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What Your Brand Can Do To Win the Instagram Game

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What Your Brand Can Do To Win the Instagram Game

Instagram virality can be a natural byproduct for marketers who mix an understanding of the algorithm’s desires with a devotion to the customer-content experience.

Instagram crawls content to determine how popular, valuable, and relevant posts are for an audience segment or individual. Thus, the algorithm is in control of the content that surfaces for Instagram users.

Given how much Instagram controls, what is a content marketer to do? It turns out you can make a big difference as I’ve learned growing my New Earth Knowledge project to 60,000 followers in a little over two years.

@Instagram controls its algorithm, but that doesn’t mean #content marketers are powerless, says @mjbecker_via @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

It boils down to two things: eliciting your followers to act and optimizing your content for discovery.

Elicit desired behavior among your followers

I’ve identified a five S approach to address what the Instagram algorithm rewards:

  • Speed – quantity of actions immediately after publishing

A flood of likes, comments, and shares within the first hour or two of the post going live indicates value and popularity to the algorithm. Prime your audience to react with a message on your story. Announce your scheduled post before its release. Set expectations to prompt a view and reaction. Consistency can be your best friend here.

  • Story shares – how many people feature your content on their feeds

You can do a few things to increase story shares and sends. 1. Include a call to action asking others to share in the caption. 2. Ask other accounts targeting your audience, particularly those with at least 50,000 followers, to share your post to their story for 24 hours and offer to do the same for them.

  • Sends – how many people send your post to friends

Make a simple ask. Just write something like this: “Send this to someone who really needs to hear it.”

  • Saves – how many people hit the ribbon to archive your post in their library

There’s no shortcut to getting people to save your post other than to create such knowledge-infused and/or entertaining content that motivates viewers to file your post in their saved folder so they can easily come back to it.

  • Social engagement – comments, replies, and likes

Right after posting, add a comment that includes information you didn’t share within the caption. Make sure you respond to every comment left on your post. This simple task doubles your total comment volume. You also can ask others to tag friends within the comments (e.g., “tag the most important person in your life) and pin the most popular comment to the top.

I don’t have an official source or citation for this conclusion, but my experience makes me think it’s likely true: Algorithms like to see a range of sentiment within the comments of posts. While you don’t want to instigate or become combative, you can be witty, curious, and provoking.

Instagram revolves around the 5S’s: speed, shares, sends, saves, and social engagement, says @mjbecker_via @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

To understand how a post is performing, tap “view insights” beneath an existing post. The revealed metrics show what the algorithm is designed to favor – likes, comments, shares, and cumulative engagement.

Image showing number of users who have liked, commented, sent, and saved an Instagram post.

While the five S approach is helpful, it’s not all you can do. AI-driven algorithms monitor actions users take on a post. For example:

  • Are people zooming in on your post and on a particular area of the image?
  • Are people taking screenshots of the post?
  • How long are individuals staying on your post?
  • Are people pausing in stream to look at your post?
  • Are users extending comments to read the thread?
  • Are users clicking to view your profile from your post stream, story, or a comment you made elsewhere?
  • Are users tapping “others” to see who else has liked the post?

You can be strategic with your content by designing it with these not-so-well-known goals in mind. For example, people love to zoom in on posts that include people (specifically influencers or celebrities) and places (the more scenic, the better).

Be strategic in designing your @Instagram #content so people zoom in, take screenshots, view your profile, and more, says @mjbecker_via @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

To encourage longer consumption times, create an experience instead of just a picture post. Listicle-style carousel posts or mini-stories that warrant four to five posts for the price of one indicate a big reveal at the end, prompting users to keep viewing. Lengthier captions also can be helpful for this.

An Instagram post showing and image of an older man sitting down with a lengthier caption.

While you focus on how to involve your audience to make your posts more attractive to Instagram, you also can take set up your content to be structurally attractive, too.


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Optimize page and posts for discovery

Instagram is more likely to boost posts to the top of users’ feeds and bump stories to the front of the line that capitalize on the technical best practices. Here are three to consider:

  • Use best post size for engagement. Posts that take up more of the screen work the best. The ideal ratio is 1,080 by 1,350 pixels (4:5 ratio). The image is slightly longer vertically than horizontally and takes up the whole screen in the feed.

1648550710 727 What Your Brand Can Do To Win the Instagram Game

Square posts draw the user’s eye away from your content and entice them to keep scrolling to a handle’s content that is more readily visible.

  • Time your post for engagement. Statusbrew reports the best time to post on Instagram for engagement is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays in your primary audience’s time zone. Of course, you may realize a different best time based on your audience, industry, purpose, etc. Pay attention to your engagement analytics to help inform your timing decision.
  • Publish at ideal frequency. Most major brands post at least once per day to remain top of mind. While consistency is more important than how much you post, aim for a five times per week cadence.

From a content discovery standpoint, posts also are best positioned to be found by wider audiences using tags and special demarcations. Tactics to employ include:

  • Use hashtags, emojis, and unique fonts. I like to use a fancy text generator to stylize and spruce up insights in my captions. Emojis add flavor, while hashtags add context and discoverability.
  • Add alt text for organic search and tag others to be found by similar audiences. Include a keyword or two to your alt text just as you would for blog or web imagery. You can also tag relevant larger accounts in your posts. Both tactics will help extend your reach.

