How to Harness the Awesome Power of Customer Relations

If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.

Take it from the richest man in the world, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos: “The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company.”

Enter customer relations.

Sure, it doesn’t sound as glamorous or exciting as product development or sales. But customer relations is the bedrock of long-term success in business.

Now, that is exciting.

Okay, but what exactly is customer relations? Why is it so important to your business success? And how can you do it well?

In this article, you’ll learn about the awesome power of customer relations, and how to start building better customer relationships today. So buckle up!

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What is Customer Relations?

Custom relations is the process a business uses to proactively develop positive relationships with its customers. This includes activities such as marketing, PR communications, sales, and customer service.

The aim is to ensure that customers are highly engaged and satisfied with the business.

This then leads to positive outcomes such as customer retention, and a higher customer lifetime value (CLV). Success in customer relations is measured by the degree of customer satisfaction throughout the buying cycle.

If we set aside the jargon for a moment, it’s all about building a genuine connection and strong bond with customers.

Larger companies often hire people to specifically manage how the company communicates and interacts with its customers.

Indeed Customer Relations Jobs

Now, let’s get one thing straight:

Customer Relations VS. Customer Service

These two terms are often confused and used interchangeably.

Yes, they are highly related, but there is a key difference between customer relations and customer service.

Customer service is reactive.

It’s the process of effectively delivering what the customer has purchased. For this reason, customer service is usually about dealing with things that go wrong and responding to inquiries.

It’s about making good on your side of the bargain.

This is why Jeff Bezos said, “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”

Amazon Customer Relations(Source)

As Bezos mentioned, customer service usually involves directly responding to individual customers by phone, email, chat, or in person.

On the other hand, customer relations is proactive.

It’s the strategic process of engaging and interacting with customers and prospects to build a genuine connection, goodwill, loyalty – and ultimately, a strong company brand.

Okay, but how does this help you to grow your business?

3 Reasons Customer Relations is so Powerful

Now that you know what customer relations is and how it differs from customer service, why should you prioritize it?

1. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Word of Mouth

People’s opinions about your company matter – a lot.

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

Then there’s the internet.

In an interview on Forbes, Bezos said, “It used to be that if you made a customer happy, they would tell five friends. Now, with the megaphone of the internet, whether online customer reviews or social media, they can tell 5,000 friends.”

Plus, in today’s world, word travels fast.

Bezos shares, “If there’s one reason we have done better than our peers in the internet space… it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter… in any business. It certainly matters online, where word-of-mouth is so very, very powerful.”

Let’s look at an example from United Airlines.

Recently, United’s customer relations hasn’t fared too well. From the much-used Twitter hashtag “#UnitedAirlinesSucks” to the infamous viral videos showing officers forcibly dragging a doctor screaming and bloody from a Louisville-bound flight.

These videos and tweets reveal a widespread dislike of the company.

United Airlines Customer Relations

But it’s not just upset customers and bad press.

These incidents, feelings, and posts can also have a hugely damaging effect on a business’ bottom line. In fact, United Airlines’ market value dropped by $1.4 billion after the passenger-removal incident.

The cost of not caring is high.

However, there’s much to be gained from treating customers with care, attention, and respect.

Online shoe and clothing store Zappos is famed for its incredible customer service. Tweets like this are a regular occurrence:

Zappos Customer Relations

What’s more, replies from Zappos like this are also are just as regular:

Zappos Customer Relations

So Zappos is making lots of people happy, but does it also work as a business model?

You bet.

Zappos founder and CEO Tony Hsieh once explained the company’s success by saying, “We’re now at over $2 billion dollars in gross merchandise sales, and the number one driver of all that growth has been repeat customers and word of mouth.”

In summary: Word of mouth is hugely important.

As James Cash Penney, the founder of J.C. Penney, said, “Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.”

2. Recognize the Importance of Customer Retention

As Hsieh mentioned, repeat customers can drive huge growth.

In fact, research by Bain & Company found that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase company profits by 25%.

How?

On average, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers. Plus, acquiring new customers can be anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining current ones.

Crazy, right?

But let’s run through a practical example of how you can use higher customer retention to dominate your niche.

The longer you retain customers, the higher your customer lifetime value.

This is a metric that reveals the average amount of net profit that each customer is predicted to contribute to a business over the entire length of the relationship.

Now, when you earn more money from each customer, you can afford to spend more to acquire new ones.

This is awesome – especially if you use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Google, and Instagram.

PPC advertising uses a bidding system. This means that advertisers with the highest bid will win the advertising opportunity.

Here comes the cool part…

If you can afford to pay more than your competitors to acquire new customers, you can bid higher than them and buy all of their traffic.

All in all: Good customer relationships directly increase your bottom line.

