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Instagram screams ‘me too’ with the unveiling of their new face filters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook-owned Instagram gets face filters in another race to the “me too” top as the two platforms become indistinguishable.

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Copy cat

This week, Instagram launched face filters within their app, a feature that allows users “to turn an ordinary selfie into something fun and entertaining,” according to the company blog.

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Most importantly, this is yet another step in which Instagram has lifted a popular feature in Snapchat and brought it to their own app.

What gives?

This process began with Instagram launching their “Stories” feature back in August, a direct take on the concept of capturing and sharing media that disappears after a certain amount of time. You could publish content to a general feed that disappears in 24 hours, or send content directly to your network that vanishes nearly in an instant. From there, Instagram added features that allow users to shoot video in reverse, add stickers to their selfies, and augment their photos through drawing and erasure tools. All of which originated in Snapchat first.

It’s clear that Instagram can and will continue to double down on the “me too” strategy, and the implications of it may shape your social media strategy.

As a marketer, Instagram’s strategy may reduce your need to invest time in Snapchat if your audience skews towards the older side of the young professional spectrum.

User retention

When you look at the demographics of these social media profiles, the picture becomes even clearer. Both Snapchat and Instagram, you see a similar picture of a heavily millennial base, with some Gen X users. However, when you look at the demographics of Facebook, who owns Instagram, you’ll see an older audience that heavily favors baby boomers and Gen Xers.

If Instagram sees an influx of older users from Facebook, they’ll need to offer that functionality to keep users exclusively on their platform.

It’s also worth pointing out that copycatting ideas isn’t a startling revelation in the tech industry. Per an article from TechCrunch, Instagram SVP of Product Kevin Weil said, “Good ideas start in one place and they spread throughout the entire industry. Kudos to Snapchat for being the first to Stories, but it’s a format and it’s going to be adopted widely across multiple platforms.”

Audience shift

If this play works, Snapchat’s growth may stall out, while Instagram continues to grow its user base, especially within the Gen X demographic. Let these audience shifts dictate how and where you reach that audience.

#Instasnap

Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

Social Media

Snapchat shifts strategy to open their arms to competitors

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Snapchat opens some interesting doors after keeping the padlocked for years – will this new strategy solidify their status as a digital giant?

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There’s no denying the notable impact that Snapchat has had on the visual side of social media apps. From knock-off Snapchat-esque filters to more egregious rips such as the “Stories” feature, allusions to Snapchat are inherent in the bulk of social media platforms. Snapchat’s response is simple: to monetize these allusions via the Snapchat Story Kit.

The “Stories” feature has rapidly become a massive part of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, with over a billion daily story users across these three services. Comparatively, Snapchat enjoys around 186 million daily story users, making it nearly impossible for the original story curator to compete.

Like many modern businesses, Snapchat’s initial response was to ignore the competition in a display of relentless, self-indulgent optimism. Now that such optimism has been dampened by cold, hard numbers, Snapchat is turning to another venue: sharing.

By sharing their “Stories” feature via a new developer suite — called the “Snapchat Story Kit” — Snapchat will be able to monetize its most ubiquitous aspect while maintaining some semblance of branding across any participating platforms.

In theory, the Snapchat Story Kit will allow app users to post their Snapchat stories to apps such as Tinder, Twitter, and so on; this will enable the same level of story interaction one would find within Snapchat or on Facebook without taking the focus away from Snapchat’s API.

Since any story posted via the Snapchat Story Kit will still go through Snapchat rather than a nonpartisan third-party app or program, this move will continue to emphasize Snapchat’s presence in the visual world.

There are a few possible downsides to this power-grab, not least of which is Facebook’s level of control at the time of this writing. Since Facebook already uses its own version of the “Stories” feature on all of its most-frequented apps, Snapchat has essentially missed out on some of the most powerful opportunities to monetize its features.

It’s also within the realm of reason to assume that Snapchat will require Snapchat Story Kit users to jump through additional hoops before they can use its features—a move that, similarly to the Bitmoji jump, may prove to be more annoying than hindering.

