The Union Metrics Blog

5 questions to ask about an influencer before a campaign or brand partnership


Partnering with an influencer is one of the best ways for a brand to increase their reach across a platform and particularly to a specific audience they’re trying to target. Influencers already speak the language of the space and have a following that respects their tastes and recommendations. Still need proof it’s a good move? Recent research shows that partnering with influencers is generating impressive results across industries.

Before you definitely decide to partner with someone, however, you need to ask a few questions to make sure they’re absolutely the best fit for your brand. Influencers, you should be asking similar questions of brands who want to partner with you, too— but that’s a separate post.

Lifestyle blogger Cupcakes and Cashmere curated a Birchbox for the month of May. A perfect match of brand and influencer!  See more examples from Social Media Examiner here.

Lifestyle blogger Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere curated a Birchbox for the month of May. A perfect match of brand and influencer!
See more examples from Social Media Examiner here.

1. Does their audience match your target audience?

First things first: There’s no point in investing time and energy into a partnership if their dedicated following doesn’t match the audience you’re trying to reach. Brand awareness doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t translate into direct action, at least for most brands. Look for someone who operates successfully in the spaces you’d like to be able to speak in; they already know the language of the platform and have the trust of their followers.

2. Forget followers— how’s their engagement rate?

Someone with only 2k followers who gets a 50% engagement rate on their posts is more valuable than someone with 100k followers who gets a .001% engagement rate; their audience is actually listening to what they have to say and taking the time to respond with likes, comments, and shares. A highly engaged audience will pay more attention to what the influencer they admire has to recommend.

3. Have they worked with a competitor?

Decide if this matters to you, based on the capacity of that relationship. If they were one of several influencers taking part in a campaign several months or even years ago, I wouldn’t rule them out if they’re a perfect fit otherwise. If, however, they’re very heavily involved in a partnership with a competitor right now, you might want to rethink the match.

4. How do they present themselves across social media?

If this is an Instagram campaign, don’t just look at their Instagram. Check Twitter, Facebook and any other public social media profile they have to be sure you want your brand represented by all this person has said, to the best of your ability to find it. You should have a portion of your crisis communication plan dedicated to dealing with potential fallout from an influencer or advocate who comes under fire. Most likely this won’t happen, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and scrambling.

5. What are their goals for their personal brand and how does partnering with your brand help them?

The best partnerships help move both parties forward, but you can also look at this in a completely selfish way: If the influencer is as motivated as you are to make the partnership or campaign work because it helps advance one of their personal goals or goals for their personal brand, they’ll put more time and effort into the campaign and both of you will still benefit!

Written by Sarah

September 15th, 2015 at 12:33 pm

The Week in Social #170


We spend the week reading the best things we can get our eyeballs on and on Fridays we share them here with you. Leave your thoughts in the comments, or come find us on Twitter at @UnionMetrics.

Brand lessons.

We may not all have the resources and budgets of the big brands, but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean some knowledge from how they run things. Andrew Hutchison interviews Emma Williamson,  L’Oréal’s manager for Consumer Affairs and Social Media for the Australia and New Zealand region for Social Media Today’s Big Brand Theory: L’Oréal Stays Connected to Their Audience via Social.

“All channels of social media allow for us to have this relevant and on time discussion with our consumer – we need to be available in multiple channels and don’t value one over the other.”

Be available where your customer expects to find you, not just where you think your brand should be.

Michele Linn highlights another great example of this in How to Get the Right Content to the Right People at the Right Time: A Look at This American Life for Content Marketing Institute. Today’s content creators need to aim for:

“The right person to get
The right content
At the right place
At the right time
In the right format
In the right language
On the right device”

On choosing the right format.

Not sure if you should use a GIF or a Cinemagraph, or what the difference between them is anyway? Nicole Effendy at Ogilvy has you covered:


On Periscope.

Smart phones have helped end the taboo of vertical video, but now Periscope is giving the option for landscape purists to broadcast in their preferred format, as Martin Beck reports for Marketing Land. If you’re still not convinced your brand needs to be on Periscope, Chris Kyriacou has six reasons to convince you.

On Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook brand page layouts might be getting tweaked, while Instagram Ads Go Global, Including New 30-Second Commercials according to Josh Constine for TechCrunch.

And finally, a big milestone for Snapchat.

They hit 4 billion video views daily. Good work for a ghost.

Written by Sarah

September 11th, 2015 at 11:16 am

How Twitter etiquette has evolved: Be a modern Emily Post on Twitter


Etiquette definitely evolves over time and that’s just as true of social media etiquette as it is of which fork you’re supposed to be using at Thanksgiving dinner (and now much anyone actually cares about it). We’ve covered how to be the Emily Post of Twitter chats, so we thought we might be sure everyone has brushed up on the rest of their Twitter manners too.

Disagree with an element of our updated etiquette or have something to add? Tell us about it in the comments, or find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

On Auto-DMs

The old advice: We’re not sure who started the idea that automatically sending every new follower a direct message asking them to Like your Facebook page or answer a very broad (and obviously auto-generated) question was a good way to grow your audience, but even if it was true at one point, it’s no longer true now.

The new advice: If you have these set up, disconnect them. Unless you have hard numbers that prove people are engaging with them and loving them, it’s more likely they go ignored at best and get you unfollowed at worst.

On networking

The old advice: Never meet someone in person from the Internet! (And your mom might still be worried about this, because your mom remembers when people weren’t really who they said they were in an AOL chat room circa 1994. But times have changed, mom.)

The new advice: Don’t be afraid to ask for a meet-up when it makes sense! Twitter connections are great to tap for some face time when you’re both at the same conference or other event, or even if you find yourselves in the same city and want to talk shop over a cup of coffee or a cocktail.

On asking for favors

The old advice: Don’t immediately ask for something from a new connection.

The new advice: This advice stands because this is sound, timeless advice.

On hashtags

The old advice: Once hashtags were conceived it was only a matter of time before someone decided that where one hashtag was a great way to gather ideas into a single, searchable space, 1000 hashtags could do that even better! And then the spammers were born.

The new advice: These days Twitter themselves have a whole explainer for hashtags, and it’s a general best practice not to use more than one or two in a single tweet. Although they can also be used to make a great #punchline. Just do what works with your brand and your brand voice.

On following

The old advice: Follow everyone back who follows you!

The new advice: Some still take this approach, but it’s usually best to avoid following spam accounts or other accounts who aren’t customers or relevant to your industry that would simply clutter your feed. Conduct regular audits to unfollow any accounts that have gone inactive or are no longer relevant to make room for new customers and upcoming leaders and personalities in your industry.

What else?

How have you seen Twitter etiquette evolve over bios, profile shots, retweeting and favoriting? Leave your thoughts below!

Written by Sarah

September 10th, 2015 at 9:00 am

Twitter loves the Late Show with Stephen Colbert


Stephen Colbert kicked off a new era at the the Late Show last night, with the premiere of his first show as host. Twitter was excited to have Colbert back.

Yesterday, there were more than 113,000 tweets about Stephen Colbert and the Late Show. During the episode itself, fans posted nearly 50,000 tweets. Here, you can see the buildup in tweets in the week leading up to the episode, with an increase in volume the day of, a huge spike during the episode, and lots of tweets discussing the show after.

Tweets about Stephen Colbert

How does Colbert stack up to the other late night talk show hosts? The top five hosts according to Twitter are Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, John Oliver, Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert. Take a look at how they compare on Twitter over the past few weeks.

Comparing tweets about late night hosts

Jimmy Fallon leads the late night pack on social right now, followed by Jimmy Kimmel, but Stephen Colbert is only a little bit behind them and his show just started. Fallon typically generates around 15k tweet mentions a day, Kimmel around 7k, and John Oliver and Conan O’Brien around 4k daily. Colbert has gotten around 5k tweets daily over the past month, with that number growing every day (he averaged almost 7k per day over the past week).

