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Advertising Analytics Brand Marketing Branding Content Digital Marketing Facebook Influencers Instagram Marketing ROI Social Media Technology

If Instagram Likes Go Away, It’s the Beginning of the End for Influencers

Late last week, a TechCrunch story made the rounds on Twitter that Instagram was considering removing the likes count from organic feed posts. Jane Manchun Wong shared screen shots that indicated she was part of a test that was evaluating this concept.

Per the screen shot, Instagram said: “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get.”

That sounds benevolent, and it aligns with all of the studies that suggest social media is stressing people out. But as is seemingly the case with everything else involving Facebook/Instagram changes, the ulterior motive probably boils down to one thing.

Money.

Consider this: The first thing any marketer looks at when evaluating an Instagram post, feed or influencer is engagement rate, a quick measurement of how many people, as a percentage of a feed’s overall following, like or comment on a post. If you can’t tell who’s got engagement and who doesn’t, it makes working with an influencer far less appealing. 

It also becomes more likely that spends once earmarked for influencers will instead become direct ad buys with the platform itself.  Measuring the true ROI of influencer marketing is hard enough. Removing critical data from the equation would only exacerbate this problem.

Estimates say the Instagram Influencer industry is already worth $2-5 billion annually, and will become a $10 billion industry by 2020. Facebook currently doesn’t see a dime of that market. But a major change to Instagram’s platform like this would quickly derail this growth and presumably start to redirect these spends to Zuckerberg’s coffers instead. 

If like counts do go away, what becomes of Instagram Influencers? If they’re not already looking to conquer new territory, they should be. Short-from video sharing network TikTok is probably the most obvious landing spot, and Facebook recently launched “Lasso,” a TikTok competitor. Anyone who’s serious about being an influencer has a vested interest in skating to where the puck is going to be, and taking their followers with them.

The question is, will Instagram take this drastic step? I think they’ll keep it in their back pocket for a while. But it feels inevitable.

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Advertising Apple Brand Marketing Branding Content Digital Marketing Facebook Influencers Instagram iPhone Journalism Mobile Social Media Twitter

Instagram, Tom Sawyer, The Terminator and Don Draper

I’m almost convinced Facebook staged Wednesday’s all-day near-blackout on purpose.

If Instagram is still down by the time you’re reading this, then you’ve certainly got a few extra minutes to burn, so do me a favor. Read Chapter 2 of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where Mark Twain explained social media marketing all the way back in 1884.

Oh great, you’re back. More on Tom Sawyer in a moment.

The blackout was devastating. Lindsay Lohan couldn’t take it, requesting that Instagram contact her. The lower-case, no punctuation request/demand was softened by a “please,” but she seemed to mean business.

The Fat Jewish (no really, that’s a popular influencer’s nom de guerre on social media) wondered what would happen if the ‘Gram never returned. Joking about Instagram models going unemployed was low-hanging fruit, knowing he’d garner tons of “engagement” when people clapped-back at him, asking where he’d go to steal content.

Others wondered if Elizabeth Warren had already broken up Big Tech.

Everybody was talking about it on Twitter, since it was the only major platform operating at the time. (Sorry, Snapchat.)

Make no mistake, the prolonged Instagram blackout was a cultural event. It was bigger than Beto O’Rourke confirming his presidential run (maybe push that back a day, strategy team?), The Bachelor Finale recaps or Donald Trump grounding faulty 737s.

The visceral, unhinged reaction to the longest blackout in Facebook’s history was a depressing confirmation of what we’ve long since already accepted: our phones own us, and it’s rapidly getting worse. It’s a runaway train, and the distracted conductor’s not looking at the tracks ahead.

The alarming chart below made the rounds on Twitter two weeks ago. It’s no coincidence that the spike in pedestrian fatalities, which dropped consistently from 1990-2008, started climbing again in 2009, just two years after the introduction of the iPhone in January 2007. While the simultaneous proliferation of SUVs certainly plays an important role in this chart (heavier vehicles with more force, more horsepower and higher carriages creating deadlier impacts to the torso), phones monopolizing our attention both inside and outside of the vehicle are, without question, an irresistible force.

This chart is truly tragic. The “Don’t Drink and Drive” message we were bombarded with since the late 1980s made a protracted but significant impact over a 20-year period. Sadly, all of that work has basically been undone in half the time. Our smartphone addiction is Exhibit A.

The machines are literally killing us, and Skynet isn’t even self-aware yet. Or is it?

Maybe that’s why Mark Zuckerberg reportedly has a secret escape hatch under his office. So he can slither out of Menlo Park when Judgment Day is upon us and the machines have no use for us.

They’re already messing with us.Social media platforms are engineered to create psychological cravings. So what do you do for news, information or entertainment when you can’t get on Facebook or Instagram? Tun on the TV? Go to your local newspaper website?

