Instagram Ads: 3 questions + A Fatal Flaw

After Instagram’s initial announcement that ads were coming to it’s social platform a few weeks ago, we didn’t hear anything more.  Just that they were happening “soon”.  Last week, we got our first glimpse into what they would look like.

Instagram Ad

Beyond the initial announcement and the first mockup of the ad, the whole event has been shrouded in secrecy.  There’s been no word on algorithms or how Instagram ads work.  And while I understand the hesitation of over-promising and under-delivering on Instagram’s part, I can’t help but have the following concerns when it comes to what we don’t know about sponsored posts coming to one of our most beloved social media platforms:

Will it dilute the Instagram experience?

It’s scary to think about, but I can see the day where you can’t continue to scroll through your Instagram feed until you stop and watch Levi’s 15 second Instagram video for their #MakeYourMark campaign, a la YouTube.  When that happens, and users are unable to use their newsfeed the way that they want, the experience will be completely diluted.  Really hoping this doesn’t happen (are you listening, Instagram Gods?!), but again, I wouldn’t be surprised…

What’s the difference between a sponsored ad and a regular uploaded ad?

I’m confused as to why Instagram would activate ads in the first place, since each image a brand uploads is already somewhat of an ad for that brand.  Sponsored ads don’t seem to do much more than regular photo uploads (at least in these initial mockups we’re seeing).  So what’s the value of doing them?  Which brings me to my next question…

What’s the point?

How exactly do these ads help a business reach it’s goals via this platform.  Really what I’m asking here is what’s the problem that Instagram ads solve?  Right now, it looks like the only benefit is that brands get the opportunity to reach more users, according to their initial ad announcement (“Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow”).  This is great for getting more eyeballs on your photo and maybe a few new followers.  But after a user follows you on Instagram, that’s pretty much the end of the relationship.  Which brings me to Instagram’s huge missed opportunity and it’s fatal flaw:

The inability to including functioning URLs within an Instagram caption!!!

Why has Instagram not implemented this yet?!  URL’s STILL do not work in Instagram captions which is extremely limiting for all users, from bloggers to brands.  What would have made this ad rollout significantly more valuable is allowing functioning links to be added to captions, so that when Burberry uploads a photo of it’s new winter trench coat, there’s a direct link to buy it (imagine the sharing capabilities here, as well!).  If they had implemented this as a premium feature for brands choosing to advertise with them, companies would have been chomping at the bit to sign up – it would have been the proverbial “game changer” for Instagram.  Instead, they’re charging brands to do exactly the same thing that all users can do, with the only added “benefit” being that they can reach more people.  And while there is value in reaching more users, the purpose of doing so is rendered ineffective because the users can’t take any further action (like learning more about the product or clicking through to view the product) besides simply following the brand on Instagram.  The way I see it, it’s a huge missed opportunity for the platform and seems like an ineffective way to monetize and maximize the ROI of advertising on the platform.

I’m curious to see whether Instagram ads take off or whether they’ll be a bust.  Until then, look for the new ads in your Instagram feed, come back and tell us how you feel about them.

Martha Stewart vs. Apple: A Lesson In Social Customer Service and Missed Opportunities



“Come ON, Apple!”

This was my reaction, when I read the news about Martha Stewart’s broken iPad and her many tweets that ensued.  Read the article here (

I get that Apple wants to keep their PR close to the hip.  I get that they don’t want to play on social media because…well, they’re Apple.  But what frustrates me is that such a forward thinking company is still employing backwards methods when it comes to customer service.  Had a system been in place for monitoring these types of social interactions (especially from a notable Twitter account like Martha’s), Apple could have quickly addressed her issue and resolved it offline.

Instead, they brought a digital PR nightmare upon themselves when Martha tweeted the following:

The point I’m trying to make is not the obvious one: that Apple missed an opportunity here and could have done a better job of handling it.  Something tells me Apple will bounce back just fine after this social mishap…

The point I’m trying to make here is that your brand won’t.  

