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Quick tip: Find and use your top Instagram hashtag for more engagement

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One of the easiest ways to boost engagement with your Instagram posts is to use better hashtags. So, how do you know which hashtags lead to more likes and followers? It’s easy with our Instagram account checkup. So first, log in to your Union Metrics Instagram account checkup and make sure you have the newest data for your Instagram account.

(Haven’t run a free Instagram account checkup yet? Sign up here.)

Then scroll down to the hashtag section of your report. It should look like this:

top instagram hashtag We’ve highlighted your top Instagram hashtag. This is based on activity with your account from the past month, and looks at all the hashtags you’ve added to all your posts to find the ones that have resulted in the most engagement (likes and comments). It then maps your top hashtags against your average likes and comments per post. So anything above or to the right or the orange lines in your graph is above average for you.

The top 3 hashtags are shown in blue. In the above example, that’s #sunset, #clouds and #nature. Photos with these hashtags have gotten more likes and comments than the average post on this account. If this was your report, then we’d suggest that you use those hashtags more frequently. The content you’ve shared to those hashtag communities has resonated well, so you’re on the right track. In this case, pretty pictures of sunsets seem to be working well.

sunset photos

So once you’ve found some of your top hashtags, try using them more often and see if your engagement rates go up. But don’t overuse or spam them! As always, make sure your content fits with the Instagram aesthetic and will work well in a particular hashtag’s community. This only leads to more engagement if your content is good and makes sense with your hashtag.

So that’s it – find your top hashtags and use them more often, and you will get more engagement.

And once you’ve set up your checkup, you can refresh it once a day to get updated metrics, so don’t forget to come back later and see how your other hashtags are working.

Written by Jenn D

November 18th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Our top Instagram tips

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Instagram is a social media powerhouse. In just five years, more than 40 billion photos have been shared on Instagram, and it now has more than 400 million monthly active users. 50,000 new photos were shared on Instagram in just the past 60 seconds. That’s 80 million new photos and 3.5 billion new likes every single day.

So how you can tap into this large, growing and vibrant community to create better content, grow your followers and get more engagement? Based on what we’ve seen work for brands and individuals, we’ve pulled together a list of our top Instagram tips. If you follow them, we bet you’ll start doing better on Instagram.

When is the best time to post to Instagram?

  • Instagram is very active on nights and weekends.
  • Consider posting content outside typical US business hours.
  • Your experience will vary, so test a lot and figure out what works for your content and your audience.

How often should I post on Instagram?

  • Post 1-2 times a day to maximize engagement.
  • Stick to a regular posting schedule.
  • Don’t stop posting for long periods of time or you will lose followers.
  • Most Instagram content lives up to 3 days, but 90% of a post’s likes and comments happen in the first 12.8 hours.

#MondayMotivation: What’s yours? Brightly colored supplies, getting things organized, knocking off your toughest to-do first thing? Tell us about it! (Coffee is a given in both of our offices ☕️☕️☕️) #MotivationMonday #motivation #organization #officesupplies #neon #robot #robots

A photo posted by Union Metrics (@unionmetrics) on

How can I improve my Instagram posts?

  • Post the right kind of content for Instagram.
  • Post only high-quality photos and videos.
  • Photos get more engagement than videos on Instagram, so post more photos than videos.
  • Stick to the Instagram aesthetic, but filters aren’t necessary.

How can I better use hashtags to increase engagement?  

  • Research a hashtag before using it.
  • Find the hashtags that work best for your content.
  • Try a variety of new hashtags to see which ones work and which ones don’t.
  • Use a mix of large popular hashtags, as well as targeted, lower-volume hashtags. 
  • Use 3-10 hashtags per post.
  • Consider adding hashtags in a comment separate from a post’s caption.
  • Don’t add new hashtags to older posts.

Really, our Instagram tips come down to a few simple rules. Instagram content is a lot more evergreen than people give it credit for, so take the time to create and share high-quality content. Keep up a steady cadence of new content to maximize engagement. And if you stop posting, you will lose followers. Use hashtags to reach new audiences and boost content discovery.

If you’re going to start an Instagram account, be prepared to commit to it – don’t let it stagnate. Keep trying new things and keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. 

