Instagram adds face filters and other features to Instagram Stories

In case you haven’t noticed, Instagram is starting to give Snapchat a run for their money with the addition of the Instagram stories feature. But now, Instagram is including face filters among a myriad of other effects.

Check out all the effects that will be added below!

Instagram announced the features today (5/16) explaining that they will be starting with eight different face filters that include “math equations swirling around your head to furry koala ears that move and twitch.” You can check out photos of these new filters below!

That isn’t all that Instagram is adding to their Stories either as they’ve also revealed that you’ll now be able to play your videos in reverse, along with giving you some ideas on how to use this feature writing that you can “drop a microphone and watch it fly up into your hand. Capture a fountain in motion and share a rewind of the water floating back up. Experiment with some magic tricks of your own and defy the laws of physics wherever you are.”

One cool feature that we definitely like is the addition of hashtag stickers which you can customize to feature any hashtag, but what makes it even cooler is that anyone viewing your story can click on the hashtag sticker to also explore other posts within that hashtag.

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?

Can Instagram Help Adolescents Strengthen Friendships?

Use of the social media platform Instagram may strengthen adolescent friendships, according to a study presented at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Diego, California. The study also uncovered a link between Instagram use and depression.

In June 2016, Instagram had more than 500 million monthly users, and the platform says at least 300 million of those users visit the app every day. This makes the app one of the most popular social networking platforms.

Instagram’s Mixed Effects on Depression, Friendships

For the study, researchers gave Flemish teens paper-and-pencil surveys about their social media use, friendships, and mental health. They repeated the surveys six months later.

Students who reported greater use of Instagram in the first survey were more likely to report feeling loved and appreciated by their friends six months later. Although these feelings correlated with lower feelings of depression, adolescents who reported frequent use of Instagram during the first survey had higher levels of depression when they completed the second survey.

Depression is common among adolescents, so the study’s authors say understanding how Instagram affects adolescent mental health can provide mental health providers with vital insights about social media use. For now, it appears the social media app has mixed effects on teen mental health and relationships.

Image-driven sites such as Instagram may encourage adolescents to compare themselves to others. Research from 2015 suggests these comparisons may harm mental health. In that study, researchers found college-age women who were more emotionally connected to Facebook were more likely to compare themselves to others. These comparisons were linked to body image issues.

Social Media and Mental Health

Mental health experts continue to debate the merits of social media, particularly for adolescents. Previous research has reached mixed conclusions. A study published earlier this year found a link between heavy use of social media and feelings of social isolation. Research from 2015 linked extensive use of social media to unaddressed adolescent mental health concerns. Other research suggests social media could help curb depression when used to combat isolation or access support.

References:

  1. Byford, S. (2016, June 21). Instagram now has half a billion monthly users. Retrieved from http://www.theverge.com/2016/6/21/11985576/instagram-500-million-monthly-users
  2. Using Instagram can increase adolescents’ closeness to friends. (2017, April 5). Retrieved from

Food photos help Instagram users with healthy eating

Instagram users post millions of food photos — whether to show off a sophisticated palate, make friends drool over chicken and waffles or artfully arrange colorful macarons.

A new study from University of Washington researchers describes how some people also turn to posting photos on Instagram to track food intake or to be held accountable by followers in meeting healthy eating or weight loss goals.

In a paper to be presented at the CHI 2017 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in May, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 16 people who consistently record and share what they eat on Instagram about the benefits and challenges of using the social media platform to achieve their eating and fitness goals. The research team will use the results to inform the design of tools to support healthy behaviors.

Instead of simply using a traditional food journal or app that requires users to write down or log everything they eat, the interviewees snapped pictures of what they ate in a day — from bowls of healthy fruit to the burrito they scarfed in the car — and shared them on Instagram using the #fooddiary or #foodjournal hashtags. Some also used the photos as a reference so they could remember to log their food later in the day.

“The benefit of photos is that it’s more fun to do than taking out a booklet or typing hundreds of words of description in an app,” said lead author and UW human centered design and engineering doctoral student Christina Chung. “Plus, it’s more socially appropriate for people who are trying to track their diets to snap a photo of their plate when they’re out with friends — everyone’s doing it and it doesn’t look weird.”

Plus, having a visual account of everything one eats in a day — both in terms of volume and quality — can help people spot trouble.

“When you only have one data point for a pizza or donut, it’s easy to rationalize that away as a special occasion,” said senior author Sean Munson, assistant professor of human centered design and engineering at the UW. “But when you see a whole tiled grid of them, you have to say to yourself, ‘Wait, I don’t actually have that many special days.’”

The interviewees said that social and emotional support from other Instagram users helped them stick to their own tracking and healthy eating goals, and many strove to provide that support for others. In some cases, feeling accountable to other Instagram users and followers caused people to be more honest about their eating habits. One woman who previously used the MyFitnessPal app to track her diet said she would make excuses to herself about why she didn’t need to log a bag of chips because it was so tiny.

“With Instagram, it helped me because I was taking a picture of it — it’s real and it does exist and it does count towards what I was eating. And then putting up a visual image of it really helped me stay honest,” the user said.

