Instagram’s Snapchat Rip-off & The New State of Social Media

You don’t just take an Instagram. It’s a production. And for those of us who may take thousands of photos of last night’s sky, your gourmet donut, or my dog, only “the best one” hits the gram. And it took time: editing it, deciding on crop or no crop, adding a filter. In a world of oversharing, Instagram was for showing our very best.

Well, not anymore. With Stories, Instagram lets you group ‘grams into one cohesive narrative that disappears after 24 hours. Add text, a sticker, even a doodle, and within 24 hours the story will disappear. Sound like Snapchat? Ding, ding, ding – you are correct.

Stealing features is nothing new for social networks, but it’s rare to see a ripoff this blatant. On social media, people are crying foul. But, it doesn’t matter, really. Does it? As a way of reaching new demographics, the launch of Stories on Instagram makes sense. The posting experience mimics Snapchat, but they’re built right into an otherwise familiar app.

If you’re a Snapchat user, it works just about the exact same way. If you’re not, read on to hear how you use it…

As far as story creation goes, there’s a new “+” icon in the upper left-hand corner of your Instagram display. Take a photo or video from there, and it lives only in your story stream, not in your main feed. In 24 hours, poof, the all the photos in that story disappear. And whatever privacy settings you’ve set for your day-to-day grammin’ will automatically apply to your ephemeral efforts.

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Now for the state of social as such a blatant rip off launches, well this isn’t just about Instagram (and, by extension, Facebook) replicating the next fad in social platforming, though that’s part of it. Today, every major platform is looking to maneuver fast and change course to grow audience. Snapchat and Twitter want to become more accessible. Facebook and Instagram want more shareable, original content. And everyone wants live video.

Clearly, none of the major social platforms feel comfortable with their current status, change is always on their horizon.

If there’s one undefeated truth across this innovation, it’s that everything that is social must converge. It really is just the way the constant pursuit of the next gazillion users goes. And for the most part, the people using these apps benefit. Snapchat stories are fun. And, now you can have them in Instagram, too. Simple.

But, this week, we have seen and heard the app loyalists eye-roll & shame Instagram at what they see as selling out. Platforms become bloated beyond simple use. Social networks suffer from a boxed in sameness. And smaller companies are left uncertain of where they fit into the ecosystem, or if they do at all.

The question is whether, as apps strive to become everything to everyone, they risk losing what made them so unique in the first place. That risk is particularly obvious in an app like Instagram, which continues its domination of the niche for beautiful photography on social media.

It’s sort of concerning to see these apps drop the features and limitations that once made them unique. Take those away and you’re left with little more than a competition for the biggest, best social gathering.

Via The New Yorker:
[…the app’s introduction of an expiring highlight reel is more than a shameless grab for one of Snapchat’s core features. It’s a response to a demand: on an Internet that always remembers, we are fighting for places we can go to forget.]

Instagram Tools to Tackle the New Algorithm

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Is your business ready for Instagram’s new algorithm? Everyone can calm down just a little. Instead of getting nervous about audiences finding your content, let’s focus on ways to analyze your Instagram engagement. Tracking engagement will help you execute quality content that keeps you at the top of the Instagram feed.

Here I’ll outline three tools to track and evaluate how people respond to your content on Instagram. A couple weeks ago, Instagram announced that they’ll be releasing an algorithm that will prioritize what’s shown in users’ feeds. This algorithm will determine what content Instagram believes people will be most interested in and then show the most relevant posts at the top of the feed, regardless of how many accounts users follow or what time zone they’re in.

If you use Facebook for content marketing, you know how important it is to make sure you’re ranked highly within a social media platform’s algorithm. Algorithms that prioritize content in a user’s feed can (and will) inevitably affect your business on those platforms.

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When the Instagram algorithm kicks in, maintaining high levels of engagement will help keep your content on top, whether you’re a small company or a large one.

Your focus should instead be Instagram Analytics Tools.

As the algorithm launch approaches, it’s important to use analytics tools to see which portion of your Instagram audience is interacting with what content, what content is performing best, and which audience segments you may be missing. As you learn from these analytics, you can create stronger and more relevant content that your audience will be more receptive to.

Though Instagram shares the same ad platform as Facebook, the platform does not yet have an analytics tool like Facebook’s Insights and Audience Insights. But, we’re in luck! There are a number of third-party Instagram analytics tools available for businesses and marketers to measure their marketing efforts.

The following three tools will help you to track and evaluate the success of your content & strategy around it on Instagram.

Simply Measured

Simply Measured offers a variety of reports and analyses, some of which are free and some are available only with a paid plan.

free report on instagram engagement from simply measured

Simply Measured’s free user report offers detailed analysis for a single Instagram account, including metrics on top posts, best times for engagement, and the amount and types of engagement.

