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As brands continue to compete for users’ attention on social media, the space is getting more and more crowded, and social platforms have become increasingly selective as to what content they will serve up to their users.

One way to jump in front of the line is to go the route of paid social. In most platforms, there are multiple ways to get exposure. Today, we’re highlighting the differences of  “boosting” or “sponsoring” organic content versus a straight-up paid social ad.

What’s the difference between a “boosted post” and paid advertising?

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The term for “boosting” will vary by platform. For example, Facebook calls it “boosting” a post, whereas LinkedIn calls it “sponsoring” a post. There’s really no difference in how it works.  Simply put, “boosting” or “sponsoring” ensures more people will see the post by putting a little money behind it.  What many people don’t realize is that simply posting on your channels does not guarantee your followers will see it in their feed.  Boosting a post does.

Boosting takes an organic post (no money behind it) that you have created, hopefully with excellent, tailored content created by you or your team, and increases the chances that your audience (and the people you promote it to) see it by paying for that privilege.

Boosted posts are easier to manage than paid ads, as they are typically a one-off post and aren’t normally part of a larger campaign. Content you may boost include a timely blog post, press release or media mention.

The drawback? Your options for audience targeting, scheduling, budgeting, and ad formats are limited. For example, boosted posts only allow you to promote the post as it organically appears on your page, whereas advertisements allow you to use formats such as carousels, or collection ads for ecommerce.

Paid Social Advertising

Paid Advertising is a larger beast to tame.  As opposed to simply putting money behind a post already in your feed, these are ads created specifically for an ad objective.  As such, paid ads are part of a larger campaign with multiple copy and graphic/video variations for testing. Think of these as fractional print ads that at one point you may have run in a magazine (although, it’s important to note that paid ads can be much more than a static image with some copy.) 

Paid ads are best when pushing a set goal or objective. These have a strong call-to-action (CTA)  and are about getting an audience to click through to your website or landing page.  Paid ads are typically one of the first layers in an integrated sales funnel.

Some instances where you may want to consider running an ad campaign instead of a simple “boost” include: 

  • Highlighting a promotional offer or a direct eCommerce push.
  • Drive registrants, downloads or leads
  • Promoting a product or service with a long decision timeline (so that we can continue to nurture them by retargeting users through other ads)

Boosting Social Posts: Best Practices

A great boosted post should feel natural in users’ feeds. If they aren’t paying close attention, they won’t know it’s an ad. Here are a few tips for getting it right:

  • Start by boosting content that is already performing well organically. This is a good indicator of what will work well on a larger scale.
  • The content should focus on engagement or awareness to widen your social media following. Content where you’re calling for leads, sign-ups, or purchase are typically best served in a traditional ad campaign.
  • Don’t spend a fortune. Spend a small amount, like $10-25. See how it performs and scale from there.
  • Be careful! With most of these platforms, once you take an organic post and promote it, you cannot modify it. Double-check that the copy provided is suitable to push to the masses.

Social Media Advertising: Best Practices

Besides boosting organic content, most social platforms have multiple ways to advertise – everything from display ads and retargeting to direct messaging. These are generally more expensive and rely on an ROI-centric objective. 

With paid ads, you can run variations of a single ad and test each to see which copy, image, and call-to-action (or combination thereof) work best. Paid ads also allow for retargeting and offer the opportunity to experiment with multiple ad formats such as display, text, video, etc. On some platforms, an ad campaign provides more granular targeting options.

If you’re new to social media advertising, here are some of our best tips:

  • Keep the copy short and sweet. Users may not be familiar with your brand quite yet, making their attention span for your content even shorter.
  • Run multiple variations of your ads. Test different headlines, body copy, calls-to-action, graphics, images and videos.  Unlike print or TV, digital ad buys can be turned on, up or off in midstream. Once you’ve gotten some results, narrow your ad set down to the best performers and put money behind these.
  • Leverage both graphics and video for best results. While video is favored by many platforms and consumers, it’s still worth testing both.
  • Be thoughtful and clear on your objective. Social media platforms design their ad algorithms to place your content in front of users likely to take a specific action. Selecting the wrong objective, like selecting a video views objective when your end goal is really to get people to visit your site, will lead to disappointing results.
  • Install the social media platform’s pixel on your site, where applicable. Not only do these pixels provide you with conversion data, you can also use them to create remarketing lists to fine-tune your social marketing efforts.