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MeWe – the social network for your inner Ron Swanson

MeWe, a new social media site, seems to offer everything Facebook does and more, but with privacy as a foundation of its business model. Said MeWe user Melissa F., “It’s about time someone figured out that privacy and social media can go hand in hand.”

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Let’s face it: Facebook is kind of creepy. Between facial recognition technology, demanding your real name, and mining your accounts for data, social media is becoming increasingly invasive. Users have looked for alternatives to mainstream social media that genuinely value privacy, but the alternatives to Facebook have been lackluster.

MeWe is poised to change all of that, if it can muster up a network strong enough to compete with Facebook. On paper, the new social media site seems to offer everything Facebook does and more, but with privacy as a foundation of its business model. Said MeWe user Melissa F., “It’s about time someone figured out that privacy and social media can go hand in hand.”

MeWe prioritizes privacy in every aspect of the site, and in fact, users are protected by a “Privacy Bill of Rights.” MeWe does not track, mine, or share your data, and does not use facial recognition software or cookies. (In fact, you can take a survey on MeWe to estimate how many cookies are currently tracking you – apparently I have 18 cookies spying on me!)

ron swanson

You don’t have to share that “as of [DATE] my content belongs to me” status anymore.

Everything you post on MeWe belongs to you – the site does not try to claim ownership over your content – and you can download your profile in its entirety at any time. MeWe doesn’t even pester you with advertising. Instead of making money by selling your data (hence the hashtag #Not4Sale) or advertising, the site plans to profit by offering additional paid services, like extra data and bonus apps.

So what does MeWe do? Everything Facebook does, and more. You can share photos and videos, send messages or live chat. You can also attach voice messages to any of your posts, photos, or videos, and you can create Snapchat-like disappearing content.

You can also sync your profile to stash content in your personal storage cloud. Everything you post is protected, and you can fine-tune the permission controls so that you can decide exactly who gets to see your content and who doesn’t – “no creepy stalkers or strangers.”

MeWe is available for Android, iOS, desktops, and tablets.

This story was originally published in January 2016, but the social network suddenly appears to be gaining traction.

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Social Media

How to spot if your SEO, PPC, social media marketing service provider is a con-artist

(BUSINESS) When hiring a professional, did you know there are actual questions you can ask to spot a con-artist? Too often, we trust our guts and go with the gregarious person, but too much is on the line to keep doing that with your business.

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In this day and age the cult of positive thinking and “the law of attraction” are still very much alive and well in the business services industry. Here are a few simple questions that you can ask prospective business service providers to help you gauge if they are the real deal or just caught up in the fad of “say yes to everything,” or “outsource everything” being populated online by countless “thought leaders” and cult gurus.

Lots of people will ask, “What’s the harm of people trying to make something of themselves?”

Well, I’m here to tell you there is a huge harm in taking risks with a client’s money and manipulating people into trusting their “expertise” when they have none.

Business owners: Due diligence is more important than ever these days.

There are whole communities of people helping to prop each-other up as experts in fields they know nothing about while outsourcing their tasks with little or no oversight into the actual work being done on your behalf.

It is nearly impossible for you to tell if this is even going on. Don’t worry. I am here to help you avoid a con-artist.

How? By showing you how to weed out the bad actors by asking really simple questions.

This set of questions is perfect for people who need to distinguish if the expert they are talking is really just an expert in bullshit with a likeable personality.

Why do these questions work? Because people who are into this kind of stuff are rarely hesitant to talk about it when you ask them direct questions. They believe that what they are doing is a good thing and so they are more open to sharing this information with you because they think by you by asking that you are also into similar things.

It is a fun little trick I picked up while learning to do consumer polling and political surveying.