Because Instagram allows one to create different accounts for different purposes under the same user profile, people reported that they could easily find communities and followers with similar interests by using food tracking, weight loss or healthy eating hashtags — and could avoid overwhelming friends and family who weren’t interested in seeing pictures of everything they ate. That differs from Facebook, for instance, which doesn’t allow for multiple accounts or identities.

“With Instagram, you can have a separate part of your profile dedicated to food journaling and you don’t have to be worried that your family member or neighbor who just wants to see pictures of your dogs or vacations will be turned off,” Chung said. “It’s not funneling everything to the same channel.”

People did report some tensions between wanting to remain honest about what they ate and feeling reluctant to photograph food that would be perceived as undesirable.

But users who ultimately met their weight loss, eating or fitness goals also found that remaining on Instagram — and helping mentor and encourage others — made it easier for them to maintain their desired behaviors and to continue to be mindful about their health, the study found.

“Maintenance becomes pretty boring for a lot of people because your quest to hit a goal has worn off,” Munson said. “This made things more interesting and meaningful for people because after they got to their goal, they turned to thinking about how they could help others and stay accountable to people who were relying on them for support.”

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a University of Washington Innovation Research Award and Microsoft.

Other co-authors are human centered design and engineering doctoral student Elena Agapie; Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering doctoral student Jessica Schroeder and associate professor James Fogarty; and Information School doctoral student Sonali Mishra, all from the UW.

5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Game

Did you know that Instagram had 600 million monthly active users as of December 2016 and is currently the fastest growing social app?

Visual storytelling is now key to a successful marketing strategy – consumers devour everything visual, from beautifully crafted images to cinemagraphs to video. And with 77% of Americans using smartphones to find great content while they’re on the go, visual marketing is the most effective ways for prospects and customers to engage with your brand without having to slow down and read a gazillion word post.

And Instagram is a great platform to do it.

Here are five tips on how to improve your Instagram game and maximize the opportunity

Here are five tips on how to improve your Instagram game and maximize the opportunity.

1. Advertising

All businesses can advertise on Instagram with photo ads, video ads and carousel ads.

Instagram ads will have a Sponsored label at the top and a call to action button at the bottom, which can be either ‘Learn More’, ‘Download’, ‘Install App’ or ‘Shop Now’

5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Game | Social Media TodayA great way to grow brand awareness with Instagram advertising is by focusing on a specific design aesthetic for all of your imagery. As users scroll through their feeds, they’ll learn to recognize your ads by the look of them.

2. Know Your Message

Consumers are attracted to brands they can identify with, so knowing what your brand stands for and telling that story consistently helps cement your authority. Now do that with attractive images and video and your followers will keep coming back for more – because you’re no longer a company to them, you’re a brand that enhances their lifestyle.

Patagonia’s Instagram page is a great example of this.

With 2.5 million followers and a mission statement that takes no prisoners, they know their brand’s values and their target customer, and they use stunning visual marketing to show how their products align with both.

3. Leave Breadcrumbs

You can use geotagging to add your location to your photos and help people find your physical location. You can also add custom hashtags and/or your Instagram handle to your posts so that other users can tag you when they share them – this enables their followers to click on those hashtags to find you, while also helping you keep track of the content they’re responding to.

Birchbox is a company that grew up with Instagram so they know the importance of the hashtag – it enables them to interact with their fans through likes, comments and sharing.

4. Offer Unique Content

Think outside the box – how does your product or service lend itself to an unexpected story?

Is there a holiday you can tie into? A slice of history? A discovery in space?

Check out how GE uses visuals to offer stories that both inform and delight their fans, while also tying everything back to their brand.

And now that you can share posts which include up to 10 photos, you have an opportunity to create longer visual stories that appeal to consumers who don’t always want to see an ad.

5. Create a special deal for Instagram Users 

One popular way to connect with your followers is by offering a coupon code for a product or service to anyone who follows or interacts with your Instagram account.

In December 2015, Starbucks held their #RedCupContest where they asked their customers to post images celebrating their iconic red cups.

5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Game | Social Media TodayThe top five photos were awarded a Starbucks gift card, preloaded with $500. Today, Starbucks continues to kill it on Instagram with a combination of customer-centered focus and catalog-style imagery that draws the eye and keeps people scrolling through their page.

By combining great stories with appealing visuals on Instagram you can grow your brand’s recognition and customer engagement quickly. As with all social platforms, the key is focusing on the human aspect of the brand by offering unique content, a clear message and consistent interaction.

Instagram Just Hit 600 Million Users and Is Growing Even Faster

Achieving this milestone before a purported Snapchat IPO is good news for Facebook investors.

Instagram hit a surprising milestone today. The photo- and video-sharing app hit 600 million monthly active users. This achievement highlights how the app has turned into a key social property for Facebook and emphasizes Instagram’s lead over competitor Snapchat.

Instagram Fb

IMAGE SOURCE: INSTAGRAM.