A lot of Fallon’s Twitter engagement is driven by his celebrity guests. For example, @fallontonight has averaged more than 1,500 retweets per tweet over the past few days, driven by a handful of tweets mentioning Justin Bieber, which generated way more engagement than average (Bieber fans still generate some of the platform’s highest engagement rates, which you can see in the large green spikes in early September). Aside from the Bieber-related tweets, Jimmy Fallon averaged a more typical 150 retweets per tweet over the past month. That means Bieber led to 10x engagement for @fallontonight this month.

In addition, @fallontonight has nearly 3M followers, so Jimmy Fallon is speaking to a much larger audience than the other late night hosts. He’s also been hosting the Tonight Show for 18 months, so he’s had more time to grow his social following. @colbertlateshow has just under 80k followers right now, so Colbert has a lot of room to grow over the next few months as his new show gains its footing. He’s already gained 20k followers in just the past day or two. 

We’ll keep watching to see how Colbert’s team takes advantage of Twitter and other social media to engage their fans and share new content. But for now, it looks like his first show was a success! What do you think? Did you watch?

Interested in monitoring tweets or other social posts about your TV show or brand? At Union Metrics, we can help! Get to know our social media analytics product and let us know if you have any questions. 

Written by Jenn D

September 9th, 2015 at 8:55 am

Posted in Trends

Tagged with , , ,

How to get more followers, the right way!


While the number of followers you have on any given platform isn’t the end-all, be-all of your existence on that platform, learning how to grow an audience is one of the most important aspects of social media marketing (even if all you’re marketing is your personal brand!).

With that said, we thought we’d share some of the best practices we’ve found and the tips we’ve learned through our own research across social platforms, growing our own audiences. As always if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments or come and find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

On Twitter

Slow growth is always frustrating, but it’s the kind of growth that tends to stick: Putting in the time and effort to find the kind of accounts you’re interested in who might also be interested in what you have to say (and later, sell) means they’re more likely to stick around for the long haul. So as tempting as it may be to have that follower number shoot right up for only $x, don’t buy bots. Instead, try these tactics:

  • Conduct regular follower audits: Follow back appropriate accounts, and unfollow anyone who has gone inactive or is no longer relevant to your brand or industry
  • Participate in chats: Twitter chats are a great way to find quality accounts in your industry, and you never know who might be in the market for exactly what you have to offer. They’ll be more interested in buying from someone they’ve already established a rapport with via chats than a strange brand, too.

  • Social listening is key: Track industry keywords and enter conversations but bring something of value, don’t just show up to sell yourself/your brand. That will turn people off quickly and you’ll be more likely to get blocked than followed.
  • Follow first: Follow relevant accounts you find in chats or through keyword tracking. Don’t worry too much about whether or not they follow you back immediately. Just work on sharing valuable information and interacting with these and other accounts when appropriate.
  • Copy industry leaders: See who leaders in your industry- even competitors- are following and follow them. (Just don’t follow 1,000 of them in one day. In addition to being somewhat creepy, Twitter puts a cap on how many accounts your account can follow in order to avoid spam.)
  • Tap your followers: Who are your followers following? Who do they retweet? Some of these will be relevant for you to follow, and many will follow you back. Circle back around to regular audits and you can unfollow any accounts who have lost relevance or haven’t followed you back when you’ve honestly tried to engage them.

You’ll notice a lot of these revolve around finding accounts to follow. How does that help your follower growth? Many accounts will follow you back if they see that you’re posting things that are relevant and interesting to them. Others will as soon as you engage with them in a meaningful way— such as in a Twitter chat. The key is that you’ve got to put in a little work to prove that you’re worth following.

