event here.

Webinar: How to Use Customer Intent to Drive Content Strategy

By Archives, Content Marketing 2 Comments

 

Webinar_500x300On Dec. 3, Acronym, Conductor and Scotts Miracle-Gro held a webinar titled How to Use Customer Intent to Drive Content Strategy. It provided a detailed road map of how brand marketers are using their understanding of customer intent to drive content strategy and reveal gaps in content at the various stages along the path to purchase.

Moderated by Mike Grehan, Acronym’s Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer, the webinar featured Ryan Pitcheralle, VP of Acronym’s Digital Center of Excellence; Joe Taylor, Manager of Customer Success at Conductor; and Larissa Livingston, Digital Marketing Manager at Scotts Miracle-Gro.

Scotts Miracle-Gro and other marketers are active proponents of Acronym’s See, Think, Do framework for understanding customer intent. Each day, using the most appropriate content, they engage with their largest addressable audience of potential customers (the See stage), along with those who are actively interested in a product or service (the Think stage) and, finally, the decision-focused crowd (the Do stage).

As Livingston explains in the webinar, for Scotts Miracle-Gro someone in the See stage could be planning a backyard party but not even remotely thinking about grass seed. Thus an effective search content strategy might incorporate the term “Fourth of July party ideas.” Once the party planner realizes that the quality of his lawn could be one component of a successful party, he could easily progress to the Think stage and want to know the difference between cheap and premium grass seed. Choosing the most appropriate seed quality happens in the Do stage.

According to Grehan, far too many marketers are solely focused on the Do stage—presenting content that seeks to create immediate transactions. By ignoring the See and Think stages, these companies are missing opportunities that more savvy competitors embrace with great content.

Among the webinar highlights are detailed graphics that explain:

  • How to develop content based on customer intent
  • How your content should align with user moments and intent stages
  • Matching customer personas to life moments
  • Mapping website pages to moments that matter
  • Mapping content to intent stages
  • Segmenting content pages
  • Setting the right KPI’s

Webinar attendance is free. To watch the presentation click here.

 

 

OPINION: With Permission-based Advertising, Ad Blocking is Irrelevant

By Archives, Content Marketing, Paid Search No Comments

By Zach Eberhart

AdBlocker_295x175a

If you’ve been on the web lately then you’ve probably heard that it has begun its slow (but sure) death. It was inevitable really, all technologies come and go, following their predetermined fate without fail along the well-blazed product life cycle.

If you haven’t been on the Internet, or if you’re just outside the sensationalist bubble that can be the digital marketing news space, then this news probably comes as a surprise. We beat SOPA, we helped the FCC vote in favor of net neutrality, even China, despite the Great Firewall, has double the amount of Internet users than we have people. So who is the culprit responsible for the web’s demise? Well, it’s none other than ad blocking.

Ad blocking has been around for a while. You download it, install it, and browse the web ad-free save a few “acceptable ads.” The benefits of using an ad blocker are vast: no popups, no auto-play ads, no pre-roll, faster load times, and increased privacy. The drawbacks? Besides the loss of being potentially introduced to a new product that you probably don’t need, not many. I’ve never personally used one and am surprised whenever I hear about other members of the advertising industry using it. I have, however, been very tempted recently due to the rise of full page ads, pre-content ads, ads that generate and expand in the white space between paragraphs of an article, and pretty much anything that dramatically reduces my experience. Head over to Forbes to witness all of this and more in one place — it’s infuriating.

Many others are tempted as well. Around the world, there are nearly 200 million active users of AdBlock (Plus), the most popular ad blocking software in use. What may be more frightening (to advertisers), is that the use of ad-blocking software is only beginning to reach mainstream use. In the past year, ad blocking grew by 48% and 41% in the U.S. and internationally, respectively. If it stays at the same rate, one out of every four American Internet users will be using an ad blocker by 2016.