When you first visit the site, you can get a free user report on any Instagram account (with up to 25,000 followers) in exchange for following the company on Twitter. This user report provides an in-depth analysis of the past two months, including your top post, best days and hours for engagement, top photo tags, top filters, and the amount and types of engagement you’ve received on your posts.

simply measured graph of optimal times to post on instagram

Knowing what days and times are best to post content can help you increase your engagement on any platform.

Additional analytics tools come with pricing plans starting at $500 a month, and include features like cross-platform analysis, social brand and hashtag monitoring, and the ability to add unlimited users to the account at no additional charge.

Iconosquare

Iconosquare is my go-to tool for anything Instagram, including contests, management tools, and so on. It’s also decent for analytics.

iconosquare metrics for instagram spread rates and talk rates

Iconosquare evaluates metrics you don’t see as often, such as spread rates and talk rates.

Iconosquare’s analytics allow you to track important metrics like follower growth and losses, best times to post for maximum engagement, engagement rates, and engagement growth. It also shows your best performing content, both in terms of likes and comments.

iconosquare graphs of instagram growth history

Being able to evaluate your Instagram growth history over long periods of time can help you continue to grow your presence on the platform.

Iconosquare offers a 7-day free trial, during which you can access the analytics information to see if the tool is right for you and for your business’s needs. The plus plan is currently $28.80 a year and includes features like daily email reports, comment trackers, and analytics on the key Instagram metrics discussed above.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a popular tool that many businesses already use, and it offers detailed reporting on a profile’s Instagram activity.

You can find analytics under the Reports section. You can see detailed information on daily growth in followers (and how much that number increased or decreased in the past month), the number of posts you’re sharing, your most used hashtags, your most engaged hashtags, and the number of engagements (both in total and the rate of engagement per medium).

sprout social instagram audience growth graph

Being able to evaluate your Instagram audience growth by day makes it easier for you to spot growth trends.

The only downside to Sprout Social compared to the two analytics platforms above is that it only accumulates Instagram data for the analytics once your profile is connected – no past data is provided, which is a bummer.

engagement graph for instagram from sprout social

Sprout Social provides stats not only on the total amount of engagement received, but also the rate of engagement per medium or post.

Sprout Social offers a 30-day free trial, and the comprehensive reporting is available with the Deluxe plan, starting at $59 per user per month.

So, just the use of a few tools can be very important to your long-term success with Instagram marketing, as they continue to tweak the service and their algorithms. This is especially true with the upcoming news feed algorithm. The three analytics tools in this article can give you great insights that you need to create higher-performing content, both immediately and in the long run.

Yes, Instagram has changed its timeline algorithm, but no, it is not the end of the world for businesses.

My additional tips:

  • Create great content that’s valuable
  • Throw some money in the mix to create additional brand awareness and grow followers using all the amazing targeting options available
  • Change up your content with video
  • Get on the #hashtag #bandwagon – but DO NOT OVERDUE IT.

If you’re a brand that does not care about your followers, or if you don’t care if your followers find value in your content, Instagram may be dead for you. But, if you are like most business owners, you do care about your customers and want to provide value to them. After all, if there is not value in your brand, your product, your service, and ultimately your content marketing strategy, why would anyone care anyway?

In conclusion, fear not. Instagram is definitely not dead. In fact, this is an opportunity for you to fine-tune your content strategy when it matters most.

What do you think? How do you feel about the upcoming Instagram algorithm? Do you use any of these Instagram analytics tools? Share your experience. Do you use one that I didn’t mention here? Share your thoughts, experience, and knowledge in the comments below.

The Importance of the Hashtag

We recently were asked by a client to explain the importance of using hashtags. It was a good challenge and it really got us thinking about how we track and measure the effectiveness of our programs both from a live and in-person standpoint, as well as from a social media and virality standpoint.

Everywhere you look, hashtags are being used. Their use in social media messaging helps to sort, classify and call attention to what you’re saying online. Hashtags empower your messages, making them part of a global multi-platform conversation.

The hashtag has been a key topic for many social media insight stories, and also the butt of many jokes. One of the most famous blew up the internet last September thanks to Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, and let’s not forget Quest Love – see infamous video here.

And yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, “hashtag” is now in the 2014 Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, along with Selfie, Tweep and 147 other New Words.

While brands are still getting the hang of hashtags, they tend to change them often (as much as with every tweet) and really only get away with that because they don’t have to care if they have a follower base in the millions. But when you are hoping for outreach in the tens of thousands (a normal marketing campaign goal for most brands and agencies) then hashtag tracking and consistency becomes something of an important factor.

But don’t lose sight of how other hashtags play a role in your campaign results. It is not just your hashtag you need to track, but other hashtags that might make a difference. For instance, anything from your competitors hashtags surrounding a similar campaign to common misspellings of your hashtags.

Being able to track and consolidate as much historical and real-time hashtag data is also important. And being able to pick out major influencers (the empty vessel of a celebrity for instance; big reach, low impact) from your campaign hashtag is a primary concern for analytics down the road. Not to mention the competitive analysis with the aforementioned competitors, who most likely didn’t take all variables into account.

So remember to #InsertHashtagHere.