Ultimately, whether you choose to boost a post or run an advertising campaign depends on your goals. If you are trying to build brand awareness or drive engagement on a particular post, sticking with boosted posts would be advised. If you’re looking to drive conversions, then paid ads are your best solution.

 Need help? Get in touch.

If you want to expand your reach on social media, then understanding each channel’s newsfeed algorithm is a step in the right direction.  Think of each algorithm as a set of rules that the system follows when organizing content.

As digital marketing specialists, we could write a novel on the subject, but for time’s sake we’ve listed some highlights and quick tips to make you an algorithm expert. Let’s start with the social platform that has made “algorithm” a household word…

Facebook

<1% organic reach

Ahhh, trusty old Facebook. As one of the oldest social platforms (created in 2004), one can imagine the number of changes it has seen. Facebook has updated its News Feed display algorithm countless times over the past decade, but it made especially big waves with its announcement in January 2018. See our blog post about the new Facebook update for a detailed breakdown of how they are trying to bring Facebook back to ‘the people,’ but a few main takeaways include:

  • Strategically boosted posts and Facebook ads are more essential than ever.
  • ‘Meaningful Interactions’ will rank higher, another reason to create authentic, engaging content.

Instagram

~10% organic reach

You may remember that Instagram’s feed started out chronological, and then moved to an algorithm in 2016 (to the dismay of many users). Since then, the platform has added new capabilities (stories, highlights, follow tags, etc.) and recharged its algorithm to keep up with the demand for authentic content. If you’re looking to optimize content for Instagram’s current formula, here are some highlights:

  • Facebook owns Instagram: Similar to what we just covered, meaningful engagement ranks your content higher.
  • Stories matter: The algorithm takes story posts’ activity into account. Keep up those real-time updates!
  • Time matters: How fast can you respond to comments and messages? How long can you keep their eyeballs on the prize? The quicker you are and the longer they watch, the better.
  • Strategic hashtags: Remember, people can follow hashtags as well now, so consider using something “popular” that still fits your brand. At CBC, we like to create lists of relevant hashtags to have on hand for our client’s content and make additions as new ones arise.

LinkedIn

If you’re starting to feel a loss of control over when and where your content is displayed, then take solace in the fact that you still have the ability to choose “Top” versus “Recent” content in your LinkedIn homepage feed, thanks to its Sort functionality option.

LinkedIn is a great place to share company culture and industry insights, and users are automatically served Top posts, arranged by LinkedIn’s algorithm. So, consider the following if you want your content floating to the top:

  • Relevance: Tailor content to your LinkedIn audience. Always think: Do they care about this news? Is it helpful? If LinkedIn users “Hide” your post, it will negatively affect position.
  • Big surprise… engagement matters! LinkedIn will let your content hang out for a while and register any likes or comments before moving it up or down the feed. So, ask a question or pose a tip! Adding a call-to-action is always the best way to increase engagement.
  • Go beyond the newsfeed: Participate in LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your organization. Join conversations that are already happening about your industry. Share posts from other people and brands. All of this will increase your reach, thus helping your post’s initial score.
  • Be on time: Since we know LinkedIn lets your content hang in the timeline at first, you should aim to hit users at primetime. Some say 8pm is the magic hour, but check your analytics to be sure.

Twitter

Twitter’s algorithm can be a little confusing due to multiple parts, so buckle up. Twitter technically still displays all tweets in your timeline in reverse chronological order, but you might have to scroll to get there. In 2015, it began introducing such updates, and currently, you still have the option to manage timeline preferences.

There are three sections; let’s break them down:

  • Ranked Tweets: Twitter uses an algorithm to determine what is most relevant to you.
  • ICYMI – In Case You Missed It: These may also be relevant according to the algorithm, and they are from several hours or days ago.
  • Reverse Chronological: Newest on top.