As you’ve probably gathered, Zappos and Amazon’s success is due in part to their relentless dedication to their customers.

And they’re well-known for it.

This is when customer relations becomes more than communication or service – it becomes a business’s brand identity.

Bezos sums up branding perfectly: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Amazon’s brand is now so trustworthy that plenty of people have signed up for a new service called Amazon Key. This service allows a delivery person to open your front door to leave packages inside your home.

Amazon Customer Relations

Anthony Smith, the founder of Insightly, wrote on Forbes, “It’s ironic that consumers trust Amazon to enter their home more than they trust neighbors not to steal packages off their front porch.”

Let’s look at another example from outdoor gear and clothing brand Patagonia.

Patagonia has consistently used customer relations to communicate their commitment to environmental sustainability.

Patagonia embarked on an unlikely Cyber Monday advertising campaign. They took out a full-page ad in The New York Times that read, “Don’t Buy This Jacket.”

Patagonia Customer Relations

The ad explained how excessive consumption is over-extending our natural resources and damaging the environment, saying, “We want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.”

Unsurprisingly, this message strongly resonated with Patagonia’s target market and helped to differentiate them from their competition.

I mean, how many other businesses care more about their core mission than making sales?

As a result, Patagonia is revered by their customers as authentic, personable, and caring. Plus, they’re now one of the leading environmentally responsible companies on the planet, with revenue topping $209 million a year.

So how can you harness the awesome power of customer relations?

5 Essential Tips to Building Great Customer Relationships

Clarence Francis once said: “You can buy a person’s time; you can buy their physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of their skilled muscular motions per hour. But you cannot buy enthusiasm… you cannot buy loyalty… you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, or souls. You must earn these.”

How?

1. Put Your Employees First

Sorry, what?

Okay, I know I’ve just been going on about the importance of your customers. But as author Simon Sinek said, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

Simon Sinek Customer Relations

This is obvious when you think about it.

Your employees are the ones who control all communications with your customers.

They are responsible for maintaining your business’ values, providing great service, and making good on the promises you make to customers.

And if they don’t like their jobs, negativity and resentment will propagate.

However, if they love their jobs, they’re far more likely to spread positivity and go the extra mile for customers – like the employees at Zappos regularly do.

As Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

2. Obsess Over Your Customers

After your employees, it’s time to obsess over your customers.

“There are many ways to center a business,” said Jeff Bezos. “You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.”

This doesn’t just mean sending them nice messages or a free gift with every purchase.

It means working hard to understand their needs and desires, and then obsessing over how you can meet them.

As Albert Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

“The single most important thing is to make people happy,” said Derek Sivers. “If you are making people happy, as a side effect, they will be happy to open up their wallets and pay you.”

3. Don’t Just Communicate – Connect

Communication is the foundation of all relationships.

With the rise of the internet and social media, there are more ways than ever to begin conversations with your customers.

But great communication goes beyond words and makes a genuine connection.

Social media platforms aren’t a place to broadcast your marketing materials and announcements. They’re a place for conversations – and conversations require you to ask questions.

So ask customers to share their opinions and gather feedback.

Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said, “I have learned to imagine an invisible sign around each person’s neck that says, ‘Make me feel important!’”

Bottom line: Remember that all communication takes place between two humans.

Sure, that email might be sent to a list of thousands of people. But each is read by just one individual person. People want to engage with people, not customer service and marketing robots.

So, ensure that any time customers or prospects come into contact with your business, they leave feeling valued and respected.

As the 17th-century French mathematician, Blaise Pascal said, “Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.”

Blaise Pascal Customer Relations(Source)

4. Always Exceed Expectations

It’s nearly Christmas.

You’ve ordered a PlayStation as a present for your son. It was delivered to your doorstep when you were out, but your kindly neighbor signed for it and left it on your front porch.

Then, disaster strikes.

The package mysteriously vanishes. There’s nothing you can do except handover another few hundred bucks and reorder it, right?

This happened to an Amazon customer a few years ago. Can you guess what Amazon did?

They sent him a new PlayStation for free. He didn’t even have to pay for shipping, and they managed to get it to him in time for Christmas!

Now, I’m not suggesting you send all of your customers free PlayStations.

However, I am suggesting that you always exceed expectations. When you do, it makes for more than good stories – it demonstrates your commitment to providing real value to your customers.

So under-promise and over-deliver.

In a 60 Minutes interview, Jeff Bezos said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Jeff Bezos Customer Relations

So, respond to customer service inquiries as fast as humanly possible. Add a personal touch whenever you can. If your shipping says it takes 7-10 days, ensure parcels arrive within 4-5 days.

Don’t say you’re the best. Strive to be the best. Go above and beyond.