This is terrifying to publishers, for whom most revenue relies on advertising — especially display. In fact, ad blocking is estimated to cost publishers close to $22 billion in 2015. That’s no small sum and everyone, even the largest, most profitable publishers, is feeling it. The New York Times, arguably the best publisher in the world, recently saw a 5.5% year-over-year drop in revenue. If the Times is hurting, imagine the smaller publishers that see 100% of their revenue coming from display advertising.

While I’m sure you’re now battling the urge to write a tear-soaked check to all of your favorite content producers, consider why we are in this situation to begin with. In the late Nineties, website owners faced the problem of decreasing CTRs and ad blindness, which consumers developed over years of browsing uniform websites. However, instead of developing more engaging, less intrusive advertising, publishers resorted to pop-ups, the complete opposite. And while pop-ups eliminated problems of ad blindness, they prompted silent cursing at monitors like few things before.

Fast forward two decades later and we find ourselves in a situation where some users are completely fed up with online advertising: robbing their favorite publishers of revenue, bent on blocking all ads rather than just the annoying ones. And blocking all ad content is exactly what Apple allowed app developers to do with iOS 9.

See, many people allege that AdBlock runs like a modern day extortion racket. Ads are blocked, large ad-tech firms see their bottom lines get a little closer to losing a figure or a comma, some backroom conversations are had, ad-tech firms write a check for an undisclosed amount, and then they find themselves on the “Acceptable Ads” list (paywall). Of course, users of AdBlock have the option to turn off the allowance of “Acceptable Ads,” but when it comes enabled as a default, most of the less savvy consumers don’t get around to it (perhaps purposefully allowing it to negate some of the moral implications of using an ad blocker).

Although many suspect this as the means which publishers are added to the “Acceptable Ads” list, AdBlock sympathizer PageFair is quick to cite a legal battle in Germany in which they proved the contrary. Winning the case by arguing that the majority of the advertisers are added to the whitelist for free, it is still hard to ignore the millions of dollars worth of payments that regularly come through in exchange for inclusion.

To read AdBlock’s side of the story, see this blog post its website.

But now, with the release of iOS 9, we are now seeing a whole host of ad blockers that don’t have a whitelist (yet). Meaning that all forms of advertising are blocked: Display, video, (dynamically inserted) native, and search. When Apple supported the development of ad blockers, it was essentially leaving a loaded gun unattended, with three of the potential targets being Google’s main revenue streams (GDN, YouTube, GSN).

Although deals are probably being negotiated as we speak, there’s always the chance that a popular ad-blocking app, either on mobile or desktop, doesn’t give in to the pressure of the large ad-tech firms that power most of the interwebs.

While one would think that all of this would lead to advertising that is more user-friendly, we find ourselves creeping toward the opposite direction. Verizon recently made headlines by purchasing AOL, and while many may have been surprised by the deal, those who understood where a large part of AOL’s revenue came from saw things quite clearly. With plans to create a mobile-first advertising platform, we’ll see the marriage of AOL’s ad-tech with Verizon’s access to one out of three American cell phone owners (and where they’ve been and what they do). Oh, the places you’ll go (and get served with a “relevant” advertisement)!

So what’s next? If we as marketers (and content producers) start thinking about why consumers are using ad blockers rather than how to get around them, we can prevent the slow and imminent death we have been so vehemently warned about. By focusing more on intent-based marketing and by serving advertising that is anticipated, relevant, and welcome (or useful), we not only end up with a happier customer, but we may even be able to avoid parties littered with disapproving head shakes accompanied with the head shaker’s personal critique of advertising. “Why does the ad from XYZ Company follow me everywhere? Don’t they know I don’t want the item??”