On Facebook

It’s hard to read much about Facebook marketing advice these days without reading “pay to play”, but you don’t have to have an enormous budget to grow your Facebook audience. Here’s a few tips to get you started without breaking the bank:

  • Tap into existing connections: Ask relevant Facebook connections to “Like” your page. You don’t have to send the request to every single person you went to college with. Think about who might be interested in hearing from your brand based on the type of content you plan to share on Facebook; chances are you have connections interested in your industry or who work in a related area.
  • Tap into existing followers: Ask those already following your page to put you in their top 30 priority News Feed accounts. Any actions they take are more likely to be seen by their followers, and they’re more likely to take an action if they actually see your content.
  • Run an inexpensive campaign at a targeted audience. Who’s your target audience on Facebook? Set up an ad that’s relevant to them and cap it at a budget you’re comfortable with. It will stop running when the money runs out, and you’ll have some new followers who are piqued to hear what you have to say.
  • Share interesting, relevant content. Test different content types too; Facebook is always changing the algorithm favoring different types of content (natively uploaded Facebook video is favored at the moment!) and your particular audience might favor one over all others.
  • Ask questions in status updates. Creating interactive content is a great way to get your existing audience involved, which may prompt them to tag others to join the conversation too. Just be sure whoever handles social for you is prepped to handle any resulting volume increase!
  • Host a Facebook contest. Work to create and interesting and engaging contest for your followers beyond just “Like our page to be entered to win [x]” and any new followers will be more likely to stick around once the contest ends.
  • Promote your most successful posts. Once again you can set things up to end once you’ve spent your budget, so set things at an amount you’re comfortable with.

On Instagram

Based on this post on the Union Metrics Tumblr. 

  • Post great content: Postcontent people actually want to see. The best brand content on Instagram shows off a product in an alluring or inspirational way without feeling too much like an advertisement, and also stays true to the brand voice. For example, what works for Sephora isn’t the same as what works for Dennys
  • Time your posts appropriately: The most successful Instagram and Tumblr accounts post at least once a day, and typically not more than five times a day. If you’re looking for the best time to post to these platforms, post outside traditional US business hours.

  • Find and follow interesting people: Try searching on a hashtag related to a topic you’re interested in, and follow people posting content you like. If fans are talking about your or your brand, give them a follow back and engage with them – they’ll appreciate it. Basically, if you follow new people, many of them will follow you back.

  • Use (hash)tags: Hashtags increase content discoverability, so use them in your posts. Adding a hashtag is the single best way we’ve found to get content in front of new audiences.

On Tumblr

Based on this post on the Union Metrics Tumblr. 

  • Search relevant tags: You’ll find some great blogs to follow, and as you may have picked up, many accounts will check you out and follow you back if you’re relevant to their interests on almost any platform.
  • Search relevant featured tags: Featured tags have changed on Tumblr over the years, but Unwrapping Tumblr has an entry about them here and keeps an updated list of them here.
  • Track tags: Some of the tags you searched earlier that are relevant to your brand and industry might be relevant enough to keep constant tabs on, in which case you’ll want to designate them as “tracked” tags. Read exactly how to do that here, and once you do they’ll pop up any time you drop your cursor into the Tumblr search bar.

Tumblr tracked tags


  • Make good art (as Neil Gaiman says): Whatever it is that you’re creating or curating on Tumblr, make sure the content that you’re sharing is the very best it can be. If you’re bored or underwhelmed by your own blog, who else is going to be interested in following- let alone sharing- what you’re producing? 
  • Be sure you’re using the best tags: We can’t emphasize enough how important proper tag usage is on Tumblr. It’s how your content can be found by new followers interested in whatever it is that you’re talking about. 
  • Interact with your followers: Like, reblog, follow back. Consider thanking new followers in a post periodically and inviting them to ask any questions (you have an ask box, or you can set up a particular post to be able to receive answers) they might have about your brand. Also consider sharing UGC when it makes sense, either through reblogging, a campaign, or both. Anyone new who stumbles across your blog is more likely to follow if they see you interact with your followers.
  •  Cross-promote: Let people know you’re on Tumblr! Post about it on your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on another blog if you have one. Pin images from posts on your Pinterest and send Snaps about your Tumblr. It’s a lot harder for people to find you if they don’t know you’re there. 