As the analytical psychologist, Carl Jung said, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

5. Provide Stellar Customer Service

Sivers said it best: “Customer service is the new marketing.”

Remember, the internet is a giant megaphone that unhappy customers are more than happy to wield like a bloodied medieval sword.

You’ll want to avoid that at all costs.

However, if you do find yourself in hot water, whatever you do, don’t brush customers off, downplay their concerns, or just plain ignore them.

Instead, accept responsibility – and fast.

Thirty-nine percent of social media complainers expect a reply within 60 minutes. That’s why the airline KLM has 150 employees answering complaints solely on social media, 24/7.

Be compassionate.

Invite the customer to share their feedback and show that you’re listening. Listen without judgment, and work with them to figure out how to solve the problem.

Alan Weiss, the author of Million Dollar Consultingsays, “Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem.”

Million Dollar Consulting Customer Relations

Then, go to work addressing their concerns.

This is vital to get right when 71% of customers stop doing business with an organization due to bad customer service.

Plus, negative customer feedback is an incredible opportunity to find out exactly how to improve your product or service. As Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

The more that you understand your customers’ needs and desires, the more you can tailor your business to meet them.

What’s more, don’t just wait for customers to come to you.

Make sure you regularly check online forums, social media, and review sites for any mentions of your business. Then reach out to remedy the situation if you can, or simply apologize and show that you care – caring alone is powerful.

As Gary Vaynerchuk, the author of The Thank You Economy, said, “I attract a crowd, not because I’m an extrovert or I’m over the top or I’m oozing with charisma. It’s because I care.”

Gary Vaynerchuk Customer Relations

Summary

Customer relations may seem unimportant compared to things like product development, sales, and marketing.

But businesses will find it extremely hard to grow if they neglect customer relationships.

Remember what Henry Ford said: “It’s not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages.”

Customer relations can also feel overwhelming because it encompasses so much of what a business does.

But if you get the core principles right, everything else should fall into place:

  • Look after your employees and they’ll look after your customers.
  • Genuinely care about your customer’s welfare and opinions.
  • Don’t just communicate, connect and bond with customers.
  • Work hard to exceed expectations and provide additional value wherever you can.

Is your business customer-focused? Let us know in the comments below!

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Instagram Story Dimensions and Killer Ideas to Up Your Game

Instagram is a powerhouse.

This social media titan has more than 800 million monthly active users, and many experts believe it could reach a billion in 2018.

What’s more, Instagram Stories are a huge hit.

In fact, Instagram Stories grew to 250 million daily active users within a year of its launch, and now has more users than its rival Snapchat Stories.

But as more and more people use Instagram Stories, it’s getting harder to stand out. As a result, you need to know the ins and outs of all things Instagram – including Instagram Story dimensions.

In this article, you’ll learn all about Instagram Story dimensions. And stick around: You’ll also learn about 18 Story ideas from top brands killing it on Instagram.

Let’s dive in!

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What Are Instagram Story Dimensions?

Instagram story dimensions are 1080px by 1920px. This means that your image or video should be 1080 pixels wide and 1920 pixels in height. This is also known as an aspect ratio of 9:16.

Below is a template of these Instagram Story dimensions that you can download and use to create your Stories.

Instagram Stories Dimensions

To download the image:

  • Mac: Hold down “Control” and click the image, then click “Save Image As” to save it to your computer.
  • PC: Right-click the image, and then click “Save Image As” to save it to your computer.
  • iPhone/Android: Tap and hold the image until the option to save arises, then tap “Save Image.”

Why Do You Need These Instagram Story Dimensions?

If you use your smartphone to take a portrait photo or video, it will perfectly fit the Instagram Story dimensions of 1080px by 1920px.

But Instagram’s Story creator and your phone’s capabilities only go so far.

If you want to create more professional images or videos in a program like Photoshop or Illustrator, you need to use the correct Instagram Story dimensions.

Because Instagram ain’t messing around.

If you upload an image or video from your camera roll that doesn’t fit these Instagram Story dimensions, the content will be cropped and some of your visuals will be lost. Or, Instagram will zoom in on your content, resulting in poor quality.

For example, I recently took this photo of the Cornish cliffs in England:

But when I share it as a Story, the photo is shown zoomed in to fit the unforgiving Instagram Story dimensions.

As a result, the image quality is dramatically reduced, and the cove’s beach is entirely removed from the frame.

Bottom line: Any Stories you share will be forced to adhere to the Instagram Story dimensions.

By creating content with these Instagram Story dimensions, you’ll ensure that your images and videos are framed correctly and retain their high quality.

Create a Branded Story in Canva Using the Correct Instagram Story Dimensions

Although you can use Instagram’s camera and editor to create content within the app, you can also create content in a professional visual editor and then upload it from your phone’s camera roll.

