Instagram direct messages now support web links and different photo orientations

Instagram’s Direct feature just got more generally useful as a messaging option, with support added for external web links, and the ability to send photos and video in their original portrait or landscape aspect ratios without cropping. The first is really far more important than the second, mainly because it means users have less reason to go seeking other messaging options outside of Instagram.

The links feature also includes inline previews for websites you paste the URL for, and the new photo and video treatment is much more in keeping with how people actually capture and view media on mobile these days. The updates are rolling out now to iOS users, and will arrive on Android soon. Links are supported on both platforms as of version 10.22.

Instagram Direct is a popular feature among the social network’s user base – there are 375 million monthly active users on Direct alone as of last count, a fresh number shared publicly in April. It’s a far cry from Facebook Messenger’s 1.2 billion monthly actives, but that’s still one of the biggest messaging apps in the world, and a product worth iterating on in order to help it capture even more market share.

4 Secrets of Successful Accounting Firm Websites

It is a fact that too many accounting firms completely blow off marketing until they have a sales catastrophe on their hands. Of course, by then, it’s too late, and though marketing can’t fix today’s poor sales numbers, it can improve tomorrow’s.

Imagine having an accounting website that reels in a regular, reliable stream of new clients each year, through a thoughtful, targeted strategy that’s completely automated. Imagine a marketing strategy so well-oiled that it practically runs itself.

This is all completely within your reach, but only if you’re willing to invest the time and energy into doing it right. Here are four key ways successful firm websites achieve that goal:

1. They Claim a Niche

The thing that will undoubtedly have the biggest impact on your marketing success is also the thing that most accounting firms fear most: narrowing your focus.

It’s not 1980, and no one really wants a firm that can do everything. And like it or not, the robots are coming. KPMG is leveraging Watson to expedite audits, and H&R Block has implemented that same technology to simplify taxes. Only the firms that claim a niche will be the ones truly thriving.

Instead of doing everything for everyone, focus on what your firm does better than anyone else. Ask:

  • What services does your firm excel at?
  • What client types or categories does your firm have strong relationships with now?
  • What unmet needs do your clients currently have that you could fulfill?

Finding your firm’s focus is about establishing yourself as an authority, if not the authority, in your niche.

2. They Offer Real Thought Leadership

There’s a big difference between writing to write, because some marketing agency told you to, and writing in a way that contributes to and actually drives the conversation. The former is useless fluff – the latter is called thought leadership.

To do content marketing effectively, you need to go beyond surface-level market chatter, publishing thoughtful insights that could only come from someone with your depth of expertise.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Write within your niche: Stop writing vague blog posts with general tax or business advice, and start owning your niche through your content.
  • Introduce bold ideas: Follow current conversations online, pick the newest, boldest, most exciting ideas, and see if you can push them a step further. Publish your ideas in thoughtful, well-written blog posts on your website.
  • Identify and solve client problems: Think of a common problem your clients struggle with, and create a step-by-step instructional guide to help them work through it on their own.

3. They’re Built to Convert

Ultimately, your website’s job is to convert visitors into clients. But most accounting firm sites still lack the proper emphasis on educating and informing visitors needed for optimal conversion rates.

Because most of your clients are now reaching out to you later in the sales cycle, you can no longer count on your charm to woo them into making a commitment with your firm – you need to make your CPA website design strong enough to do that on its own.

SEO on every page. SEO is critical to building a conversion-focused website, and yet most firms ignore the basics. Your goal is to tell Google the story of each page on your site, so that it’s more likely to direct new, high-quality traffic your way.

Here are some things you should have on every single page of your site:

  • Keyword-rich meta titles, defining what the page is about.
  • Custom URLs that are short, concise, and keyword-rich.
  • A main headline wrapped in an H1 tag.
  • Internal linking within the content (use anchor text with a buried link).
  • Clear content that’s related to the meta title and main headline.

Effective calls to action. Once your website starts attracting high-quality traffic (aka, people who would be good fits for your firm), you’ll need calls to action to push that traffic toward a commitment. Every single page on your website should point visitors to the next, guiding them along a simple, clear path from Home to Contact Us.

Try to make your calls to action as compelling and specific as possible. Forget “read more” – think “sign up for your free assessment now.” On each page, ask yourself what a new visitor might want to know at that point in your website workflow. How can you offer them the answers they’re looking for at the right times, using the specific wording they might have in mind? This is what drives action and lands clients.

4. They Use Automatic Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing might sound like a complicated, tedious thing, but lucky for you, much of it can be automated.

Your first step is to get the right technology in place – specifically, you’re going to need a marketing automation service. There are dozens of solutions out there, and mercifully, none of them are outrageously expensive. (Examples include MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, InfusionSoft, HubSpot, and Act On.)

Once you have your technology in place, take a look at what you have to offer prospects – an assessment tool, a free consult, a helpful guide – and map those offers to the appropriate stage in the buying cycle: early, middle, or late. Then, build a simple email campaign that incorporates these offers, introducing them at just the right times.

Eventually, with the right nurturing campaign in place, cold prospects will begin to warm up to your firm, and when the time is right, some will eventually become your clients.

Put Your Website to Work

If you want a growth plan that guarantees results and ROI, you need to commit to the whole process. We’ve worked with too many firms that want to cherry-pick from our ideas and bypass some of the more complicated steps of this process, and no one is less surprised than us when the results are underwhelming (although, to be fair, anything helps).

So now we ask you: Are you ready to make your website do your marketing for you?