When people are talking about your brand, business or company and they’re doing it negatively, there is no reason for you to let those conversations permeate the social atmosphere breeding more negativity.  Unless you’re a prestigious business like Apple (and there aren’t many of those out there), it’s not only a missed opportunity, but it’s a message to your customer base that you just don’t care.  It could be detrimental to the growth of your brand, your image and therefore, your success.

What do you think? Did Apple handle it correctly? Do you monitor online conversations about you brand?

The Death of the Social Media Manager


Hootsuite Recently wrote a blog article declaring that the title of Social Media Manager is pretty much dead (read here).  Even the strongest social media advocates are waving the white flag.

Is it true?

My response on Twitter: “Title: yes.  Job function: Absolutely not.”

Now don’t be confused:  Hootsuite is only referring to the title of Social Media Manager as being “dead”.


  1.   The title is just too broad – At Silverback Social alone, we have six people alone that manage various different aspects of social media – from community management, to content strategists to brand strategists and beyond.  In today’s competitive market, if you’re a medium sized business to a corporate Fortune 500 company, you need to have more than one person working on your social media.  (Don’t want to deal with it?  Hire us.)
  2. Any social media manager worth their salt will hate being referred to as a social media manager.  It’s yesterday’s buzz-word job title.  A cliche if you will.  Set your company apart and look for a digital or social media marketing professional.  Or better  yet, take the point from above and look specifically for a community manager or digital content strategist.
  3. It’s an inaccurate description of what function this person fulfills – Today’s social media manager doesn’t, as the title would imply, manage social media for a company.  They talk, they engage, they solve problems, they identify new opportunities, they set the company’s voice and tone, they leverage culturally relevant events and news and strategize how their company can leverage this information, they plan campaigns  – this goes beyond the scope of simply operating Twitter and Facebook.

…And all of the above is exactly what makes that’s this job function so important.

So there you have it: while the social media manager title is disposable, the job function is certainly not.

What do you think?  Has the “Social Media Manager” title met it’s demise?  Tell us in the comments below!

Will Story Bump Turn Facebook Into a Public Forum?

Story Bump

Earlier this week, Facebook announced the introduction of an entirely new algorithm known as “Story Bump.”

To give you a brief overview, Facebook has done away with “EdgeRank” – an algorithm based heavily on the timing of a post – and is now embracing the method of ‘story bump’: bumping stories that you don’t see in your newsfeed during a browsing session to the top of your newsfeed so that you can see those first during your next browsing session.

It may also be affected by the amount of likes, comments and shares that a specific post gets.  Meaning that the more interaction a post gets, the more likely it is to rise to the top of your newsfeed.

If you’ve ever used an internet forum or message board before, you’ll notice that Facebook’s concept of ‘story bump‘ is very similar to the process of ‘bumping’ a post on a forum.  A post on a message board gets ‘bumped’ each time a person interacts with said post.  Each interaction makes the post rise back up to the top of the message board.  You can imagine that very compelling, popular and controversial posts are often commented on the most, therefore they are constantly being ‘bumped’ and remain at the top of the message board.  Here are a few examples:

forum bump bumped 2

So, is the ‘forum’ concept Facebook’s future? It’s possible, but we don’t know for sure.  If nothing else, examining the forum concept gives us a few guidelines on how to make the most of the Facebook algorithm change.  Here are 3 tips:

1) Make sure your content is compelling

First things first: The more informative, educational and compelling your content, the more likely it will be interacted with making it more likely to be bumped to the top.

2) Start Segmenting your Facebook Content

Content is extremely segmented in an Internet forum. As an example, let’s take this bodybuilding forum:

bb forum


You can see that you have one board dedicated to ‘supplements’ which houses all conversations about supplements, so on and so forth which each board.

Did you know that you can do this with Facebook? (I know – I just blew your mind…).  Facebook recently introduced ‘Facebook Post Targeting’ which allows you to segment your content on Facebook (you can access it by clicking the ‘GPS Signal’).

Facebook post targeting


You can target ‘men’ or ‘women’ or target by relationship status, education level, etc.  So rather than just a blanket Facebook post about your brand, you can segment your post to the people who will find it the most interesting.  By putting your content in front of the right audience, you’ll grow your audience exponentially and create brand advocates because you’re sharing information that they want.