This is awesome.

Specially designed branded content can be far more eye-catching than content created with the Instagram Story creator.

Check out how Gary Vaynerchuk does it:

These images weren’t created in the Instagram app. Instead, they were created using the Instagram Story dimensions in a different program and then uploaded as Stories.

This allows Gary’s team to create a branded aesthetic with additional images, text, and graphics.

To do this, you can use a free online tool like Canva.

Simply create an account, log in, and click “Create a design.” Then, instead of opting for one of the templates, click “Use custom dimensions.”

Type in the Instagram Story dimensions 1080 x 1920, and click “Design!”

Canva Instagram Stories Dimensions

Next up:

Use the Instagram Story Dimensions Aspect Ratio to Upload Content Faster

The Instagram Story dimensions 1080px by 1920px are high-definition and the best quality visuals you can upload.

However, this isn’t always a good thing.

High-resolution images and videos are saved as large files because they contain more pixels. These can take up a lot of storage space on your device and take longer to upload than lower-definition files.

To illustrate this point, have you ever changed the quality settings on a YouTube video?

Switching to 1080p will provide the highest quality, but if a video is taking a long time to buffer, it’s often easier to drop down to 720p. This is still considered high-definition, but with fewer pixels to worry about, the video will load faster.

The same is true when it comes to any digital media.

But here’s the thing: When you change the number of pixels shown, the shape of the video doesn’t change because all of the settings use the same aspect ratio.

Remember, the Instagram Story dimensions aspect ratio is 9:16.

Using this ratio, we can work out which smaller Instagram Story dimensions will also work:

  • 1080px by 1920px – The best resolution available
  • 720px by 1280px – Still HD, but with faster upload times
  • 450px by 800px – Starting to lose quality, but much faster upload times
  • Etc.

The fewer pixels, the less definition.

However, if you want to avoid large files and slow upload speeds, you can create content in these sizes and it will still fit the Instagram Story dimensions.

18 Instagram Story Ideas from Brands Killing It on Instagram

Now that you know how to use the Instagram Story dimensions to create your own branded content, let’s look at the types of content you can create!

Here are 18 Instagram Story ideas from some of the top brands in the world.

1. Create Content Series: Gary Vaynerchuk

It can be difficult to come up with great content ideas for social media every day.

It can also be difficult to build a strong connection with your audience if you’re inconsistent, or your content lacks a brand theme.

The solution? Content series.

Garyvee Instagram Stories

This is one of the ways Gary Vaynerchuk manages to share so much high-quality content every single day.

He has the #DailyVee, the #60SecClub, #WallPaperWednesday, and #AskGaryVee, to name a few.

These recurring content themes make consistently sharing great Stories far easier. So, create a content series that you can run daily or weekly.

2. Promote Long-Form Content: Travel and Leisure

Do you write blog posts for your website? Maybe you run a podcast? Or perhaps you create YouTube videos?

You can use Stories to promote other content to your Instagram followers. You’ve already done the work, now it’s time to share it!

Take a look at how Travel and Leisure does it:

If you have more than 10,000 followers, Instagram gives you the option to add links to your story. This allows users to swipe up on a story to visit your chosen link.

But what if you don’t yet have 10,000 followers?

Well, for now, you can still direct people to the link in your bio, which you can update for each new piece of content you promote.

But beware, users will quickly grow tired if you simply promote other content.

In this case:

3. Recycle and Build on Your Other Content: Condé Nast Traveler

Try recycling the best parts of your other content into awesome Instagram Stories. This is a great way to create quality content quickly. Just take your blog post, video, or images and repurpose them for Instagram.

Obviously, you can still promote the original long-form content, too.

However, just make sure that your Instagram followers derive value from the Story without having to click over to view the content.

Condé Nast Traveler does a great job of this.

They promoted their annual road trip guide with a careful balance between interesting facts and promotional calls-to-action.

4. Create a Game: HubSpot

Creating an Instagram Story game is a great way to engage your following. And thanks to the Instagram Stories poll stickers, it’s extremely simple to do!

Let’s look at an example from HubSpot.

In their recurring content theme, “2 Truths & A Lie,” they pose three statements and ask viewers to guess which are true and which one is a lie. Then they reveal the answer.

HubSpot Instagram Stories

It’s simple and highly effective.

5. Share User-Generated Content: Mercedes Benz

Your customers are an untapped source of incredible content, and all you have to do is ask them if you can share it.

Many users will be more than happy for you to post their content if you credit them and they get a few new followers.

Mercedes Benz regularly shares Stories featuring customers’ images to promote their cars.

6. Collaborate and Post an Interview: Starbucks

Everyone has an interesting story or viewpoint to share – why not present some of them as Instagram Stories?

