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Why Instagram is worth the time for some small businesses

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According to the latest research, Instagram — the video and photo social media platform — has a billion monthly active users around the world, with more than half a billion on the platform daily, making it the sixth biggest social media platform behind WeChat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Facebook.

So does that mean that your small business should be using Instagram to promote your brand? Like anything else, that answer depends on your business.

“Instagram has hugely helped my business,” says Hugh E. Dillion, a freelance event photographer who runs the popular (40,000 followers) PhillyChitChat account and a related blog where he shares fun and interesting photos and videos of celebrities in town, events he’s attending or nights out with his friends and family. “Oftentimes I’ll go out and people recognize me just from that. It frequently turns into work for me.”

» READ MORE: A fingerprint, whisper networks, and Instagram: How Philly strippers banded together as cops tracked a serial rapist

Kristen McCoy, the owner of Crumb and Cow (16,700 followers), a Philadelphia based provider of local meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables for parties and events, says she uses Instagram as her main source of marketing. “Our posts help raise our brand’s awareness and connect us with customers,” she says. “It’s also a creative outlet for our business.”

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Dillon’s on-the-scene photography and McCoy’s colorful food plates make their businesses perfect candidates for Instagram because it’s a platform that relies on the visual. But that doesn’t mean that Instagram is right for every business.

Sure, there are millions of people using the platform to post photos, upload videos, comment on interesting items, and interact with their friends and followers. But are these people going to buy your products?

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According to the same research mentioned above, 75% of people aged 18-24 in the United States use Instagram, making up the largest group by age, followed by 57% of 25-30 year-olds. They’re mostly following celebrities, funny accounts, and friends. If you’re selling machine parts, industrial components or thermoplastic injection moldings used in the aerospace industry, it’s quite possible that the audience on Instagram may not exactly be your audience.

“I’m a huge proponent of… not being on every social channel,” says Brian Honigman, a Philadelphia-based marketing consultant. “They all take up time and resources. You should be laser focused.”

Even if you do decide to use Instagram, get ready to invest time and money. Succeeding there takes commitment.

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“I run our social media channels and particularly with Instagram I aim to post at least six times a week,” McCoy says. “Our photography driven content can be quite time consuming because I put so much attention to detail into everything while setting up a shot. Due to time constraints, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of creative potential, especially as we begin to venture more into video.”

Like McCoy and Dillon, the most successful people using Instagram devote a great deal of time to the platform. They’re posting one or even a few times a day and are always consistent. They’re testing and leveraging the right hashtags, those identifiers which make searching easier, to maximize the reach of posts. They’re checking and responding to comments by other users. They’re using Instagram’s features to create longer form video “Reels” (videos posted to the site cannot be more than one minute in length unless the Reels feature is used) or live videos. And they’re not just doing this randomly. It’s all part of a thought out plan which includes specific posts that will be most enticing to fans and followers.

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And they’re making sure their posts are made with care. To ensure the best quality and branding placement in our attention deficit world, Dillon, for example, advises businesses to consider hiring a photographer and including the right kind of content.

» READ MORE: In West Philly, best friends were shot over an Instagram feud they had nothing to do with

“It’s key to have good photos and to make sure they’re cropped correctly,” he says. “What I tell my clients, if you’re having a ribbon cutting, or if you’re going to have us at a store opening, insert a banner that says your name on it and all your company’s information so people can look at that picture and see everything that you’re about. This pays when people are scrolling through they don’t have to read your copy and can instead see what your product and your business is about.”

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Given all the work involved, it’s not uncommon to employ social media and marketing experts to help. The upside of using an outside expert is that it saves you time and delegates the work to someone who should be intimately familiar with the platform. The downside of course is the cost and the potential loss of authenticity with your audience. Neither McCoy or Dillon do this for those specific reasons.

Some of my clients have dabbled in Instagram ads where you can not only post content but then promote it to a specific demographic of potential customers.

These ads usually include Instagram’s tags that allow users to click on a post and go to their ecommerce sites.

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My advice is to be careful doing this. Advertising on Instagram, like any social platform, can start out inexpensively. But ad dollars can be quickly eaten up by clicks that never turn into a sale and what starts as a $500 budget could turn into thousands. Unfortunately, by the time this money is spent, the return on investment may not be what you desire.

“The ideal scenario is to get enough traction over time where you don’t need to rely on the ad money to boost anything,” says Honigman.

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In the end, Instagram may not be for all businesses. But it’s perfect for some. Many freelancers, artists, content creators, restaurateurs, and retailers have used the service to promote their wares, build a reputation, enhance their brand, and engage with audiences – all activities that ultimately turns into being hired for services or selling products. Smart business owners have like Dillon and McCoy have made their presence visual, fun, interesting and even quirky. And they’ve benefited.

Gene Marks is a certified public accountant and the owner of the Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm in Bala Cynwyd.

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August

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Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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