That list tip really works across all platforms: Be sure you have a consistent handle and occasionally let your followers on Twitter know you’ve got a Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat, and vice-versa.

Everywhere else.

We haven’t officially experimented with growing our own followings on Pinterest or Snapchat (yet!), but other people have. We recommend reading A Marketer’s Guide To Snapchat & How Brands Can Build Followers Through “Stories” from MarketingLand along with NPR’s excellent Engaging an audience on Snapchat for building out your Snapchat audience, and 6 Ways to Get More Pinterest Followers from Social Media Examiner for Pinterest.

Got any tips we missed or other resources you’d recommend? Leave ‘em in the comments!

Written by Sarah

September 8th, 2015 at 9:00 am

7 rules of Facebook etiquette for brands and influencers


The best brands on Facebook don’t just throw up a page, post occasionally and call it a day—  they really work to share engaging content with their audience and work to make them feel included in their conversation. A lot of that stems from having good Facebook manners. Below are the basics in Facebook etiquette that nearly anyone can benefit from a brush-up on.

Know of anything we’ve missed? Leave it in the comments or share it with us on Twitter @UnionMetrics. Just be sure you use the right fork.

1. Don’t turn on those new Facebook messages unless you can handle them in a timely manner, or your rating will suffer.

This guide from SocialTimes breaks down the best approach for brands to take with this new feature.

2. Respond to comments in a timely manner.

Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what you would want from a company if you were reaching out to them in similar circumstances on the same platform. Then do everything in your power to fix the problem. Even if you don’t have the power to fix the problem, sometimes it’s enough for them to feel heard by an empathetic brand representative in a timely manner.

3. Don’t flood people’s feeds with similar posts; do use dark posts to your advantage!

Not sure exactly what dark posts are, or how to use them? This piece from Social Media Today covers how you can use dark posts to share several similar posts to targeted audiences without cluttering everyone’s feed and your own timeline.

4. Do ask to be included in your follower’s 30 accounts they’ll see updates from first in their News Feed.

Facebook recently changed things so that users can elect which 30 pages are a priority to see updates from, in a mix of both friends and pages. Asking your followers to include you in this is an easy way to get a boost in who sees your content—  after all, they’re already following you! Just ask politely and include a description or link of how to do it to maximize results.

Image via Mashable.

Image via Mashable.

5. Don’t delete negative reviews.

Instead, address them as honestly as possible and try to fix the problem. Move things to email if it’s too complicated of an issue to solve on Facebook, but never ignore what your customers are saying in any space. Do, however, delete anything that is obviously hateful or threatening. Block and report as necessary, particularly if hatred or threats are directed at a specific employee. Make your employees feel safe.

6. Don’t share too much.

Avoid excessively long Facebook posts, unless you’re experimenting with the revamped Notes feature! A general Facebook best practice is to keep your posts pretty short and sweet, unless you’re a writer with a devoted following or sharing a specific important story. However, some brands have done experiments to find their longer content rewarded, which brings us to our final piece of advice.

7. Do test everything to your audience specifically.

Best practices will always give you a jumping off point, but it’s up to you to tailor your strategy to your customers and the target audience you hope to make your customers.

Written by Sarah

September 3rd, 2015 at 9:00 am

How do people talk about entertainment across social channels?


Everyone has their favorite social network just like they have favorite shows and celebrities, so we thought it would be interesting to look at how the conversation around those favorites has evolved across different networks. Even if you’re not in entertainment marketing, this post should give you a deeper look at the language and culture of various social platforms, giving you a better idea of which one is the best fit for your brand. (Hint: It’s always the one where your audience prefers to spend time.)

Twitter: Live-tweet your heart out

Twitter is, of course, known for the live-tweet: Join in with thousands of others as they tweet along to an awards show, their favorite show each week, or a movie they’re just seeing for the first time. Hollywood has caught on to this phenomenon and extended the sense of intimacy social media gives to fans of celebrities by encouraging the stars of shows to live-tweet along with their fans when the show airs, doing Q&As and sharing their own behind-the-scenes photos and videos. Stars Hayley Atwell and Bridget Regan were active live-tweeters during Agent Carter, and Hayley Atwell continues to post fun behind-the-scenes shots during the off-season to keep fans engaged.