If you interview someone in your niche, you’ll get some great Story content, and they’ll get promoted on your account – it’s a win-win!

You could also showcase someone’s thoughts behind your new product or release.

Starbucks recently collaborated with S’well and artist Curtis Kulig to launch a new bottle design. Then, they posted a short interview with Kulig as an Instagram Story.

7. Document Moments and Events: Vans

When it comes to creating content, Vaynerchuk says, “Document, don’t create.”

This is wise advice.

Let’s get deep for a moment: All creation is a form of documentation in some way. A Renaissance painting, a scientific journal, or an Instagram Story are all ways of documenting something.

The Renaissance painting documents beauty, the scientific journal documents facts, and the Instagram Story documents what happens in a particular moment in time.

So, capture moments and share them with your audience.

This could be day-to-day personal moments, or in this example from Vans, a large-scale event.

Vans Instagram Stories

8. Host a Competition or Prize Draw: Converse

Creating a simple competition or prize draw is a great way to engage your followers.

Check out how Converse does it:

Plus, you can send users to your website to enter and use the prize draw as a lead magnet.

“Lead magnet” is the fancy marketing term for “bait.”

Basically, you provide something of value in exchange for people’s contact information so that you can market your products or services to them.

If you’ve spent more than five minutes online, you’ve probably seen it plenty of times: “Submit your email address to be entered into the prize drawing!”

The lead magnet can be anything of value, such as an ebook, a free consultation, or indeed, entry to a prize draw!

9. Do a Takeover: Think Grow Prosper

A takeover is a simple collaboration where you and another Instagram user create content to appear in each other’s Stories.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a big fan of takeovers, and Think Grow Prosper recently let Vaynerchuk take over their Instagram Stories:

GaryVee Instagram Stories

Takeover collaborations are an extremely effective way to quickly grow your following through cross-pollinating your audiences.

In other words, some of their audience will follow you and some of your audience will follow them.

Plus, having another person show up in your Stories is akin to a brand endorsement.

Vaynerchuk explains this perfectly: “It’s the modern-day equivalent of guest appearances on rap albums. If you’re an up-and-coming artist and Kanye West shows up on one of your tracks, it’s viewed as a seal of approval from Kanye.”

What’s more, you don’t need to give away your Instagram log-in details to the other person. Simply send each other a few images or videos to share.

10. Tell a Story: The Outbound

Humans need stories.

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and author, said that the “human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.”

So why not use Instagram Stories to tell a story?

The Outbound did exactly this when they told a story about a couple who bought an old VW bug in Mexico and went on an adventure.

11. Promote a New Product: Lego

Have you ever seen the way Apple fans react when a new iPhone is released?

If you’ve grown your audience with openness, authenticity, and integrity, they’ll be thrilled when you announce a new product.

Lego recently shared an Instagram Story promoting their new Lego Batmobile.

But be warned: An audience that feels no genuine connection with a brand will resent such promotions and consider them self-serving and desperate.

This is why branding is so important.

So before you post purely promotional Stories, make sure your audience will be receptive.

Testimonials are an effective way to harness the awesome power of social proof.

Social proof refers to the undeniable fact that people are heavily influenced by other people’s opinions and actions.

Marketers understand this very well, and it’s why you’ll often see brand endorsements from influencers and celebrities. These endorsements reassure people that buying your product is a good decision.

Nike Football regularly posts testimonial Instagram Stories, such as the one below featuring professional footballer Fran Kirby.

13. Get Topical: Condé Nast Traveler

If you’re feeling stuck for ideas, look to current events for inspiration.

Whatever niche you operate in will have news, developments, and goings-on that you can report on to create great Instagram Stories.

In this example, Condé Nast Traveler shares Stories featuring travel news from around the globe.

14. Tell Your Followers’ Stories: Vogue

Another way to involve your followers is to share their stories and opinions. Reach out to find people with something to say.

Vogue does this extremely well in their Instagram Story series, “#DearVogue.”

Dear Vogue Instagram Stories

15. Get Personal: HubSpot Life

Transparency and authenticity are powerful ways to create personal connections.

In fact, a whopping 94% of consumers say they’re likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency.

Hubspot understands this so well, they have a dedicated Instagram account called Hubspot Life that’s “on a Mission to make business more human.” They use the account to show what it’s like to work at HubSpot.

HubSpot Life Instagram Stories

So don’t be afraid to get personal and showcase the people behind the brand.

16. Post Something Inspiring or Thought Provoking: Marie Forleo

Everyone needs a little inspiration and motivation now and again. So try creating Instagram Stories that deliver a dose of these powerful feelings!