And here are a few tips so your content ends up in those top two sections:

  • Broken record here… engagement matters! Consider both ends; post tweets that elicit replies, and make sure you reply back to followers.
  • If at first you DO succeed, try again: Repurpose content that has been performing well. You can check out Twitter analytics and determine which tweets were most successful.
  • Video, Video, Video: Visual content gets noticed. Videos are six times more likely to be re-tweeted.
  • Strategic Hashtags: Similar to Instagram, find specific/relevant tags that work for your brand. It can also be helpful to jump on trending hashtags.
  • Timing: Similar to LinkedIn, consider time of day so that your initial tweet receives the most eyeballs.

 

There you have it, in a large nutshell. Algorithms rule the social world, so it is important as marketers to ride the wave and dive in headfirst. Learn all you can, in order to be visible – great content should be seen. Follow the rules, just like an algorithm!

Did you know an average Instagram user misses 70% of the content in their feed? Since the implementation of feed algorithms, Instagram Stories have become an essential tactic for brands to ensure they are actually reaching their Instagram audience.

Some brands have perfected Stories and are using them to broadcast live events, share visual content, or leverage Instagram Story ads to drive site traffic. Let’s take a look at three brands who we feel have optimized their Instagram Story strategy to achieve their goals.

 

MADEWELL

The denim and apparel brand prides itself on being artful, cool, effortless, and unexpected. It comes as no surprise that its approach to Insta Stories reflects this mindset.

1. Madewell thinks about Stories in a series rather than just one image. This is an example of Madewell’s holiday gift guide, tempting the audience to click-through until the end and expose itself to more products.

 

 

2. Here the brand is adding Stories to the “Highlights” bar on its profile. This keeps the content viewable longer than the normal 24 hours and pins it to the top. A great way to create more visibility for a new collection or seasonal items.

 

3. They utilize a shop instagram link accessible via swipe-up in their Stories or in the bio. Viewers can shop their Instagram content whenever they’d like – which is a total win!

 

 

APARTMENT THERAPY

Apartment Therapy is a lifestyle blog and publisher focused on home design and décor. Its use of Stories reflects purpose in a simple, refined way.

1. Simple is always better. The simple text over the photo provides context without complicating it. Insta-addicts who are constantly tapping through their Stories don’t want content that doubles as a brain teaser. Digestible, Visual, and Informative.

 

 

2. Swipe-up for success. Through Stories, viewers have quick access to referenced web content on ApartmentTherapy.com. Other brands should be using Stories to drive traffic to their own blog content as well. Viewers are more likely to swipe up and visit the brand site when it’s suggested and easily accessible.

 

 

ANTHROPOLOGIE

Anthropologie is a women’s clothing brand built on the pillars of creativity, free spirit, and design. This is how the brand was able to stay in touch with its target audience and express that free-spirt lifestyle via Instagram Stories.

1. On its Instagram Stories, Anthropologie designs their content for the appropriate vertical specs. The creative is careful to leave space near the top or the bottom, so as not to interfere with the account icon, exit icon or sharing icon. If you don’t plan for spacing, the content looks cluttered and unappealing.

 

 

2. Time-sensitive content goes directly to Stories. In releasing its new arrivals, the brand skipped the static posts and went right for Stories. This move is an easy way to spread news to a larger audience and provide the CTA and link to shop right there.

 

 

3. Videos are distributed via Stories. Videos are a natural thumb-stopper on Instagram, encouraging the viewer to stop the mindless clicking and actually view the content. So live footage from events or vertical video footage can be great to leverage in your Stories.

At CBC, we are utilizing our Instagram Stories to showcase what makes us unique. During our recent HOUSE destination experience in Deer Valley we made sure to share our journey eating, drinking, and skiing through Park City, UT via Insta Stories. To create a story that was interesting to our Instagram audience, we curated our favorite local spots into a Deer Valley travel guide. Pictures and captions were kept simple and we applied the new font feature to make sure our text stood out.

 

 

With all the content clutter on Instagram, Stories are getting more important to leverage for your brand exposure every day. So take the time and learn how to leverage them to make sure that your content is both seen and engaging.

Have any tricks for Stories up your sleeve? Or need help with your own social media strategy? Drop us a line or tweet us @cerconebrown.

Experiential marketing is changing how brands interact with consumers by allowing for the opportunity to introduce them to products in an authentic, tactile and memorable way. In turn, this fosters lifelong relationships between brands and their consumers.

At CerconeBrownCompany, we believe that an experience can be a brand’s most valuable offering and has the power to convert a person from a one-time customer into a brand advocate.