It’s obvious that something needs to be changed. Incentives are stronger than ever for consumers to use ad-blocking software, especially on mobile. After installing the app, pages load roughly four times faster, about half of the amount of data is used, and your battery lasts longer. Once consumers get a taste of what could be, it’s going to be even more difficult for them to go back to an ad-supported web. We need to take the focus away from “more data” and shift it towards “more welcomed.” And while we’ll see a rise in brands encouraging the usage of their app over the web (ad blocking on mobile currently only works in Safari) and in-app advertising (anyone else notice an increase in advertising on Instagram?), until the model for online advertising changes, the rally cry of “Adapt or Die” will only become louder. Ad blocking has become a vehicle of protest against what isn’t working. It’s our jobs as marketers to fix it.

Zach Eberhart is a PPC Strategist currently focused in the health vertical. With experience at startups, agencies, an analytics firm, and now a Fortune 100 client, he has seen all sides of digital marketing and is passionate about the practice. Zach is originally from the Philadelphia area, and after attending school at Northeastern University and moving to NYC has lived in all three major Northeast cities. While he loves PPC, he’d rather trade travel stories or talk about music and art events around the city.

 

The Connected Consumer: A Recap

By Archives, Content Marketing, SEO No Comments

TMN Staff

SEMPO_295x175On October 14th, at the Google offices in Manhattan, global search marketing group SEMPO held its inaugural SEMPO Cities event, the centerpiece of which was a panel discussion on the topics of Micro Moments and the intent-based marketing strategy espoused by Acronym known as See, Think, Do. Moderated by Acronym Chief Marketing Officer Mike Grehan, who is SEMPO’s chairman, the panel included: Avery Durnan, Agency Development Manager, Google; Norma Berry, VP, Digital Marketing, Denihan Hospitality Group (a client of Acronym); and Forrester researcher Collin Colburn.

After a brief video was shown depicting the many iterations of Google’s Micro Moments—representing consumers’ continual desire for all manner of information on their mobile devices—the discussion turned to how See, Think, Do is transforming brand marketers’ content marketing strategies, and why the traditional marketing funnel today more closely resembles “a bowl of spaghetti.”

Here is an edited transcript:

Mike Grehan: How does Google’s Micro Moments reflect the See, Think, Do approach to understanding consumer intent?

Avery Durnan: Several years ago, Google introduced the idea of Zero Moment of Truth, and we’re breaking that down even further with Micro Moments. We see this a couple of different ways. There certainly is an “I want to buy moment.” But we also see these “I want to do moments, I want to know moments.” This is really the See, Think, Do intent-based framework that Mike has talked about for many years. An example of “I want to go,” particularly for hospitality groups, might be me researching videos YouTube for the best Asian summer vacations. In that context, I am looking on YouTube for information. Most of this is happening from smartphones. Over half of our YouTube traffic in the U.S. is coming from mobile devices. Not tablets but smartphones. So we see people on the fly: while you’re waiting for the subway, while you’re waiting for your next meeting to start, you’re searching for these kinds of Micro Moments and expressing your intent directly. At Google, we can serve up an ad that directly relates to that intent-based strategy.

Mike Grehan: How does Denihan use it in a practical sense, looking across the entire spectrum of Website, mobile strategy and the analytics that go with it? Is Micro Moments something brand new that you’re developing strategy around?

Norma Berry: We also embrace the See, Think, Do philosophy of Acronym. At the end of 2014, we decided to change the way we looked at things, you know the constant display advertising and paid search, and we embraced content marketing. The whole goal of that was to create those moments, not about just selling a product but before people even started looking for a hotel room. Really talking about what our customer base wanted to learn about and eventually to convert them and engage with them. This whole year has really been based on content strategy and tying that together with our digital strategies, and then once they are at one of our properties also embracing See, Think, Do. That would be the Micro Moment of “we want to go out to eat” and serving up content like we have a great celebrity chef restaurant downstairs or talking to them about a particular cocktail they can find on our site.

Mike Grehan: From your perspective as a researcher, what are you seeing? Are people talking about Micro Moments?