Take a look at how Marie Forleo does it:

Marie Forleo Instagram Stories

And if you’re looking for ecommerce inspiration and motivation, follow Oberlo on Instagram! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

17. Go Behind the Scenes: Aritzia

There’s always more to a business than meets the eye, and these behind-the-scenes details can make some extremely compelling content.

Fans of brands often love to learn about how everything comes together.

This is why fashion boutique Aritzia recently shared how they used 3D printing to create their new window displays.

Artizia Instagram Stories

18. Mix It Up: Yoga Girl

Hopefully, by now, you have plenty of Instagram Story ideas – but if you ever get stuck, don’t be afraid to switch it up!

Yoga Girl shares a mix of different types of content. The images below show a group yoga session, family time, and a sponsored post.

Summary

Instagram Stories is more personal than the Instagram feed.

So showcase your personality, and don’t be afraid to get creative and try new things. Then, you can explore further or drop the idea depending on how your audience responds.

And when you create content to upload using the camera roll, don’t forget to use the correct Instagram Story dimensions.

Which Instagram Story idea are you going to try next? Let us know in the comments below!

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Facebook Algorithm Changes: What Marketers Need to Know

Few things inspire more chewed fingernails and cold sweats among ecommerce marketers than Facebook algorithm changes. When Zuck & Co. whisper those dreaded words – algorithm changes – it catches the attention of every business that uses Facebook.

And in 2018, just about every business uses Facebook. Which is why you get headlines like, “Facebook’s Algorithm Is Apocalyptic for Brands.”

Apocalyptic? Well, that seems a bit strong, but Facebook algorithm definitely matters. After all, Facebook sets the rules of engagement for reaching your customers (and potential customers) on the biggest social media platform in the world. So we need to know what’s going on with that algorithm.

This post will go over exactly that. First, we’ll look at Facebook algorithm changes in 2018. Then we’ll identify common themes that emerge in lots of Facebook algorithm changes, and go over tips for how to survive new and future changes.

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What is a Facebook Algorithm Change?

A Facebook algorithm change refers to a change in the News Feed algorithm. That’s the queen bee algorithm controlling who sees your content and ads in their News Feeds.

True, Facebook is fueled by god-knows-how-many algorithms. Algorithms for finding friends, playing games, and attending nearby events. But when marketers say “Facebook algorithm changes,” they are talking about the News Feed algorithm.

It’s the News Feed algorithm, more than all the others, that dictates how much noise you can make on Facebook. So for our purposes, a Facebook algorithm change is a change that Facebook makes to the visibility of your content in the News Feed.

The Big Facebook Algorithm Change in 2018

The most recent Facebook algorithm change that made marketers shudder came in January, when CEO Mark Zuckerberg penned a lengthy Facebook status update explaining that content from friends and family – not businesses and brands – would populate users’ News Feeds. In other words, posts from your business page will be pushed aside. From Zuckerberg:

The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups….

You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see… should encourage meaningful interactions between people.

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, gave some more details in the Facebook Newsroom:

Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.

So, it’s easy to see why this Facebook algorithm change has spooked ecommerce marketers and store owners. Facebook is very clearly saying that the content you build around your store will probably be seen less. Your reach will drop, and it will drop not because of anything you did, but because Facebook wants it to.

That Facebook content strategy you worked so hard to create and execute? It’s still relevant. Just not as relevant as it was in December.

What the Facebook Algorithm Change Announcements Don’t Say

We can get so worried by these Facebook announcements that we forget to look at what’s not said. And with the 2018 changes, it’s vital to remember what isn’t there.

For starters, everything is framed around “content” and “posts.”

Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments…

You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media…

We’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses…

Sure, it’s a shame that your carefully crafted content will have a harder time cracking into people’s feeds. But even if this Facebook algorithm change puts a dent in your organic reach, you can still use Facebook ads. Ads are the lifeblood of Facebook, and neither Zuckerberg nor Mosseri use the words ads or advertisements once.

Users might see a post about Grandma’s new car instead of your flash sale announcement. But Grandma won’t be replacing your ads.

There is speculation that a decrease in business’ organic reach will cause ad prices to spike. And that makes sense: If everyone starts relying on ads, the demand will go way up. (According to one theory, the Facebook algorithm has been tweaked specifically to drive up ad prices.)

Even so, don’t get caught up in doomsday scenarios about what this Facebook algorithm change means for your ability to reach your target groups. It’s just that instead of spending a few hours creating engaging copy and images, you might have to spend a few hours (and a few hundred bucks) creating ads.

The New Facebook Algorithm Change Isn’t New

Another aspect of this Facebook algorithm change that often goes unmentioned: Facebook has been heading in this direction for years.

For example, after a 2014 algorithm change, Facebook said, “People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content.”