And of course, we recommend that you measure your work with Union Metrics! We have a free Instagram account checkup that provides quick metrics for your own account, as well as awesome and in-depth analytics subscriptions for hashtags and accounts.

Written by Jenn D

November 9th, 2015 at 9:17 am

How to get to know new Instagram communities

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If your brand has only done a little experimenting on Instagram, there’s no time like the present to really do the work and engage with relevant communities. Worried about how to identify and get to know a new community on Instagram? Want to learn how to participate in a way that won’t get you ignored or shunned? We’re here to show you just how to do that.

How to identify an Instagram community

First, identify the Instagram communities that are relevant to your brand. If you’re a sportswear company you’ll obviously want to get to know the various fitness communities on Instagram, a pet supply company would want to get to know #petstagram, and a clothing line the fashion and beauty communities. Many of these start out as big umbrellas- #fitness, for instance- and then break down into particular niches you can find by their hashtags like #instarun, #yogagram or #boxinglife. With Instagram’s improved search, including the ability to search on desktop, it’s easier to find secondary hashtags associated with the bigger communities you know are relevant.

You want to check out a mix of big popular hashtags and smaller niche hashtags; bigger tags will give you more exposure, and niche hashtags higher engagement, if you connect with the community in the right way (and don’t worry, we’re getting to that).

#petstagram on Instagram

#petstagram on Instagram

While you’re searching hashtags, take note of popular influencers and other brands in that space. Influencers are those you see popping up again and again in a certain hashtag, and generating a lot of engagement on each of their posts. Pay attention to how they and other brands in the space post because that’s how you get to know them— which you might notice is the title of next section.

How to get to know an Instagram community

Once you have a good idea of who the big personalities are in a given community- influencers and other brands especially- you can learn more about them by paying attention to how they post. Is there a specific style that’s common, like dynamic outdoor shots? A lot of selfies? Does everyone share a similar sense of humor, specific slang, or embrace emojis on posts and in comments? How many people are posting videos vs. static images, or experimenting with Layout and Boomerang (Instagram’s two standalone apps)? All of this is part of the language of the community and you have to listen and learn it before you can begin to speak it. 

You also want to take the time to see who those brands and influencers in the community are connected with that you might have missed. These are the accounts you should pay attention to not only to learn the language of the community from, but to follow and interact with. You might notice some accounts that are very active in a certain community but don’t get a ton of engagement on their posts; they’re still important as possible up-and-coming influencers, or at the very least, worth paying attention to because of how active they are. (We can call them “community cheerleaders”.) This might just be one of their many interests. Not everyone has a niche account they post only specific niche-related content to. Some opt for a more all-purpose, life-encapsulating Instagram account, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth nurturing a relationship with.

You also want to pay attention to where else members of an Instagram community like to hang out on the Internet. Are they also active on Tumblr? Are many of them members of the same Facebook group? Do they post things encouraging each other to follow them on Twitter too? Listen in wherever else they have a presence, and consider also being active in that space if you have the resources to invest in a multi-channel presence and strategy.

How to participate authentically in an Instagram community

Now it’s time to use what you’ve learned: When you post, use the same tone, hashtags, and style as the community already does in way that’s appropriate for your brand. You want to balance the language of the community with your own brand values and voice. And don’t just sell; follow community members and interact with them as appropriate, liking photos, leaving comments, and even considering influencer partnerships where applicable. Consider attending or hosting an InstaMeet, or collaborating on a photo project. Share relevant photos from the community on your own account (with explicit permission) as a regular feature, part of a contest, or just as a way to boost your audience by drawing in that community member’s audience.

Experiment with your content within the parameters of the measuring you’ve done and your own brand strategy, measure the results, and incorporate those results into ongoing content plans. Be friendly, be funny, be personable if that fits your brand.

The bottom line? Actually be a part of the community. Ultimately there’s a person- you- behind the account, even if you’re using a brand voice that’s not completely your own. Treat the community like you would any that you’re a part of in your own life.

Want more Instagram resources for brands? We have whitepaper featuring data from 55 top-performing brands on Instagram you candownload for free. You can find out how you’re doing on Instagram right now for free here, and if you still have questions, feel free to find us on Twitter at @UnionMetrics or shoot us an email. We’re always happy to help! 

