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Millennial Money: five steps to weed out Instagram ad scams

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AP – Holiday shoppers, prepare to be bombarded with social media ads – and scams. Highly targetted advertising on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook makes it easier than ever for brands to get in front of their target market.

But these ads also make it easier for shady brands to dupe eager scrollers and shoppers with glossy images, only to deliver low-quality goods or nothing at all.

Scams originating on social media have skyrocketed in recent years. According to data from the Federal Trade Commission, complaints of fraud that started on social media jumped from nearly 28,900 in 2019 to more than 71,500 in 2020.

And that figure is on pace to double again in 2021, with nearly 76,000 reports of social media fraud filed in the first half of this year, resulting in USD292 million lost by consumers.

“While these advertising platforms try to weed out obvious bad actors via their automated algorithms, it is literally impossible for them to fully protect end consumers from sketchy companies,” said co-founder and chief marketing officer for Real Estate Bees Oleg Donets.

Real Estate Bees is a marketing platform for the real estate industry.

“Most of the time, the responsibility of vetting advertisers falls on the shoulders of end customers.”

But how do you know which brands to trust? These five steps will help you separate the gems from the fakes.

SEARCH FOR INDEPENDENT REVIEWS, COMPLAINTS

Reviews on a company’s website can be cherry-picked, or worse, completely fabricated. So look for customer feedback on independent sites, like Trustpilot and Google My Business, and search for complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker.

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You can also tap friends, family and your broader social network for insight.

They’ve likely been served the same ads as you, and odds are good that someone pulled the trigger and can tell you if the product is as advertised.

Not finding any reviews? Consider that a red flag.

RESEARCH THE DOMAIN HISTORY

One clue to a business’s legitimacy is how long its website has been around.

To find out when a website was created, simply plug the URL into the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ lookup tool. Sketchy companies pop up and disappear faster than the moles in the arcade game, creating a new domain name every time they resurface, so be wary of any sites created in the past year. Companies with an established web presence are more likely to be legitimate.

TEST OUT CUSTOMER SUPPORT

Take the brand’s customer service on a test drive before buying. Reach out to the company through its official channels, such as a support email or phone number, as well as by direct message on the social media platform.

Donets suggests doing this multiple times to get a true sense of the company’s responsiveness. “In my experience, this strategy works 90 per cent of the time,” Donets said. “In most cases, a shady company will answer one or maximum two questions, and then they would stop replying.”

TRIPLE-CHECK THE RETURN POLICY

Make sure you’re crystal clear on the return policy before tapping the “buy” button. If you’re unhappy with the item, how many days do you have to return it? Does the site allow for a full refund or will you be issued a credit? Does the company even allow returns?

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“I fell into this trap and bought a ring with my daughters’ names on it,” Woroch said. “It did not look like the picture in the ad, and unfortunately I overlooked the no-return policy. So basically I threw away USD40.”

PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD

You can do all the research in the world and still fall victim to a glossy Instagram ad. And if you paid from a checking account or with cryptocurrency, you have little recourse to get your money back.

But credit cards have an extra layer of protection.

If an item isn’t as advertised and the brand’s customer service doesn’t come through and resolve the issue, you can initiate a chargeback through your credit card company and have the charge reversed.

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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.

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.

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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Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters

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Facebook Instagram and TikTok are launching new features to encourage people to get their coronavirus booster jabs.

From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.

It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.

TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.

I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones

More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.

People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.

A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said:  “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.

“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.

“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

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How many hashtags should you use to get the most ‘Likes’ on Instagram?

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Hashtags are a key feature of Instagram posts. In fact, they have become an essential means of ensuring more ‘Likes’ on social media – so long as you choose them wisely.

But how many hashtags should you use to maximise your popularity on the social network? The answer might surprise you.

It’s a question that many Instagram users ask themselves: what’s the right number of hashtags to add to a post? To find out, the Later platform analysed 18 million Instagram posts, excluding videos, Reels and Stories.

Interestingly, Later’s results differ from Instagram’s own recommendations. According to Later’s analysis, using more hashtags helps get better results in terms of “reach”, or the percentage of users exposed to the post. By using 20 hashtags, Later observed an optimal average reach rate of just under 36%. Using 30 hashtags gets the next-best reach rate. With five hashtags, reach hits just under 24%.

And while a post’s reach is important, engagement is even more so. From “Likes” and comments to shares and follows – on average, 30 hashtags appears to result in better engagement rates: “When it comes to average engagement rate, using 30 Instagram hashtags per feed post results in the most likes and comments,” says Later’s research.

Yet, at the end of September 2021, Instagram advised its creators to use between three and five hashtags for their posts, while warning them against using too many. The social network advised that using 10 to 20 hashtags per post “will not help you get additional distribution”.

For Later, there could be other reasons behind Instagram’s recommendations: “As Instagram continues to expand their discoverability and SEO tools, it makes sense that they want users to experiment with fewer, more relevant hashtags – this could help them accurately categorise and recommend your posts in suggested content streams, like the Instagram Reels feed or the updated hashtag search tabs,” the website explains. – AFP Relaxnews

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