Hiring an agency is a wise investment, as one that is successful will create, deliver and share a positive experience on behalf of your brand. But before you sign on the dotted line, review the qualities below to make sure you are selecting the ideal partnership.

Consider your company’s values

Read between the lines of the mission statement and opt for an agency with similar values to your own. Collaborating is more successful when both parties genuinely enjoy working together.

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You can’t do experiential without “experience”

Every agency will admit to spaces that are more in their areas of expertise than others. A quality agency will host a kick-off or strategy session when you first begin work together. It’s not always a deal-breaker if the agency hasn’t worked in your industry before – sometimes a group of people with a proactive, go-getter attitude with experience in getting their hands dirty for their clients is more efficient than anything else.

Creativity is a skill

You wouldn’t buy a car without reading about the reviews and expert opinions, right? It’s no different when selecting an agency. Peruse the agency’s portfolio and see how they’ve brought other brands’ creative visions to life.

For example, CBC hosts a variety of unique House Programs – an opportunity for influential journalists to immerse themselves in unforgettable brand experiences in idyllic settings.

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Communication and accessibility

We totally get it, you are passionate about your brand. The right agency will understand that and do everything they can to keep you in the loop. It is important that you work with a team that is responsive, the direct point of contact, and collaborative.

One way an agency will communicate is through consistent and formalized reporting. At CBC, we report with two different platforms: TrendKite for public relations and Brandwatch for social and digital.

 What are your goals?

If you’re looking into experiential marketing, it’s likely you have specific business objectives in mind. Whether it’s growth or overall brand amplification, make sure the agency understands your goals and is proactive about addressing them in their proposal. If you are upfront and direct about your goals, you will better identify the agency that will best fit your needs.

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Inhouse vs outsource

Why look somewhere else for an asset you might have right in front of you? An agency with a photographer, designer, and creative director in-house is a bonus because it means they have the all of the essential tools readily available. Agencies who want to outsource talent require extra time, money and resources.

Stalk on social

You know the old adage “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Check out how the agency presents itself on their own social posts – if you see a strategy or unique quality in their digital presence, that’s a good indication they will power up their client’s channels too.

For example, we at CBC are strategic in our social approach, pumping up our Twitter feed with daily industry news and coloring our Instagram feed with the happenings in our House Programs.

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There are certainly many other traits to take into consideration when picking the best experiential marketing agency. What are the qualities you look for in an agency?

Instagram has come a long way since its debut in 2010, priding itself on being a top-performing platform for mobile discovery.

And now, the beloved platform has broadened its horizons even more – it will soon allow users to purchase products directly from an image. That’s right, Instagram is joining the mobile shopping revolution. This new feature is ground breaking for brands who rely on their online sales.

Mobile shopping has become a consumer favorite, making up 30% of all e-commerce sales. In fact, it is estimated that more than 84 percent of smartphone owners use an app or web browser to view products. This is a HUGE untapped market of potential buyers who use Instagram to follow their favorite brands.

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According to Instagram, this is how shopping will work: 

  1. Each post will have a tap to view icon.
  2. When a product is tapped, a price tag will appear.
  3. If the consumer is interested, they can select to view the product details.
  4. Then there’s an option to shop now, which takes the user to the ecomm site to purchase.

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Unfortunately for those who want to jump right in, the new experience is still in its test phase. Instagram partnered up with brands like J-crewKate Spade, and Warby Parker for the beta version, gaging ease of use and depth.

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When it does go public, we at Cercone Brown are especially excited to see how brands like Garnet Hill and Stonewall Kitchen will enhance engagement with current and prospective users. Either way, our wallets are sure to be lighter.

Over the course of eight days, 20 editors, bloggers and journalists from top-tier publications attended Cercone Brown’s 11th annual Fall House in Santa Barbara.screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-2-56-04-pm

From October 16-24, attendees from publications like People, The Huffington Post, and SELF immersed themselves in the Santa Barbara County lifestyle as they lounged by the pool, explored picturesque California beaches, and participated in adventurous excursions all hosted by our brand sponsors.

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This year, brands like Buick, Miraclesuit, and Lather organized unique brand activations and experiences. The key to our success with our House Programs, we let the products speak for themselves. Buick kicked off the 2016 sessions with an iconic, self-guided road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway while Mircaclesuit hosted a pool party at the house.