Written by Sarah

November 3rd, 2015 at 10:57 am

Happy birthday, Instagram!

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Last week Instagram turned five years old, so we’re taking a look back at some of its more notable moments and how it’s evolved since 2010. We’ll also discuss how the platform has grown into one of the largest and most important social networks, how brands have found their place there, and what might be next for Instagram.


We’re also looking at all the pretty #birthdaycandles on Instagram. 

Growing up

Instagram first launched on October 6, 2010, and by December of that same year it had 1 million users. The hashtags Instagram is so well-known for now weren’t introduced until January of 2011, and their original purpose remains the same: To help users share and discover their photos with one another (spammers be damned). By June of 2011, Instagram was up to 5 million users, and a launch of version 2.0 (with many of the filters and other features we know and love today) doubled that number to 10 million by the end of September.

If you’ve ever wondered about the history of #TBT (Throwback Thursday), wonder no longer: It was in use on Instagram in late 2011, but its popularity really took off in 2012 when more celebrities and influencers began participating. You may also remember 2012 as the year Instagram joined the Facebook family, and users grew to 30 million. This is also when the Explore tab and web profiles were launched, but Instagram took a hit in popularity with miscommunication around their new TOS (terms of service) in December of that year. Users interpreted it to mean Instagram would allow their photos to be sold and reused without their permission, but Instagram listened to user concerns and clarified their intentions to build a business model that matched the current user experience.

In 2013 Instagram added video capabilities- contributing to the video content marketing heyday of today- and direct messaging, as well as its first ads in the US. 2014 saw users at 300 million, and this year saw the end of the reign of the tyranny of the square, as well as a jump to 400 million users.

Brands on Instagram

Michael Kors was the first brand to advertise on Instagram in 2013, working to create photos that fit the feel of the app and didn’t intrude on user experience. Since then, brands across industries have increased their presence on the platform and experimented with different forms of advertising: Directly through Instagram, by sponsoring the posts of key influencers in their industry or partnering with them in campaigns, or simply running accounts that share the kind of content their Instagram audience is interested in while also letting them know where they can buy what they see.

Instagram doesn’t have a direct buy button (yet?), but there are workarounds such as Like It To Know It (can be found with the #liketkit) for brands and personal brands interested in directly monetizing their posts.

Most brands, however, use Instagram to connect with users in a way that feels natural for the platform. People use it, first and foremost, to share beautiful, memorable images of their lives. Brands have to find a way to fit in with that in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive. Users reward those who have figured out how to do this in a way that seems effortless and natural- like Lauren Conrad- and will quickly unfollow a brand that seems jarring, needy or too salesy.

Instagram now

While Instagram’s features have evolved quite a bit over the past five years, it has remained the same at its core: A place for users to share their lives and passions with each other, visually. In the coming years we expect users and brands will find new ways to express themselves through its lens.

Ultimately, Instagram’s success lies in listening to its users and adapting with them, rather than trying to force an unnatural direction. That’s a good recipe for longevity no matter your industry.

Written by Sarah

October 13th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in Events

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The Week in Social #174

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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.

On video and visuals.

While answers vary as to what, exactly, the visual web is, everyone does seem to agree that it’s very important. You can see these responses in eMarketer’s What Is the Visual Web?: Instagram, Pinterest are the social sites most closely associated with the visual web:

visual web

“Asked specifically about social media, respondents said Instagram was the service most closely associated with the visual web. At 92.4% of respondents, Instagram was about 10 percentage points ahead of second-place Pinterest. Facebook, at 58.1%, and Vine, at 56.2%, were far behind, and less than half of respondents (47.6%) named Snapchat.”

Emphasis added.

For those more specifically interested in the state of social video, check out 10 big trends happening in social video by Ben Davis for Econsultancy, and to act on that knowledge, check out 3 Types of Video to Incorporate Into Your Social Media Strategy via Navneet Kaushal for Social Media Today.

If you’re still skeptical about video numbers, you might want to take a look at Seven in 10 US Internet Users Watch OTT Video: The vast majority are regular YouTube viewers also from eMarketer.

OTT video service


The times, they are a changin’.

On Twitter.