An image showing an Instagram post using relevant alt text.

  • Add a location, CTA, shoppable component, or other details. Additional relevant information in a post helps the algorithm understand who you are, where you are, who you’re targeting, and what you want those people to do. All that data increases the odds that it promotes your post more often than those who use the spray-and-pray method, hoping to hit it big.

Do your own promotion

Lastly, in addition to urging followers to help amplify your Instagram content, you can do the same. Among the direct promotional activities:

  • Share your posts by direct message with other accounts. Right after you post, use the send arrow to mass deliver (individual) messages to others likely to engage with that content.
  • Cross-promote by sharing the posts on Facebook and embedding them on your blog. Post a direct link to your Instagram post in relevant Facebook groups. A post’s embed code used on a (ideally high-ranking) website also can serve as a vote of confidence to Instagram.

Game the ’gram

The Instagram algorithm doesn’t exist to help your content blow up just because it’s good content. Rather, its goal is to show individuals what they’re most likely to be captivated in the moment based on their behavior throughout the day and to keep them immersed as long as possible within the platform.

By keeping that in mind – and actively working to address that understanding – your Instagram content will have a better chance of getting discovered and growing in popularity.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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YouTube Ad Specs, Sizes, and Examples [2024 Update]

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YouTube Ad Specs, Sizes, and Examples

Introduction

With billions of users each month, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and top website for video content. This makes it a great place for advertising. To succeed, advertisers need to follow the correct YouTube ad specifications. These rules help your ad reach more viewers, increasing the chance of gaining new customers and boosting brand awareness.

Types of YouTube Ads

Video Ads

  • Description: These play before, during, or after a YouTube video on computers or mobile devices.
  • Types:
    • In-stream ads: Can be skippable or non-skippable.
    • Bumper ads: Non-skippable, short ads that play before, during, or after a video.

Display Ads

  • Description: These appear in different spots on YouTube and usually use text or static images.
  • Note: YouTube does not support display image ads directly on its app, but these can be targeted to YouTube.com through Google Display Network (GDN).

Companion Banners

  • Description: Appears to the right of the YouTube player on desktop.
  • Requirement: Must be purchased alongside In-stream ads, Bumper ads, or In-feed ads.

In-feed Ads

  • Description: Resemble videos with images, headlines, and text. They link to a public or unlisted YouTube video.

Outstream Ads

  • Description: Mobile-only video ads that play outside of YouTube, on websites and apps within the Google video partner network.

Masthead Ads

  • Description: Premium, high-visibility banner ads displayed at the top of the YouTube homepage for both desktop and mobile users.

YouTube Ad Specs by Type

Skippable In-stream Video Ads

  • Placement: Before, during, or after a YouTube video.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Vertical: 9:16
    • Square: 1:1
  • Length:
    • Awareness: 15-20 seconds
    • Consideration: 2-3 minutes
    • Action: 15-20 seconds

Non-skippable In-stream Video Ads

  • Description: Must be watched completely before the main video.
  • Length: 15 seconds (or 20 seconds in certain markets).
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Vertical: 9:16
    • Square: 1:1

Bumper Ads

  • Length: Maximum 6 seconds.
  • File Format: MP4, Quicktime, AVI, ASF, Windows Media, or MPEG.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 640 x 360px
    • Vertical: 480 x 360px

In-feed Ads

  • Description: Show alongside YouTube content, like search results or the Home feed.
  • Resolution:
    • Horizontal: 1920 x 1080px
    • Vertical: 1080 x 1920px
    • Square: 1080 x 1080px
  • Aspect Ratio:
    • Horizontal: 16:9
    • Square: 1:1
  • Length:
    • Awareness: 15-20 seconds
    • Consideration: 2-3 minutes
  • Headline/Description:
    • Headline: Up to 2 lines, 40 characters per line
    • Description: Up to 2 lines, 35 characters per line

Display Ads

  • Description: Static images or animated media that appear on YouTube next to video suggestions, in search results, or on the homepage.
  • Image Size: 300×60 pixels.
  • File Type: GIF, JPG, PNG.
  • File Size: Max 150KB.
  • Max Animation Length: 30 seconds.

Outstream Ads

  • Description: Mobile-only video ads that appear on websites and apps within the Google video partner network, not on YouTube itself.
  • Logo Specs:
    • Square: 1:1 (200 x 200px).
    • File Type: JPG, GIF, PNG.
    • Max Size: 200KB.

Masthead Ads

  • Description: High-visibility ads at the top of the YouTube homepage.
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 or higher.
  • File Type: JPG or PNG (without transparency).

Conclusion

YouTube offers a variety of ad formats to reach audiences effectively in 2024. Whether you want to build brand awareness, drive conversions, or target specific demographics, YouTube provides a dynamic platform for your advertising needs. Always follow Google’s advertising policies and the technical ad specs to ensure your ads perform their best. Ready to start using YouTube ads? Contact us today to get started!

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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