Collin Colburn: It’s an interesting question. When our clients come to us they are asking questions about their customers’ journey. What is it, when does a customer discover us and research our brand, then when do they engage with us and after a purchase. There are Micro Moments in each of those phases. Our clients I think are struggling most with being able to figure out how do I engage in each of those micro moments. How do we make ourselves discoverable in each of those moments? One thing that I always think about with Micro Moments is that they have to be glance-able. But increasingly, Micro Moments are things that are going to be on wearables. You get a notification that your heart rate has gone up. Or your flight has been delayed. Specifically for search, when you take out your phone and search for something, increasingly there is an answer in that search engine result. Not just that I can go through a list and find what’s most relevant. Google actually will answer your question more times than not. That’s a perfect example of a mobile or Micro Moment.

Mike Grehan: You and I were talking in September about how your business was generally, and with New York getting really busy particularly with the Pope coming in. Did you think about having a Pope strategy for Micro Moments?

Norma Berry: There was a Pope Strategy from both a pricing perspective and as well as how much inventory we would hold back.

Mike Grehan: I’m sure he’ll forgive you and bless you for it.

Norma Berry: I think he did, actually. We also did write content about it and prepared our guests well in advance to let them know in that moment “how do I get around the city” because it was a little bit difficult to do that. We needed to address those Micro Moments as well when the guest was in house and wanted to know how to get to the East Side of town or uptown. We had the information readily available for them.

Mike Grehan: How do you develop a strategy that addresses the See and Think stages not just always the Do stage?

Norma Berry: We have a great base of business intelligence data that we use to understand customer lead times and affinities based on them. The Think and See part are really around our content strategy. It’s about what are the best things to do in New York City, or “where should I stay when I’m in New York,” or the best restaurants and bars. We’re seeing a lot of visit traction from that. We’re not seeing the instant booking or conversion against it, but we’re seeing reduced bounce rates and people then coming back a couple times later and then making that booking. Then there’s always the social media and CRM side, there’s the organic, the optimization. From a paid search strategy we always look at numbers and keywords that talk about things that are happening in the city that you particularly want to go to. More location based.

Mike Grehan: From your research, do you think that on the paid search side people are seeing it more as a direct medium as opposed to being able to figure out how to use paid search to get somebody at the See stage?

Collin Colburn: One of the things that I’m working on is research about click-to-call advertising. From that I’ve learned that marketers are thinking a little bit more about the other stages, like See and Think. With click-to-call a lot of the calls that come in are actually not for purchases. They are about questions to learn more about the product or brand. And even more so they are in the post-purchase period where someone has a question, a customer service call about a problem or how to use a product. This speaks to the discovery stage.

Mike Grehan: Some marketers have come to see that end-user behavior is changing so dramatically along with the way we use media. As marketers, we’ve always had this notion, sort of like our little blue blanket that we can hang onto, that the sales funnel is people coming in at the top, and then they drop down and get pushed through a little hole at the bottom, which always sounded a bit painful to me. But that was the way the conversion funnel worked. But we’re seeing more research trends to suggest that the path to purchase is completely fragmented and people are coming in at very different points. Would you agree that the funnel is probably gone?

Collin Colburn: Absolutely. Micro Moments is a classic example of how that’s been completely fragmented and the idea of the funnel doesn’t work as well as it used to. We have more research from the search marketing world around how people choose. How they decide to search for something in the first place and how they decide to actually make the click. We humans don’t make rational decisions as much as we think we do. You can’t just think of it as a linear process: step one, step two and step three, and each of my customers is going along that path. Humans don’t work that way.

Avery Durnan: I feel like the conversion funnel now looks more like a bowl of spaghetti than perhaps a funnel. What I would suggest is to look at the See, Think, Do strategy framework and how that lines up with your current media, marketing and content strategies because it’s the backbone of everything.

Mike Grehan: How do you get sell in for See, Think Do in the C-suite?