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After all the excitement, Lather helped the editors unwind with facials and massages.

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Other brands like Sabra and Jackson Family Wines indulged the media influencers with delicious food and cocktails throughout their stay. They were even treated to a mixology class with blogger and author of This Girl Walks into a Bar, hosted by Bolthouse Farms.

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While Fall House is certainly fun for media influencers, it also encompasses a series of tailored experiences designed to give each brand meaningful exposure to media in a natural setting. Editors are experiencing a product in the way it is intended to be experienced – and without being clouded by the competition as each brand is offered exclusivity in its product category.

But enough about what we thought of Fall House – let’s let the attendees speak for themselves:

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Check out all of the social buzz from Fall House online at #CBCfallhouse.

Instagram and Snapchat are neck-and-neck in the race to win loyalty of social enthusiasts around the world. Whether you’ve naturally opted for the stream of content bites that come with Snapchat or the picture-perfect wanderlust reality filling your Instagram feed, the time may have come to finally pick your poison.

On August 2nd, Instagram launched Instagram Stories, an exciting feature with strange familiarities to Snapchat. With over 400 million active users, we are psyched that one of the most brand-friendly social networking services is tapping into the ‘real-time’ video trend. Instagram is positioning their Stories feature as the solution to the excess posting that comes with Snapchat and other apps that promote video. Since the Stories live in a separate space on Instagram, it makes it possible to post without over saturating your followers’ feeds.

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So what does all of this mean for your brand? So glad you asked.

One platform, no worries

If you already have a strong presence on Instagram, the Stories feature gives you the opportunity to post more playful content more frequently – without being forced to build a whole new audience.

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Keep your influencers close and your users closer

Instagram is a buzzing hub of established social influencers in every sector. With the Stories feature, you can maintain your partnerships AND create more complex video campaigns for both audiences. The cherry on top? Spontaneous and frequent content feels more authentic, and this authenticity will likely attract more user interaction and brand loyalty.

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Reach your users the unpaid way

When you post a story, your account will show up at the forefront of your users’ feeds with a colorful ring around it. This top-of-feed, top-of-mind strategy opens up the coveted door to place organic content in laps of your users.

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Just be careful not to flood their feeds with low-quality content!

 

Disappearing content

Micro campaigns, flash contests, experimental content – there is no limit to the spirited approach you can take to Instagram Stories. The 24-hour deadline means you can test the waters of different types of posts, and then roll them out on your regular feed if they perform well.

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Stories are temporary, but the fans are forever

There are no “likes” or “comments” with Instagram Stories. Your users can only respond by sending a private message to your account, which is amazing for beefing up brand-client relationships and gaining private feedback.

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Will Instagram Stories last? Or will it suffer the same fate as the channels’ other tried-and-failed features like Bolt? Our secret hope? That Instagram hops on the facial recognition game. Snap-fiends love their flower crown filter.

Just off the coast of southern Massachusetts there is a 14-mile island with beautiful beaches, fresh local seafood, and of course, Nantucket Reds. One of the most popular New England tourist attractions, thousands of people come to see the all of the summer wonders that Nantucket Island has to offer.

For the nearly 30 media who attended CBC’s 11th annual Summer House, a trip to Nantucket translated to a coveted time to kick back, relax, and divulge in a weekend escape from everyday life.

Summer House, the flagship of our CBC House Programs, took place on June 14-16, 17-19, and 21-23 on Nantucket Island at the Heidi-Ho Property. Editors and bloggers from a variety of lifestyle publications including Men’s Health, Oprah Magazine, Family Circle, Self, and more spent the weekend enjoying organized activities set up by the CBC team.

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Some of the newest and hottest products were featured at the weekend getaway – from Wonderful Pistachios to Schwinn Bikes, from Mighty Squirrel to Buick. Editors and bloggers did what they do best: share their experiences of these products on their Instagram pages.