This activity actually boosts overall tweeting about the program, based on research from Twitter themselves:

“As it turns out, one of the most powerful and direct ways to drive conversation about a program on Twitter is to have the stars of the show engaged on Twitter, particularly during the airing. In fact, we found that shows live-Tweeting from cast members during the premiere had 64% more Tweets that day compared to programs that did nothing.”

Aside from live-tweeting, fans tend to tweet about how excited they are leading up to a broadcast, or make a lot of cynical jokes about it if it’s an awards show (but hey, they’re still watching it!). They’ll follow official accounts and chat with each other about different fan theories, but this is obviously all a bit truncated due to the 140-character limit on tweets. Fans who want more, more, more on their favorites- especially during the off-season- head to Tumblr.

Tumblr: Where fandom lives

Tumblr is the undisputed home of fandom. This is the place fans go to share their fan-fiction (fanfic), write posts about different character and storyline theories (or their own “fanon”; things they’ve read in fanfic or theories they’ve seen reblogged that they’ve added to the canon of the show for themselves) and theories about the larger universe behind a show or film franchise, write about the actors who portray their favorite characters and share photos of them, create and share fan art, and so much more.

Tumblr Fandom

Image via Tumblr staff blog.

You might read that and think, well, isn’t that what fans do on every social network? What makes Tumblr so special? And the answer is the reblogging feature: Being able to reblog someone else’s fan theory and add your own thoughts to it really accelerates the conversation and makes it deeper. Certain posts become inside jokes for a fandom, and fandoms even create their own “official” blogs, run right alongside official blogs from a network. (The official Doctor Who Tumblr often reblogs fan art and other fan posts to keep their readership engaged.)

Sometimes fandoms merge into super fandoms, like SuperWhoLock, a mix of Doctor Who, Sherlock and Supernatural fans. Sometimes the actors themselves get involved in a fandom, like Orlando Jones and the Sleepyheads (Sleepy Hollow fandom).

All of this adds up to fans being very engaged in their shows between seasons, and giving an even longer shelf-life to Tumblr content as old fandom posts can resurface to be rehashed and reblogged again and again with newer insights and theories.

Facebook: Beware spoilers

There are a few different forms of fandom on Facebook:

  1. Pages built as hubs for fandom outside of Tumblr to share information, as seen here.
  2. Individual, often spoiler-filled posts on your NewsFeed from various friends and family members after a big finale like Game of Thrones.
  3. Posts from Facebook themselves around different fandoms like March Madness.

FB Fandom

Facebook is the perfect place for a friend to drop a link about your favorite show onto your wall or even set up a private group to plan a viewing party, but fandom doesn’t go as deep here as it does on Tumblr, and it’s more difficult to live-Facebook a show than it is to live-tweet it. Twitter feeds move much faster than Facebook News Feeds do, making them much more ideal for sharing the experience of a live-viewing with an audience.

Instagram: Fans share excitement in photo form

It might not seem like the most intuitive way to use Instagram, but fans definitely post about their favorite shows and the actors in them on their Instagram accounts alongside their personal photos. Sometimes they share official promotional photos from a show’s upcoming season, or maybe the set-up for their viewing party. Smart brands know about this activity and capitalize on it, becoming part of the conversation that’s already happening. For examples see how Teen Wolf fans post about the show on Instagram, and learn from the very best in terms of audience engagement with ABC Family’s Instagram activity.

Sports fans are active in their Instagram activity too, and you can see examples in our posts about The World Series on Instagram: San Francisco Giants vs. Kansas City Royals or The NHL on Instagram: On being official, fans, and more.

The majority of the connection and amplification of posts on Instagram comes through hashtags; fans can find other fan accounts they may want to follow by using Instagram’s improved search, and any entertainment brands who want to get in on those conversations would be wise to listen to the talk that’s already happening before figuring out how to encourage it and join in.