What’s the URL for that again? (“Nevermind – what’s new on Netflix?”)

Journalists didn’t seem to mind Facebook and Instagram taking a siesta. After all, Twitter drives their relevance, and to a lesser degree, referral traffic. When actual news happens, people find out first on Twitter. But wouldn’t it be nice if it was 2005 again, when people talked to each other at dinner, and you had to type in www.bostonglobe.com or www.sfchronicle.com to find out what’s really happening?

https://twitter.com/timothyorourke/status/1105896714026639360?s=11

The replies to this tweet were fascinating.

For one, people don’t want to pay for content. They’d rather be the content. (“@OneSlowDude” is an interesting handle, all things considered.)

Dear @OneSlowDude: If it’s free, you’re the product, brother.

Journalists rely on those subscriptions (that you don’t want to pay for) to feed their families. After all, who is going to work for free?

Henry Apple (no relation to Tim Apple, at least as far as I know) certainly isn’t willing to work for free. But guess what? Everybody on social media is. Zuckerberg must have read Chapter 2 of Tom Sawyer, because he’s convinced a billion people to whitewash his fence every month.

But back to the replies:

“The local news is fake, but Instagram ain’t!”

Perhaps you want more world news, and don’t care about what’s going on in your own backyard.

https://twitter.com/yesiamalicia_/status/1105968084735672320

World events are important. Alicia makes a point. Then again, what if the only news worth sharing is the news that hey, Facebook and Instagram are down?


It’s been a tough year for Facebook. Basically every story that’s come out in the last year has been negative, and now politicians want to break them up. They’ve lost control of their own narrative, which reminds me of the old Don Draper axiom of marketing.

Perhaps a little reminder from Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp was just what the doctor ordered. “You love us, and you can’t live without us.”

Finally, I’ll leave you with some Mark Twain:

“Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it—namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

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Advertising Brand Marketing Branding Digital Marketing Marketing Photography Storytelling

Chasing snow at Zion National Park: How to market a unique experience

Here’s a dirty little secret of marketing: When you get a “limited-time offer,” it’s generally because sales are slow, and not because quantities are actually running out, or in short supply.

Marketing is all about creating urgency. In most cases, though, that urgency is manufactured. Or it’s totally imaginary.

Sometimes, however, opportunities pop up that have a legitimately limited shelf-life, or are truly rare. So you either have to act now or miss out.

This week, I got an email from a photography tour company that I’d used before, alerting me to a rare snowfall in Zion National Park. The email featured a few amazing pictures of Zion under snow and the following text:

“Alright everyone, this is the week to be in Zion and Bryce if you’ve ever wanted photos of this area under snow.  The combo of red rock and fresh snow produces vibrant, poppy images of this landscape.  Living in the area for the past 9 years, this is the wettest and coldest stretch of time I’ve experienced in the winter time.  We usually get one or two winter storms a year that produces snow that sticks in Zion, and within one, maybe two days it has melted away.”

The email continued, telling customers that even if they didn’t purchase a tour, they should make the effort to get to the park to see it for themselves.

“Even if you don’t join us for a tour, we HIGHLY recommend visiting this week for a multitude of days to be able to experience this event.  To be clear, to have this much snow, for this long in Zion is extremely rare.  Get it while it’s good.”

On the surface, the email was selling a photo class, but it was really selling an experience. And quite frankly, this email sold me instantly. As a photography enthusiast, I’ve been to Zion before, but hadn’t had the opportunity to shoot in these types of conditions. With winter winding down, it was too good to pass up. I had to go. My next chance to capture this type of moment may not come for another year, or perhaps much longer.

So I made the short drive to Zion Thursday night and woke up at 5 AM for a 6 AM excision into the park to capture sunrise and morning light around the park on a guided one-on-one photo tour. It was extremely cold, which I was prepared for, but the beauty of Zion under snow was something for which I was not completely prepared.

It was breathtaking.

The tour itself was outstanding, as my guide Seth took me to a great spot to capture the morning light of sunrise, and had planned out several options for both the morning and sunset sessions.

The day was a memorable, unique experience, and I’m very happy with the results of the photos I captured. The day was well worth the price of admission. I’ve now got a batch of amazing photos that captured the memory of seeing one of America’s best national parks under a blanket of snow.

I really appreciated spirit of the email alert. It provided valuable information, alerting me to a truly exclusive opportunity, and they didn’t hard-sell me. Instead, they appealed to my passion for photography and the desire to capture a rare moment, and provided a service even if I didn’t make a purchase. Seth just wanted his customers to know that they shouldn’t miss a rare opportunity to capture Zion this week. I really appreciated that.

That’s how you build and maintain a relationship with a customer. I’m already thinking about when I can sign up for another photography class.