Accelerating growth

What’s particularly notable about Instagram hitting 600 million users on Thursday is the period in which the company added its last 100 million Instagrammers. The service’s monthly active users increased from 500 million to 600 million in just six months. As Recode’s Kurt Wagner pointed out, this marks an accelerated growth rate compared to Instagram’s growth of 100 million users about every nine months during the couple of years leading up to this period.

Instagram’s impressive growth puts the spotlight on Facebook’s overarching knack for growing its social networks.

The company’s core social network, Facebook, has continued to exceed expectations when it comes to user growth. Hitting 1.79 billion monthly active users in Facebook’s most recent quarter, the massive figure was up an impressive 16% year over year and 4.4% sequentially. Further, Facebook’s daily active users on its core platform were 1.18 billion in Facebook’s most recent quarter, up 17% year over year and 4.5% sequentially.

Facebook’s messaging platforms Messenger and WhatsApp have grown impressively during the past year as well. These services have seen their monthly active users increase from 700 million and 900 million, respectively, to over 1 billion each during the past year.

Facebook Social Networks Last Reported Monthly Active User Count Q3 2015 Monthly Active Users
Facebook 1.79 billion 1.56 billion
WhatsApp Over 1 billion 900 million
Messenger Over 1 billion 700 million
Instagram 600 million 400 million

DATA FOR TABLE RETRIEVED FROM FACEBOOK’S THIRD-QUARTER 2015 AND 2016 EARNINGS CALLS AND FROM INSTAGRAM UPDATES ON MONTHLY ACTIVE USERS. TABLE SOURCE: AUTHOR.

For comparison, Twitter‘s monthly active user growth slowed drastically once the company hit 300 million monthly active users. In Twitter’s most recent quarter, for instance, the social network’s monthly active users hit 317 million, up just 3.3% year over year and 1.3% sequentially.

Instagram can thank Snapchat for its growth

For Instagram’s recent success, Facebook has Instagram to thank. In August, Instagram essentially copied Snapchat’s Stories format when it introduced Stories on Instagram. Instagram’s Stories, like Snapchat’s Stories, enables users to piece together a string of photos and videos throughout their day into a story for followers to view for 24 hours.

 

Here’s Your Instagram Guide to Coachella — Even If You’re Stuck at Home


Day 1 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 11, 2014 in Indio, Calif.

More than 200 million people now use Instagram Stories, the social media outlet announced Thursday (April 13), and in celebration of the milestone, Instagram is introducing new Stories features that allow users to interact with their friends and followers in a more creative way — just in time for Coachella.

One new feature is the selfie sticker, in which users can take a mini-selfie, apply different frames and then put the completed selfie sticker on other photos. Additionally, Chicago, London, Madrid and Tokyo are getting their own geostickers designed by local community members.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicks off weekend 1 on Friday, and because the festival is particularly known for its Insta-worthy glamour, here is a Coachella guide to Instagram, tailored specifically to digitally navigate you through Indio’s two biggest weekends.

Who to follow if you’re at home during Coachella

If you were dying to hear Kendrick Lamar rap “HUMBLE.” live or see whether Lady Gaga was a proper replacement for Beyoncé but are stuck on your living-room couch instead, fear not. There are plenty of Instagram accounts to follow, and doing so could feel the same as being there — without the sweltering heat or the inevitable development of a week-long desert cough.

Both Coachella and Instagram will be posting real-time updates and behind-the-scenes content on their accounts for both the homebodies and concertgoers to enjoy.

Some of this year’s top performers like DJ Khaled (@djkhaled) and Lorde (@lordemusic) are all about the ‘Gram, and their posts are sure to be entertaining. Other good accounts to follow are headliners Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar), Radiohead (@radiohead) and Lady Gaga (@ladygaga), as well as Kehlani (@kehlani), Gucci Mane (@laflare1017), Tory Lanez (@torylanez), Tove Lo (@tovelo), Chance the Rapper (@chancetherapper) and Martin Garrix (@martingarrix).

How to make the most of your Coachella Instagram Story

If you managed to actually get tickets for the festival — which sold out in less than three hours — props to you. While you’re there, using filters on the Instagram Story tool can take your social-media game from basic to uniquely curated to highlight your experience.

Instagram Live is a good way of recording a whole set for your at-home followers, and you can use the new “hands-free” mode to take a video without having to hold down the record button the whole time. So your thumb can rest while you sway along to Lorde’s new song.

Since stories disappear after 24 hours, be as candid as possible. And be sure to tag your location with the new weather and time-stamp stickers, because everyone knows a Coachella post doesn’t count unless your followers know you’re there.

How to condense your multitude of potential posts

In just one weekend, concertgoers will have three different outfits to share, not to mention the stages, Ferris wheel and other colorful sights the festival sets up. Instead of posting 20 separate photos, using the album feature could be useful — and probably less annoying to your followers.

You can share up to 10 photos and videos in a single post, but good luck narrowing down from the 500 options on your camera roll.

Last year’s most popular filters at Coachella were Ludwig, Crema, Slumber, Amaro and Valencia. This year, maybe try Lark, Reyes or Juno, which are some of the more subtle newest filters. Bringing down the intensity might even allow you to get away with a #nofilter look. Your secret is safe with us.