 

 

 

 

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lisaelaineh Life is good. #cbcsummerhouse #schwinn #nantucket

 

 

 

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The weekend was packed with activities that ranged from experiencing the products and brands firsthand to exploring the hidden gems of Nantucket. Upon the editors’ arrival, they enjoyed a Scwhinn Beach Bike Ride that led them to a Wonderful Pistachios Cocktail Hour. After their first day of activities, they enjoyed a dinner at Nantucket famous BYOB restaurant, Black Eyed Susan’s.

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Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 2.52.30 PMThe following morning included a GM breakfast followed by a Buick Scavenger Hunt, during which the editors drove around Nantucket to complete the list of items on the hunt. After their scavenger hunt they indulged in a relaxing bike ride and picnic provided by Sabra. The editors spent the night with a Miraclesuit Boat Cruise and Clambake around Nantucket. The last day in Nantucket would finish off with a Vital Proteins Smoothie breakfast and a Barre workout at Studio Nantucket.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend for these editors and the CBC team. Scroll through all the images and experiences these bloggers shared on Instagram with #cbcsummerhouse.

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There’s something to be said about a weekend getaway to America’s wine region, Sonoma County. Breathtaking countryside, endless vineyards, the finest farm-to-table cuisine, all tucked into the rolling hills of Northern California. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and unplug – or to simply indulge in amazing food and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

For 24 editors spanning a variety of lifestyle publications, this blissful vacation daydream became a reality during CBC’s Cooking Cottage experience from April 29-May 4.

The CBC Cooking Cottage is part of our House Program series and was born from the desire to provide editors and bloggers the opportunity to engage with a variety of brands in a tangible, meaningful way. Representatives from publications like Good Housekeeping, Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Women’s Health, and more attended the organized oasis and left with a weekend experience they won’t forget.

Each day featured a new set of socially-engaging activities, each hosted by a different brand. The agenda included events like a wine and cheese at Arrowood Vineyard with President Cheese, an exclusive poolside yoga class with Clif Bar, tours of two Jackson Family Wines vineyards, a Pinot and Potatoes Paint Night with Alexia, and many delicious meals in between.

The Cooking Cottage experience gave participants an enchanting taste of the rich Sonoma culture, as well as an insider’s look at highly-coveted brands like Omaha SteaksSambazonStonewall Kitchen, and Simply Organic.

But don’t just take our word for it. Scroll through the amazing photos posted by our guests on the hashtag #CBCcottage on Instagram.

Until next year, Cooking Cottage!

There’s something to be said about a weekend getaway to America’s wine region, Sonoma County. Breathtaking countryside, endless vineyards, the finest farm-to-table cuisine, all tucked into the rolling hills of Northern California. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and unplug – or to simply indulge in amazing food and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

For 24 editors spanning a variety of lifestyle publications, this blissful vacation daydream became a reality during CBC’s Cooking Cottage experience from April 29-May 4.

The CBC Cooking Cottage is part of our House Program series and was born from the desire to provide editors and bloggers the opportunity to engage with a variety of brands in a tangible, meaningful way. Representatives from publications like Good Housekeeping, Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Women’s Health, and more attended the organized oasis and left with a weekend experience they won’t forget.

Each day featured a new set of socially-engaging activities, each hosted by a different brand. The agenda included events like a wine and cheese at Arrowood Vineyard with President Cheese, an exclusive poolside yoga class with Clif Bar, tours of two Jackson Family Wines vineyards, a Pinot and Potatoes Paint Night with Alexia, and many delicious meals in between.

The Cooking Cottage experience gave participants an enchanting taste of the rich Sonoma culture, as well as an insider’s look at highly-coveted brands like Omaha Steaks, Sambazon, Stonewall Kitchen, and Simply Organic.

But don’t just take our word for it. Scroll through the amazing photos posted by our guests on the hashtag #CBCcottage on Instagram.

Until next year, Cooking Cottage!

Take a picture, edit it with a cool filter, and post it for all your friends to see your retro, high fidelity lifestyle. AdWeek has dubbed this the “Instagram Effect:” the filtered, structured, “Valencia” way of seeing life through Instagram’s oh-so deliberate lens. The impact has not only affected Instagram’s laymen users, it’s also had the same effect on brands.

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Brands are starting to realize the benefits of moving away from their more traditional, “perfect” photography for campaigns. Instead, they choose the more candid Instagram platform (however “filtered” it may be), which allows consumers to relate to the not-so-perfect portrayal of their product.