3) Shares, Likes and Comments have never been more important

With EdgeRank, it hardly mattered how many people liked, shared or commented on your Facebook post.  Now the entire Facebook algorithm is based on it, so make sure that your including a “social call to action” in at least 50% of your posts.  By a “social call to action”, I mean invite them to interact with your Facebook post: say “tell us”, “please share”, etc.  You might worry that this will dilute your post if you’re asking users to take these actions – trust me – people won’t take an action unless you tell them what action to take.  Used sparingly, these methods are extremely effective.

While I can’t say with certainty that the future of Facebook is a ‘forum style’ platform, it does seem like it’s headed to that direction.


Do you see similarities in Facebook and Internet messages or forums that you’ve used before?  Please, share with us!

Social Media: The Next Generation’s Dead-End Job?

social media dead end

Is social media next?

I used to work for a prestigious college in the Westchester area as Director of Digital and Social Media.  While there, I was often invited by the heads of student organizations and other clubs to talk about what a career in social looked like and how students could properly use it: sort of like Social Media 101.  It was great. Until Q+A time, when I heard the following, over and over:

“I’m studying political science, but there are no jobs, so I’m just going to do social media instead”

– OR –

“I’m studying biology, but it’s really difficult so I want to do social media instead. I do it everyday anyway and even manage my cousin’s pizzeria’s Facebook page.  What’s so hard about it?”

Really?  REALLY?

Therein lies my fear: social media is becoming the next generation’s dead end job.

Actually, it gets worse. It’s already happening.

Today’s generation (and I’m referring to most millennials) seem to think that social media is a great “last resort” if they can’t secure a job anywhere else.  I especially see it with companies who hire interns to handle their social media: they tell the interns “Just make sure the page is updated”.

And once these former interns graduate and are hired by a company to actually do social media, they have already learned what I like to call “lazy social”.  They pin and post and tweet just for the hell of it…just because it has to get done…and somebody’s gotta do it, right?  The day in and day out at this point requires little thought and even less action.

And there you have it.  The dead end job.

How do I know this is true?  When I talk to the team at Silverback, they say they get a LOT of flack for being in social media.  Their friends think it’s a joke.  It’s so far past a “buzz word”, that it’s now a cliché.  Because every other person in the room is a social media “expert”, “guru”, “rockstar”, “ninja” or any other assortment of randomly selected and self-applied titles.

Here’s the thing: The Silverback Team puts in WAY too much time and effort for anyone to call what we do “a joke”.  From developing content calendars, to calculating analytics, to developing strategic times for posts, we do these things because we understand they are tied to our overall goals.

But we get the bad name because of “lazy social”.  Because when people use social media, they don’t use it strategically.  They use it lackadaisically: there’s no attention put towards identifying their goals or capturing their audience’s attention.

And when it’s that easy, it attracts the next generation kid (or, even adult) who wants to do it because, well, just pinning and posting every day?  That sounds like the easiest job in the world.

What do you think?  Have you seen people engaging in lazy social?

3 Ways to Kill It at Your Next Public Speaking Gig: What I Learned from Chris Dessi at Merit Direct’s 2013 Co-Op

Chris Dessi Presenting at the 2013 Merit Direct Co-Op

Sure, I’ve seen our CEO, Chris Dessi speak at large-scale events and conferences, like yesterday’s Merit Direct  2013 Co-Op. But no matter how many times I’ve seen him speak, Chris hooks me every time with his presentation style – I always leave so engaged and inspired! In my effort to be a better presenter and speaker, I took notes on how Chris crushes his presentations always leaving his audience wide-eyed and wanting more

1. Slideshows “crutches”, not legs…

Your slideshow is there to support you – not the other way around. Spend less time reading off slides and more time focusing, engaging and creating context around your slides…Think about it: if your slideshow failed, would you still be able to fill up the hour talking about the subject matter you planned to present?