Norma Berry: It takes a lot of conversation and really just getting people to understand the process. Half of the battle is that a lot of people don’t understand digital marketing and that it takes a while to reap the benefits. Putting the strategy in front of them and showing them what the potential outcome was and now, six months later, because we said it would take a minimum of six months to show them the proof, that’s what really helped. Once they saw our visits are going up, we’re getting less of a bounce rate, conversions have increased, they are now relaxed. But in the beginning it’s painful because you’re saying “give me six months to do this.” It’s keeping them informed throughout the process that really goes a long way.

 

Acronym, Conductor Alliance Will Deepen Understanding Of Customer Intent

By Archives, Content Marketing, SEO No Comments

Acronym_Conductor295x175On Oct. 15, Acronym announced a technology alliance with Conductor, the Web management and SEO platform provider. For Acronym, the partnership provides access to Conductor’s content mapping functionality within its Searchlight tool suite.

In this Q&A, Ryan Pitcheralle, VP of the Digital Center of Excellence at Acronym, explains how content mapping enhances Acronym’s intent-based marketing solutions within the context of the rapidly changing search environment.

Q: Acronym has partnered with other solutions providers over the years, but this one comes at a particularly critical time for the search industry. Please explain why that is.

A: The future of search is one in which we advance from a keyword-centric approach to understanding and acting on consumer intent with a content-centric approach. The name of the game is not keyword optimization but instead content optimization. Conductor’s capabilities in this regard enhance Acronym’s own methodologies and technologies.

Q: What does Conductor gain from the partnership?

A: Conductor benefits from a strong partner that will drive home the Content Mapping functionality from concept to actionable insights. Acronym had been segmenting its keyword research by intent as well as mapping keyword to content for some time now and we believe this expertise lends itself well to make the Content Mapping feature really sing. Additionally, Acronym can reinforce the content-centric approach to a broad set of enterprise-level clientele across a multitude of industries.

Q: Acronym is a big proponent of the See, Think, Do approach to understanding customer intent, which requires specific content to adequately address each stage of the journey to purchase. What does the new partnership bring to the table?

A: We perform keyword research very thoroughly around intent by categorizing keywords to the stages of intent. We need to identify where our clients websites’ are thin with resourceful and engaging supporting content for certain keyword segments. Conductor makes our categorization of intent very tangible by mapping it directly to client-specific content an additionally across the buyers journey.

Q: What else does the partnership facilitate?

A: Content mapping also enables the introduction of personas. A keyword is mapped to a page and a section of the site. That section of the site is then mapped to the intent stage. Conductor adds another layer: the persona stage, wherein you can group keywords not only by intent but also by personas or lifestyles or even product, depending on the brand industry and model. All of this selectively creates an intersection, which is a visual and clickable chart that the Conductor content mapping functionality enables. Very quickly, on the screen, we can see where content is thin for a certain keyword target or where content is robust in supporting that keyword target or theme very well.

Q: So Acronym will be able to audit, so to speak, its clients’ content on an ongoing basis looking for critical gaps?

A: If we find that a client has a gap in content coverage to support lucrative keyword targets that we find match to the informational intent stage, we can make suggestions for them to produce the right content type that plugs the gap. This ultimately makes our clients more relevant to a wider breadth of viewers and more importantly aligns best to their specific and immediate intents. While we can do all of this ourselves right now, the content mapping functionality of Conductor enables trend reporting and handles the scale required very efficiently.

Q: So content mapping enables marketers to better identify and create content that more closely aligns with searchers’ intent?

A: Without a doubt, content mapping is the next big revolution in search strategy, not that its entirely new but instead is becoming the new rule. Conductor is a perfect fit to driving home our See, Think, Do methodology. It’s all about aligning digital marketing more closely with consumers. We’re always looking to dig deeper into understanding our clients’ customers and their journey from discovery all the way to conversion. We believe having the right tech goes a long way to perfecting that.