In a 2016 press release, Facebook said, “That’s why today, we’re announcing an upcoming change to News Feed ranking to help make sure you don’t miss stories from your friends.”

Fast forward to 2018, when Facebook said, “The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”

That’s how you can get nearly identical headlines two years apart:

2016: Facebook’s algorithm update will prioritize posts from friends over news organizations

2018: Facebook will now show you more posts from friends and family than news

In other words, featuring content from friends and family has been a Facebook talking point for years. Evidenced by these ongoing changes to the Facebook algorithm, Facebook is apparently still trying to find the right balance. But the point is, Facebook has long wanted the content in users’ News Feeds to come primarily from friends and family. Not from your ecommerce store.

How many times will Facebook announce algorithm changes about prioritizing content from friends and family before it finally, permanently, successfully prioritizes content from friends and family? Who knows. But one day these threats about clearing brand content from the News Feed will come to life, and you need to be ready when marketers’ organic reach is put on life support.

So, What Should I Do About These Facebook Algorithm Changes?

Facebook algorithm changes won’t go away any time soon. Facebook is going to keep tweaking what users see, and if history is any indication, those tweaks will continue to make it harder for brands, businesses, and companies to reach people organically inside their News Feeds.

So, what does that mean for you and your business? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Place a premium on interaction

Check out how 😍 Zuckerberg is about interaction in his announcement:

Clearly Facebook will be placing a premium on interactions, so you can expect to be rewarded if you post stuff that generates comments and inspires people to tag their friends.

Of course, right before this Facebook algorithm change launched, Facebook announced that it was actively fighting “engagement bait.” You know, those posts that say, “Tag 5 friends and get registered for our giveaway!” So the interactions you generate should be legit.

Launch a fundraiser

Facebook is trying to reshape its image. That means less content from companies, sure, but also more transparency. Fewer dodgy apps. Better data protection. Less content from Burmese military officials.

And finally: More charity fundraising.

As you may have seen on your last birthday, Facebook now lets you launch a fundraising campaign for your favorite charity. This is exactly the sort of PR-friendly change that Facebook loves – and it’s something that you can leverage to get visibility for your brand.

Wait, don’t brand visibility and charity contradict? No!

Facebook has expanded its launch-a-fundraiser function for brands like yours: “Pages – including those run by brands, public figures, and nonprofits themselves – can now create and donate to fundraisers.”

Ecommerce shops from across the web tap into social responsibility as a way to simultaneously help a good cause and make customers feel good by helping that cause. If you want content to get in front of people, this is one type of non-paid post that Facebook seems to love.

Play with Audience Optimization

Facebook wants engagement? Let’s give it to them.

There’s a cool feature that Facebook does a really good job of hiding: Audience Optimization. Audience Optimization lets you set the same sort of targeting rules for your organic posts as you’d use for your ads. As Facebook explains, you can “target your posts in News Feed to audiences most likely to engage with your content (e.g., based on interest). Also allows you to restrict who can see your post in News Feed based on audience age or location.”

So if you have content that you think would be most relevant for a certain segment, you can use this feature to hit that segment. This will drive up your engagement rate, which will show Facebook that people in your target group like this post, which will get the post seen more.

To launch Audience Optimization, go to your Facebook Page settings. In the “General” area, you’ll find “Audience Optimization for Posts.” Go ahead and enable that, and get your engagement on.

Look into “Live” videos

When announcing their recent algorithm changes, Facebook dropped multiple hints about the importance of live video. In fact, they weren’t hints: Facebook said it loud and clear.

According to Zuckerberg, the brand and business content you see “should encourage meaningful interactions between people…. We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones.”

As Mosseri put it: “Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.”

Translation: We want interactions, live videos generate interactions, you do the math.

Now, doing video for Facebook Live is easier said than done. But if you want to flatter the Facebook algorithm into showing your content, it appears Facebook will be charmed by video. Just remember:

  • Your videos don’t have to be pristine quality. They shouldn’t be grainy, but people will tolerate less-than-studio quality if the content is engaging.
  • Don’t expect an immediate flood of viewers. Facebook, YouTube, and Google Search, among others, are notoriously fuzzy with details about their algorithms, but it’s conventional wisdom that all of these platforms like frequency: The more content you produce, the more the algorithms like you. That means you have a clear path to increased visibility – produce more videos – but also a built-in disadvantage when you’re just getting started. Tl;dr: be patient.
  • Facebook Live video probably won’t be the magic bullet forever. There is no “final Facebook algorithm change.” Changes will keep coming, and the next one will probably treat video differently than this one. Facebook was “obsessed” with live video back in 2016, then they were less obsessed in 2017, and they seem obsessed again. Who knows – maybe by the time your live video operation is thriving, there will be a Facebook algorithm change that favors VR.