2. In with the pictures, out with the text…

Photos are your friends…The ‘create text box button’? Not so much. Audiences who look at text-heavy slides either spend their time reading them (and not paying attention to the speaker) or furiously trying to copy that text down before the presenter moves forward (and not paying attention to the speaker). See the pattern? Command and keep attention by strategically choosing images that quickly communicate your point. Text distracts, images enlighten.

3. Provide your audience with relevant takeaways…

Social Media Marketing 101: Provide value, right? If we’re doing it in social, why are we not providing this in presentations? Your audience won’t get value if you wax poetic and theorize about your subject matter. Chris provides techniques that users can implement immediately. For instance: When’s the best time to post on Facebook? At Silverback, we mostly adhere to the “Coffee and Cocktails” schedule: post when users are browsing through their newsfeed in the morning over coffee and/or again when they’re out having cocktails with friends. Giving people real, live items helps them to feel more in control, makes you and your presentation more valuable and demonstrates your expertise.

What surefire ways have you discovered to keep your audience engaged while speaking?

Taking a Closer Look at Twitter Analytics


With the recent introduction of both Twitter and Pinterest’s analytics platforms, it’s becoming increasingly clear that everyone, from senior level executives down to solopreneurs, want to see quantitative and qualitative results from the time, money and resources they’re dedicating to social media.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring Twitter’s new analytics platform and it’s proved to be a great tool, to measure both quantitative and qualitative data. Here are some of the ways we’re using Twitter’s analytics to gain insight on how successful our clients are on Twitter:

1) Gauge the performance of your current content: With Twitter’s analytics, your tweets are laid out in front of you so you can take a closer look at what you’re sharing on a daily basis. Are you tweeting about one topic too much? Are you tweeting more than you’re replying or retweeting? Using too many hashtags? Not enough? Seeing all of your tweets in one place allows you to get a closer look at the content you’re sharing and allows you to make changes to the frequency you tweet or what you tweet about.

2) Replies and Retweets – These are most important when measuring you or your brand’s social influence on Twitter. I define social influence as how many people look to you to provide relevant content and information – it’s the measure of how resourceful you are. Retweets are indicative of someone agreeing with your insight, finding your content useful and wanting to share it with their network. Replies are someone who wants to directly engage in conversation regarding those insights. The point is, the higher your replies and retweets, the more influence you have on Twitter, which also expands your reach, your brand awareness and further solidifies your authoritative position within your given industry.

3) Follows and Unfollows – At the top of the Twitter Analytics platform, you’ll see a bar graph with blue and pink bars. Blue bars measure “follows” and pink bars measure “unfollows”. You can easily improve your content strategy by gathering insights from this. Cross reference the day someone unfollowed you with the tweets you sent out that day. Does your content give any clues as to why people may have unfollowed you? Maybe you tweeted too much one day…Or maybe you didn’t tweet at all. What about a day when you had a significant amount of people follow you? Did you use a specific hashtag or share a particularly engaging piece of content? Your follows and unfollows can help you understand where to gear your content so that your audience of followers continue to grow, thereby expanding your potential reach on Twitter.

Measuring social media actions, interactions and engagement tells an important story about your brand’s success on social. The challenge is looking at the data, asking the right questions and whether or not you’ll use it to help you be more successful in your approach to social.

The Inaugural Westchester Digital Summit Through the Eyes of Silverback Social’s Social Director of Digital Communications Cristin Grogan

One of the most important things I took away from the Westchester Digital Summit  was the following quote from Phil Harrell, VP of Enterprise of Hubspot, which he made during his breakout session:

                        “Now, with the internet, consumers have total control over how they interact with your brand.”

This is an important concept to keep in mind for any company participating and interacting with their consumers (or anyone!) in the digital space.  With Phil’s advice in mind, it’s extremely important for companies, brands and businesses to have an effective, well-thought-out social and digital media strategy that blends unique content and effective processes and procedures with the appropriate target, direction and goals.  And, I would be remiss if I didn’t add my favorite quote of the day from Reagan Freyer (Director of Digital & PR – Kerastase & Shu Uemura, L’Oreal)

                        “Today’s digital marketer is tomorrow’s marketer.  Period”