As industry veterans take cues from the contemporary social media landscape and its rampant transparency, they’re realizing that consumers are hyper-conscious of overly staged photography. The days of fake smiles and meticulously posed quasi-families eating cereal covered in Elmer’s Glue “milk” are perhaps over…

One of the many brands hopping on the bandwagon is Taco Bell. Their creative team, as of late, has focused more on realistic moments in time—such as friends eating tacos at the beach together—rather than overproduced, heavily styled food-tography. This tactic has great potential to ignite ethnographic relatability in Instagram-using consumers and, likewise, a touch of lifestyle envy and aspiration.

This sort of authenticity in advertising has become a very big part of the evolution of the new ad and marketing world. And as a social media platform, Instagram has become one of the top sites for major brands looking to capitalize upon this trend, allowing agencies to move away from traditional designs in favor of the very interface(s) their consumers use most.

So what makes an effective marketing photo in today’s Instagram world? Perhaps a simple shot of your food, edited with the Hudson filter, sharpened, brightened, structured and cropped. Just like the normal, consumer Instagram-er. Simple, on-brand, honest, and natural.

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In 2008, Barack Obama won what came to be known as the “Facebook Election,” partly due to his campaign’s innovative use of social media. His opponent, John McCain, opted to stay off Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels, which may come to mark the last time in U.S. History that a presidential candidate decides against using social media.

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In the upcoming 2016 election, presidential candidates are focusing on social media more than ever before. Campaigns are even breaking ground on new platforms like Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Vine. Hillary Clinton, for example, is a front-runner in the democratic primary polls as well as in social media statistics. The Clinton Camp is extremely active online, and they have employed creative tactics to gain publicity and promote Hillary in a benevolent light.

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Recently, Humans of New York, a Facebook account followed by 14 million people posted a photo of a young, teary-eyed boy. The caption quoted the roughly nine-year-old boy expressing his fear of being disliked and rejected growing up as a homosexual. Within a couple hours, in an exemplary move to engage her social following on the basis of her campaign-relevant ideals, Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page had left a comment on the picture offering powerful words of encouragement for the boy:

“Prediction from a grown-up: Your future is going to be amazing. You will surprise yourself with what you’re capable of and the incredible things you go on to do. Find the people who love and believe in you – there will be lots of them. -H”

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Consider Donald Trump as another example. He has faced criticism for his unfiltered comments on Mexican immigrants and on John McCain’s military service. It is perplexing that Trump chooses to be so outspokenly opinionated when some of his unconventional views generate animosity. However, it is exactly this trait, the stark candidness of Donald Trump, which makes him dominant as a presidential candidate on social media.

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Trump is a powerhouse on Twitter, because he uses the website as it is intended; he tweets what he thinks exactly when he thinks it. Donald maximizes user engagement by avoiding glossy, carefully worded posts and instead tweeting jaw-dropping proclamations. Trump unapologetically broadcasts his passionate and controversial opinions, generating publicity with a style never before seen from a leading presidential candidate.

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Social media has transformed the way Americans can interact with politicians. Voters now have the opportunity to examine presidential candidates from more platforms than ever before. Hopefully, these new perspectives will help us decide whose leadership we truly believe in before it comes time to cast our vote.

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – President John F. Kennedy, Rice University, 1962

In the 53 years since Kennedy’s legendary speech, NASA did indeed send men to the moon and completed various other missions, from Hubble to the ISS. However, public engagement with NASA has waxed and waned since the glory days of 60s space exploration, what with the agency’s Congressional budgeting debates, occasional but detrimental disappointments, and even questions of its fundamental merit and benefit to the nation.

NASA took a great leap in 2007, however, and forayed into another kind of dark unknown: social media. It joined Twitter that year as @NASA and Instagram somewhat later in 2013 with the same handle. The photos on all accounts are so stunning and the captions so detailed, that there is something for people with all levels of space enthusiasm, from scientist, to enthusiast, to photography fan.

Yesterday, July 14, 2015, at 7:49 AM, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft successfully executed a Flyby of Pluto. This is, by all accounts, a milestone for the U.S., NASA, humanity, and is certainly an “other thing” that President Kennedy mentioned: New Horizons flew more than 3 billion miles and 9 years with the mission of snapping photos of dwarf-planet Pluto.