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Advertising Analytics Brand Marketing Branding Conferences Digital Marketing Influencers Instagram Internet Marketing ROI Social Media Uncategorized

Speaking on Instagram Influencers at Digital Summit Phoenix this week

I’m looking forward to speaking Tuesday morning at Digital Summit Phoenix, where I’ll present on Instagram Influencers. I’ll share research and insights from Instagram Influencers about how they like to work with brands, and teach you how to spot fake followings.

For more details, check out the session description below.

Need a speaker at your next digital marketing conference? Let’s chat.


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Advertising Analytics Brand Marketing Branding Digital Marketing E-Commerce Internet Marketing Mobile Social Media Technology Uncategorized

Burger King’s unique Location-Based #WhopperDetour promotion gives customers a reason to download app

Burger King made news this week by offering up its iconic Whopper sandwich for just one cent on their mobile app. It’s an incredible deal. 

The catch is, you can only get this deal once, and you can only get it at… McDonalds???

In a clever technology/PR stunt, Burger King’s #WhopperDetour promotion geofenced about 14,000 McDonalds locations in the U.S. inside its mobile app. When users get to within 600 feet of a McDonalds, they can activate the one-cent promotion in the Burger King app, then head to the nearest BK to get the deal.

I’m not a big fast food guy myself, but I am fascinated by mobile marketing, and it was a unique promotion that leveraged technology. So I downloaded the Burger King app and tried it out this week to see how seamless the experience would be. And hey, can you argue with a $0.01 Whopper? 

I did a little research in Google Maps to find a Burger King that was near a McDonalds in Las Vegas, and found one about 5 minutes away from me. So I made the drive to Micky Ds.

As I pulled up next door, I re-opened the app and clicked on the promotion. It immediately confirmed that I’d unlocked my #WhopperDetour deal, and then provided me with a link to navigate to a nearby Burger King. 

So far, so good! It then asked whether I wanted Drive-Thru, Dine-In or Take Out. After that, I started to make my order, and grabbed my $0.01 Whopper, and added some chicken tenders and a drink. Total cost: $2.49. Not too shabby.

Except the kicker was coming, and I assumed it would be around the corner: Burger King wanted my data. This was not entirely surprising, but as a new user of the app who downloaded it just a few minutes ago, I will say, it almost caused me to abandon ship. 

After all, why not just have a Big Mac here instead? I’m already 600 feet from McDonalds…

Quite frankly, this is where the promotion may backfire for Burger King. Some people just aren’t willing to give away their data in exchange for a “free” Whopper. The marketer in me was willing to do it to evaluate the promotion, but otherwise, I would have likely just hit the road, or enjoyed a full-price Big Mac and called it a day.

So I started the sign-up process, and hey, there’s a Facebook Connect option. One click. Let’s try that.

Not so fast!

Facebook wouldn’t log me in. So I had to sign up, with a name, email, zip code, password and my credit card info on the next screen. 

(Apparently you can’t just drop a penny on the counter for your Whopper. I had one ready to go.)

Finally, I was able to complete my order. 

Time to drive to Burger King! 

The restaurant I’d picked was about 5 minutes away. The app gives you a direct link to Apple Maps to get you turn-by-turn directions to the store. Nice and easy. Well done, BK.

The app also gives you an hour to go complete the mission, and there’s a countdown clock in the bottom of the screen to let you know how much time you’ve got left to cash in on the deal.

When you get to Burger King, you check in with the red button, which charges your card and lets the store know you’re actually going to pick up your meal.

As I walked in the store, I hit the button, and seconds later, a receipt automatically printed at the counter. 

My app confirmed on screen that Order 86 was being prepared. “We’re preparing your order now. Please give your name to a BK Staff member and let them know you placed a mobile order.”

I told them I had ordered on the app, and the cashier told me it would be a few minutes.

Finally, mission accomplished.

Overall, it’s a clever promotion, and it certainly generated plenty of media attention. It got me to download the app out of curiosity, and spend $2.49 for a quick meal. The location aspect of the promotion worked seamlessly, but the logistics of setting up an account in the app slowed the process down quite a bit, and as I said earlier, almost made me abandon the whole thing, and even made me consider eating at their competitor’s store.

While I appreciate their desire for data collection, in this case, it may have been more effective to just allow customers to claim the deal, and pay however they wanted to when they get to Burger King.

The promotion ends on December 12, and apparently, you can only cash in on it once. According to CNN, 50,000 people have already redeemed the promotion. 

While it’s a little wonky from an execution standpoint, it got people talking about Burger King this week, and it gave customers a reason to download their app, which is not easy to do. Mobile apps have to solve problems and complete tasks to earn a spot on consumer’s home screen.

At least for one day, Burger King got their app on my phone. That’s half the battle.