The bottom line?

That’s just what we’ve seen looking at fan activity in these places over the years. Does your personal network look different? Tell us about it in the comments, or on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

You’ll also notice we haven’t talked about fan activity on Pinterest, Snapchat, or live-streaming apps. How have you seen fans or fandoms using those?

Written by Sarah

September 1st, 2015 at 9:49 am

Twitter and the 2015 MTV VMAs


How many tweets did fans post about the MTV VMAs yesterday? A LOT. There were more than 11.5 million tweets posted about the VMAs during the 2.5-hour show and 20.9 million tweets during the full day on Sunday. A few other highlights:

  • Kanye West announced he will run for president in 2020, and generated 2.8 million tweets in just an hour and 4.6 million tweets all day.
  • There were more than 3.6 million tweets about Miley Cyrus yesterday.
  • Justin Bieber made a big appearance – with a brand new haircut – and spurred 2.9 million tweets yesterday.

MTV’s big publicity push around this year’s show really paid off, making it one of the most-tweeted about VMAs in history. What was your favorite moment?

Written by Jenn D

August 31st, 2015 at 9:19 am

Posted in Events

Tagged with , , , ,

Instagram update: Why square was good but moving beyond the square is great


This is a repost of our Editor-in-Chief Jenn Deering Davis’ article about Instagram over on Medium

Yesterday, Instagram made a big change. They now allow photos with landscape and portrait orientations! They’ve moved away from the square and are fully embracing the rectangle. So what does this mean? How will it impact users? How will brands adapt? Let’s discuss.

First, it’s worth reflecting on why Instagram photos were square in the first place. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has said Instagram wanted to be different, to find a way to do photos in a way that stood out. And the square format looks good; it’s consistent and visually appealing. Others have suggested the images are square because that format mimics vintage cameras much like the Instagram logo itself. Either way, this is how it’s always been and today’s announcement was a pretty significant departure from what we’ve all come to know and love from Instagram.

But what you might not remember is that Instagram photos didn’t always have to be square. For the first couple years of Instagram’s existence, you could actually force other sized images into the square with zoom, and Instagram would add black bars around it, like this photo from October 2011.

Instagram landscape
But not everyone liked this. The Next Web hated it. Lots of purists hated it; non-square photos cluttered the stream, made the profile less attractive, interrupted the experience. But so many other users loved it, and wholeheartedly embraced the non-square photo, uploading thousands and thousands of them.

But then in late 2012, Instagram removed this feature (or fixed this bug, depending who you ask), forcing all users to only upload square photos. Of course, many loyal Instagram users were upset. Appsfire, an app that rated other apps, noted that Instagram dropped to a quality score of 11 (down from 97) when they made that change.

Fast forward a few years, and we’ve all adapted just fine to the square. Or so we thought. It turns out that this whole time, lots and lots of people were manually uploading non-square photos by first editing them in a third-party app that adds those bars around your image to make it look landscape or portrait but still fit into a square box, like this. We’re all guilty of doing this every once in a while – sometimes there’s a sunset you just can’t quite fit into a square box. Some subjects demand a full landscape orientation. So you post one hacked-up landscape photo, accept that it makes your feed look less nice, and move on. But you promise yourself it’s a one-time thing and you won’t do it again. However, you’re not alone. As we learned today, 20% of all Instagram photos are not square. So to better serve that considerable use case, Instagram has finally decided to officially include landscape and portrait photos.


So, what does this mean for Instagram? Does this improve or detract from the experience? Before going into that, I need to disclose that I am an avid Instagram booster. I love Instagram and use it obsessively. I was one of their earliest users and almost five years later, still use it multiple times a day. So I’m likely biased.

But I love this change and I think it’s huge for the platform. Here are a few reasons why.