NASA stepped up their social media involvement in accordance with the event, sharing various photos, stats, videos, and quotes: the spacecraft has its own Twitter account, @NASANewHorizons, and the event has its own trending hashtag, #PlutoFlyby. Instagram and NASA even partnered up to ensure that the first publicly-viewed photo from the Flyby was shared on NASA’s account an hour before it was released on the agency website.

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This mission, more than any other, exemplifies NASA as a public fascination once again—complete with a refreshing and conversational personality, far removed from any stuffy impression it gave off in the past.

Some highlights of @NASA’s #PlutoFlyby social media strategy:

With #PlutoFlyby, NASA took a monumental and highly technical event, and molded it into something interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable for the entire world. In a time when celebrities and tabloid obsessions draw the public into their phones, NASA took digital and managed to not only engage us, but make us look out and back up towards the stars, just as we did in 1962.

That’s what I’d call social media savvy.

Be sure to click here for an infographic on #PlutoFlyby, and here or here for more detailed summaries on what the mission means for us.

More images just arrived yesterday from New Horizons; stay tuned to all NASA accounts for updates.

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With a constantly growing fan base, Instagram has continued to find new and exciting ways to keep up with its ever-developing consumer. Looking ahead, companies must recognize the importance of having a strong presence on “the gram” so they can utilize its newest features to the best of their abilities.

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A recent trend in many companies’ Instagram profiles is the so-called visual strategy of “insta-tiling.” Profiles feature photos in a mosaic-style grid that, together, make one larger image. Each individual piece of the puzzle usually has different bits of information, providing more detail than a single post would. Posting nine images instead of just one also provokes viewers to further explore what the brand’s profile has to offer. [Source] What do you think about this strategy’s effectiveness? Are you more prone to click-through when you have nine photos to choose from?

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Jumping on the Advertising Bandwagon

On Tuesday, the company announced it would make yet another monumental change to its mobile app. Instagram now has plans to open up users’ news feeds to all types of advertisers. From the global fashion brand to the corner boutique in the user’s area, users will be able to see it all by this fall.

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In addition to the wider variety of advertisers, Instagram will also be testing a new “shop-now” button. This e-commerce link will allow users to move directly from the image to a page where they can purchase the featured item. Companies like Banana Republic have already taken advantage of this new update. [Source]

One can only hope that with the addition of more advertisements, users’ feeds will not become cluttered with “Click Here for Free Coupons” as so many Facebook news feeds have now become. In an interview with the NY Times, Instagram’s global head of business and brand development ensured fans, “Visual storytelling for brands has more resonance… But we want to make sure the ads [you] see are for things that matter to [you].” We agree, sir. We’d like for our Instagram content to matter to us, too.

 

 

 

 

Another week, another Facebook API update that affects privacy and, therefore, marketing.

Just so we’re on the same page here, APIs (application programming interfaces) are like secret tunnels that allow one application or platform to share information with another. (For example, you can post to Facebook via the Instagram app.) For today’s digital marketer, keeping track of these relationships is key for social channel management.

Facebook is constantly evolving, and claims to be prioritizing users over advertisers. Over the past few months, the company made a few API updates that could cause a little backlash from brands, but we think they’ll lead to a more engaged user experience in the long run.

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  • Last November, Facebook banned like-gated Facebook pages, encouraging a more organic brand “like” process. While there are still a few ways to procure page likes such as tabs, apps and advertising, this gives users a chance to look over the brand before liking, rather than forcing a shallow fan.
  • In the March/April timeframe, Facebook updated how it measures audience data and how page likes are counted for businesses. For example, they removed memorialized and voluntarily deactivated accounts from business pages’ like counts. While some were disappointed about their drop in followers, this ensures that data is consistent and genuine.
  • A few weeks ago, Facebook locked down their Login and Graph APIs, giving users the ability to choose what data outside apps can read or use when they first access the app. Ideally, this puts users’ minds at ease regarding who is stalking their birthday, or who is checking out their friends’ info.

Facebook discovered that users didn’t like a social media platform where likes were purchased and user data was sneakily pulled, and they did something about it. So –what do you think about Facebook’s “people first” movement? What do you want to see next? (Perhaps this upcoming newsfeed algorithm change?)

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