The Questions:

  • Who influences you professionally?
  • Do you follow any “thought leaders” “gurus” or coaches? If so, who?
  • What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know?
  • Are there any industry standards you do not agree with?
  • How do you apply the services you offer to your own company?
  • Can you please tell me the background of your support staff and can I see their CV’s?
  • Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does?
  • May we audit your process before buying your services?
  • May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality?
  • Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals?
  • Can you show me examples of your past successful jobs?
  • Do you have any industry accepted certifications and how many hours of study do you do in a year to keep your knowledge up-to-date and current?
  • How many clients have you had in the past?
  • How many clients do you have currently?
  • How many clients are you able to handle at one time?
  • How many other clients do you have that are in the same industry as my company?
  • How long is your onboarding process before we start getting down to actually making changes to help solve the issues my company is facing?
  • Can you explain to me the steps you will take to identify my company’s needs?
  • Have you ever taken a course in NLP or any other similar course of study?
  • Have you ever been a part of a Multi-Level Marketing company?
  • Fun. Right? Well, we aren’t done.

    It is not just enough to ask these questions… you have to pay attention to the answers, as well as the WAY they are answering questions.

    And you also have to RESEARCH the company after you get your answers to make sure they ring true.

    You cannot keep accepting people at face value, not when the risk is to your business, employees, and clients. There is little to no risk for a person who is being dishonest about their capabilities and skill sets. They will walk away with your money, ready to go find another target for a chance meeting that seems amazingly perfect.

    Do not leave your business decisions to chance encounters at networking events. Research before saying yes.

    No matter how likeable or appealing the person you are speaking with is.

    How do you research? Easy. THE INTERNET. Look at the website of the company you are considering working with.

    • Does it look professional? (do not use your website as a standard for professional unless you have had it done by a professional)
    • Can you see a list of their past clients?
    • Do they effectively tell their story as a company or are they just selling?
    • What do their social media profiles look like? Do they have many followers? Are they updated regularly?
    • Do they have any positive reviews on social sites? (Yelp, Facebook, Linkedin, etc)

    You can also do some simple things like running SEO Website Checkers on their websites. There are tons of these online for free and they will give you a pretty good indicator of if they are using best practices on their websites – you can even do this research on their clients’ websites.

    Also, if you know anything about SpyFu, you can run their website through that to see how they are doing their own online marketing (the same can be said for their clients if they are selling this service).

    Facebook also has a cool section that shows you ads that a Page is running. You can find this info connected to their business Page as well as the Pages they manage for their clients as well. None of these things automatically disqualify a potential service provider, but their answers the question of “why” things are the way there are might be very illuminating to you as a business owner.

    This may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if you do not do these things regularly and have them down to a system, but the cost of not doing these things is way too high. A con-artist is born every day, thanks to the internet.

    You have a right as a business owner considering services from a vendor to ask these questions.

    They also have the responsibility as a service provider to answer these questions in a professional manner. Sometimes the way in which they answer the questions is far more important than the actual answer.

    If all of this seems too overwhelming for you to handle, that is okay.

    • You can ask one of your staff in your company to take on this role and responsibility.
    • You can hire someone to come in and help you with these decisions (and you can ask them all the same questions as above before taking their services).
    • You can reach out to other business owners in your network to see if they have recommendations for someone who could help you with things.
    • Heck, you can even call up companies that look like they are doing as well as you want to be doing online and ask them who they are using for their services. Try successful companies in other industries as your competitor won’t likely be interested in sharing their secrets with you…

    What is important is that you are asking questions, researching, and ultimately making sure that you are doing as much as possible to ensure making the best decision for your company.

    Final thoughts:

    “But, Jay, what’s wrong with taking a risk on an up-and-comer?”

    The answer to that is NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on someone. Someone being green doesn’t make them a con-artist.

    The issue I am raising is in the honest portrayal of businesses and their capabilities. It is about honesty.

    I am a huge fan of working with people who are new and passionate about an industry. But I only work with people who are honest with me about who they are, what they can do, and how their processes work.

    I have worked with tons of people who are still learning on the job. It can be quite educational for a business owner as well.

    Just make sure they are being honest about everything up front. You are no obligated to give anyone a chance when it comes to your businesses success, and it’s not right that someone might manipulate you into doing so.

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