Trust that your ads will continue getting seen – and that they’ll be more expensive

As we discussed earlier, the newest Facebook algorithm change will make it harder to get your organic content into people’s News Feeds. But your ads? Oh, Facebook isn’t hiding your ads.

In fact, a strong argument can be made that this algorithm update will make ads even more important for Facebook. The prices will probably go up, sure, but if Facebook succeeds in generating more engagement – that is, after all, the stated goal – then at least there will be engaged eyeballs on your ads.

Use the new Facebook algorithm as an excuse to diversify your marketing mix

If you were looking for an excuse to mix it up and quit relying so much on Facebook, here you go. Sure, if you’re running an online business, you can’t avoid Facebook. But with every Facebook algorithm change, we are reminded that success on Facebook is a moving target.

That’s why it’s important to make sure your customers can find you on other platforms, too. While Facebook may want to protect its friends-and-family roots, that other Facebook-owned social media platform, Instagram, has no such philosophy. So maybe instead of sending people to your Facebook page, do like online bra store Harper Wilde does and send them over to Insta.

Google doesn’t care about friends and family

Okay, that’s a deceiving headline. Maybe Google does care about family and friends. The point is that Google doesn’t mess around with these “more content from friends and family” algorithm changes that Facebook seems to roll out every 18 months.

Does Google adapt their algorithms? Absolutely. Google’s Panda algorithm, for instance, was designed to remove search results from content farms that were producing searchable but ultimately lame content. The Penguin algorithm, meanwhile, was designed to remove search results from sources that were deemed spammy.

That said, Google will never ice you out in favor of your cousin’s new cat picture. That means SEO can be your friend today, tomorrow, and next year.

Same for AdWords. AdWords does not appear to be subject to the drastic changes that Facebook organic content is. If you plop down your money and create your ads, AdWords will make sure people see it.

Assume that your content won’t get seen as much

As if making noise on Facebook weren’t already hard enough. It’s only going to get harder.

True – even with these Facebook algorithm changes, posts that generate legitimate engagement will continue to pop up in News Feeds. And the hacks that we’ve just gone over will help with that. But generating that engagement in the first place will be harder because you’re working against a built-in bias that Facebook’s algorithms have against your content: You aren’t friends and family.

Facebook Is Still a Business Platform

All this talk of prioritizing friends and family over brands might make you think, “Well, I guess Facebook has transformed into a quasi-philanthropic platform whose mission is to connect people with loved ones.”

Thing again.

Facebook still has bills to pay and shareholders to please. Which means it still has industry-leading business tools that they are more than happy for you to use.

Facebook Pixel: The Facebook Pixel is a snippet of code that lives on your website and lets you leverage Facebook data to run more impactful ads. Basically the Pixel looks at who visits and buys at your store, and then does two things: (1) targets those same users with ads later on, and (2) targets people who are similar to your customers and who, by extension, might also be interested in your store.

Facebook Analytics: Facebook Analytics is a powerful tool for analyzing how people interact with your website, Facebook page, and Facebook content. Contrast Facebook Analytics with Google Analytics, which doesn’t have any idea what is happening on your Facebook page, and it looks all the more powerful.

Facebook Business Manager: The average Facebook user might start to see more heartwarming posts of their new baby cousin, but entrepreneurs out there are still going to have full access to the suite of toys available in Facebook Business Manager. Business manager will remain the place to make ads for Facebook and Instagram, and ads are still how Facebook and Instagram make money. So fear not, Business Manager is still your friend.

Conclusions on Facebook Algorithm Changes

Facebook algorithm changes will never stop. That much seems clear. If we take that as our starting point, here are some things that marketers can trust through past, ongoing, and future changes:

  • Don’t expect a Facebook algorithm change – at least not one announced publicly – that deprioritizes content from friends in favor of content from your store. Period. The trends is always in the direction of friends and family, and away from brands. So assume that the News Feed algorithm will never be as nice to you as it is today.
  • If there’s a silver lining, it’s this: Facebook is making changes to keep users more engaged. Engaged users are more likely to engage with ads. Your ads. It’s not like Facebook is becoming a charity. There will still be ads, and if these Facebook algorithm changes have their intended effect, those ads will be seen by users who enjoying themselves and open to seeing your ads.
  • Facebook algorithm changes are a good reminder that Facebook is not the be all end all of advertising. Facebook is sexy. The user base is ginormous, the Business Manager UX is nice (mostly), there is a proven record of brands gaining traction and driving sales via Facebook. At some point, though, these Facebook algorithm changes might test your patience. And when that happens, remember that Instagram, AdWords, and our old friend SEO will be waiting with open arms.

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