You’ve probably heard of Twitter’s launch of Moments this week, but what about Twitter’s “Promoted Moments” & What They Mean for Brands? Aaron Rales sums it up for Ogilvy:

“Instead of slotting promoted tweets within live Moments feeds, Twitter is giving brands their own Moments called Promoted Moments. The Company is calling them ‘dedicated pieces of real estate…where a brand can curate a series of different tweets or Vines to actually tell their story.’ Like a Promoted Trend, Promoted Moments will be considered ‘premium’ purchases and thus given significant visibility on the platform (they’ll appear in every category list of Moments). Pricing has not yet been disclosed and testing will begin in ‘weeks, not months’ according to the company.”

See more brand implications + specifications at the link.

If you think earthquakes have nothing to do with marketing you’re right, except in the case of this particular case study Andrew Hutchinson broke down for Social Media Today: What Marketers Can Learn from How Tweets are Used to Track Earthquakes.

“The USGS case study provides an insightful example of how social data can be used, and the importance of tracking the right information to convert social data into something practical. The first step in the process is ascertaining what it is, exactly, you need to know. In this case, the team have started with mentions of earthquakes then narrowed down the data by cross-matching posts for relevance. For your business, maybe you’re tracking all mentions of your brand name (which you should be), maybe all mentions of your industry, all of your target keywords in some capacity. Track too much and you’ll likely never glean much insight, as you’ll be setting yourself a mammoth task in monitoring all those mentions every day. But through refining, though working out the key messages you need to track that are actually actionable and relevant to your business interests, you can focus your efforts onto the conversations and mentions that matter the most.

Emphasis added. Oh, and we can help with that refined tracking, by the way.

On everything else.

Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief Jenn Deering Davis tells it like it is in Mastering Engagement in Emerging Social Channels (by Anna Papachristos for 1to1 Media); calling networks like Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest “unconventional” really sells them short. She also takes a look at the 11 most memorable social media marketing successes of 2015 (by James A. Martin for Network World) along with some other marketers, for all your 2016 content planning needs.

And finally, Jay Baer of Convince & Convert tells it like it is: Your Blog Post Is Too Damn Long aka tl;dr.

So thanks if you’ve made it this far.

On-demand demos available of Union Metrics Twitter and Instagram analytics

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Curious about what exactly Union Metrics analytics can do? We now offer on-demand demos of our Twitter and Instagram analytics! Take a tour of our analytics using live data from real accounts to see exactly what our analytics can do for you— and do it on your schedule.

What you get in the Twitter demo

Sign up here to access our live Twitter analytics demo to see exactly what you get with a subscription to TweetReach by Union Metrics. Our Twitter demo features everything you’ll see in our paid subscriptions – including live data from real Twitter accounts and topics – and allows you to access all areas of our product in read-only mode.

Union Metrics Twitter analytics allow you to easily:

  • Monitor all the Twitter accounts, keywords and topics that matter to you, with full-fidelity data in real time
  • Identify insights into what’s working and how you can improve your Twitter strategy
  • Discover influential Twitter users and people driving the conversation forward
  • Learn how to craft better Tweets to increase engagement and followers

And more!

What you get in the Instagram demo


Sign up here to access our live Instagram analytics demo to take a tour of what you get with a subscription to Union Metrics Instagram analytics. Our Instagram demo includes live data from a set of Instagram accounts and hashtags, and allows you to click around in a fully-functional Union Metrics account in read-only mode.

You can see how Union Metrics Instagram analytics enable you to:

  • Monitor all the Instagram accounts and hashtags that matter to you, constantly updated and in real time
  • Identify insights into what’s working (and what isn’t) and what you can do to improve your Instagram campaigns
  • Discover your biggest fans and influential community members to see how and when they engage
  • Explore how to optimize your content and hashtag strategies to increase engagement and followers

This is great, but I want to measure Tumblr and Facebook too!

No problem! If you want multi-channel social media analytics for everything - Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook – we can help with that too. Contact us to set up a demo of the full Union Metrics Social Suite, or check out a recording of a Union Metrics Social Suite demo here if you’re crunched for time or want to get a feel for things before getting a personalized tour. Happy measuring!

As always if you’ve got questions or comments, leave them below or come find us on Twitter at @UnionMetrics

Written by Sarah

September 30th, 2015 at 8:44 am

The Week in Social #170

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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 to get more followers, the right way!

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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

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

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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

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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.