Flexibility. The square format, while beloved by many, was seen as restraining by others. It forced users to adapt what they shot for this very specific and often limiting format. Now they can post anything, including wide subjects or tall ones. For brands in particular, they needed to create – or convert – content specifically for the square format. Now that they can use other shapes and sizes, they can more easily adapt their brand content to the medium. It could even mean more participation from brands, both those already on the platform and those who haven’t ventured there yet.

Creativity. While the square format pushed users to get creative about the content of their images, welcoming landscape and portrait images opens up a whole new set of possibilities on Instagram. If users aren’t forced into a single aspect ratio, they’re no longer limited in what they can do. Instagram is wide open now, making room for all our images, even those that don’t work well square. We’ll likely see new kinds of images, much like we did when Instagram unveiled the Layout app. Fewer limits means better quality images.

Simplicity. Before this change, many users manually created landscape and portrait photos in third-party apps that added letterboxes around the image to force it square. Now that Instagram allows for this in-app, not only it is easier for users to share these kinds of images, but it keeps them in Instagram. This is great for users and maybe even better for Instagram because it will increase time spent in Instagram and decrease reliance on third party apps. This just makes it easier to post those 14 million new photos each day that aren’t square.

So is this a change for the better? Absolutely. Yes, some of us will have to get used to a different feed. But Instagram has implemented this change well, and the photos look great in the stream. This change will make the experience easier and more useful for the entire Instagram community. Photographer Technosailer said it best back in 2012 when he wrote, “I choose what my photos look like” (emphasis his). Now we all can. That will only make the Instagram experience better.


Written by Jenn D

August 28th, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Trends

Tagged with , ,

The Week in Social #169


We spend the week reading the best things we can get our eyeballs on and on Fridays we share them here with you. Leave your thoughts in the comments, or come find us on Twitter at @UnionMetrics.

This week brought a lot of platform-specific updates and milestones, so here’s a breakdown in case you missed some of them.

On Vine.

Looking at the current state of brands on Vine compared to top Viners, Brands Still Have Catching up to do. Lots of roundups on marketing sites discuss how clever things like Lowe’s 6-second Vine tips are, so why aren’t they catching on? Kevin Johnson explains that it has to do with the platform’s demographics:

“If brands really wish to connect with Vine’s young audience, they need to realize that what works on other social media platforms will not necessarily translate to equal levels of success on Vine. Vine humor tends to focus on the slapstick, the socially awkward, the ridiculous and the profane – much of what plays out on the most popular Vine channels would never fly on television.”

If that’s your brand’s target demographic, consider pairing with a Vine influencer who already has a following and knows the type of humor that will work there, or settle in and do your research before you start planning your Vine content.

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the Vine updates that just came out, including an improved music experience.

On Instagram.

In case you still think Instagram is only for the B2C market, you might want to read The Power of Instagram for B2B Marketers from Sylvia Jensen. It’s not “just a fun mobile app” after all, it’s “part of today’s media system”.

Andrew Hutchinson brings wisdom from within Instagram themselves, sharing the creativity that went into the first brands to use their carousel advertising option in Brand Storytelling on Instagram – Some Key Notes to Benefit Your Social Strategy. Inspiration for brands of all sizes.

And the big Instagram ICYMI: Instagram updated yesterday to allow users to upload photos in portrait or landscape, ending the tyranny of the square-shaped image. This along with the end of the plague on vertical video means social media is changing. What do you think?

On Snapchat.

Snapchat still confusing? Wondering how brands actually. . .use it? Then Five seriously creative Snapchat campaigns and their results from Jack Simpson for Econsultancy is just the read for you. Pair with Everything You Need to Know About Snapchat Geofilters from Brian Murray to learn more about one of Snapchat’s lesser talked about features.

Everything else.

Really good read from Elisabeth Rosen for L2: Why the Viral Video is a Myth. TL;DR:

“In order to achieve significant scale, branded YouTube videos require paid support.”

viral video myth


And finally, here’s a clever cross-platform experiment to try from Nick Venezia: How to Use a $5 Twitter Ad to Redefine Your Facebook Strategy.