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We may be a bit biased when it comes to talking up the benefits of social media, but fortunately, you don’t just have to take our word for it.

Food for thought: 59% of marketers are actively using social to support their lead generation and business goals. Meanwhile, it’s hard to find a brand that isn’t active on social media in some way, shape or form.

However, there are still plenty of critics who don’t see the benefits of social media from a business perspective.

To the general public, social media often gets a bad rap for being a time-sink. More importantly, measuring your ROI from social media can be difficult versus more straightforward marketing channels (think: PPC, email marketing, etc).

So you may be asking yourself “What are the benefits of social media?”

Well, we have an answer. Actually, we have nine of ’em.

The 9 most overlooked benefits of social media

Social media deserves your attention now more than ever.

Although it may not immediately result in a flood of cash or that “viral” moment you are hoping for, there’s so much that social can do for your brand both short and long term.

Here’s our breakdown of the social media benefits that often fly under the radar for modern businesses.

1. The ability to uncover industry trends in real-time

Simply put, social media is a potential goldmine of business intelligence.

How so? For starters, think about the transparent nature of social media. We’re able to see unfiltered, real-time conversations between consumers and brands alike.

If you want to know what a brand is doing well or likewise what customers are complaining about, it’s all out there in the open.

And of course, your target audience’s social activity and shared content can clue you in on industry trends. For example, Instagram hashtags such as #summerootd or #festivalfashion can highlight everything from relevant influencers to fashion trends that are currently all-the-rage.

And if you want to tap into those trends via social conversations, look no further than social listening to do the trick. For example, features such as trend reporting in Sprout Social help hone in on what customers discuss when they talk about your brand. This includes key terms and hashtags associated with your business.

However, these mentions represent more than just chatter.

For example, social conversions can clue you in on everything from which products your customers love to areas where your company might be falling short. A flurry of praise or customer complaints can spur you to take action based on follower feedback. In turn, brands can come up with real-time solutions and products that their customers will buzz about.

2. More comprehensive competitive analysis

Perhaps one of the biggest social media marketing benefits is the ability to spy on your competition.

What are they currently promoting? What sort of ads are they running? How is your content strategy different from theirs?

These answers don’t have to be question marks. By conducting social competitive analysis, you can uncover opportunities to step into a new lane in terms of content or advertising.

For example, maybe you realize that your competitors are crushing it with Facebook ads but their Instagram presence is totally lacking. In turn, you might explore influencer marketing or user-generated content campaigns for the sake of standing out from the crowd.

Looking at your competitors’ social performance is a cinch with tools like Sprout. Our competitor and sentiment analysis reports allow you to look head-to-head to monitor growth and engagement to ensure that you aren’t falling behind.

Through this analysis, you can also discover which pieces of your own content are scoring the most engagement. Understanding your top-performing content is likewise key to understanding how to break through the noise in your industry.

3. Provide better customer service

According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, nearly half of all consumers have already taken to social media to ask questions and raise concerns.

Unlike awkward phone calls or lengthy emails, social customer service is quick and to-the-point. Providing social customer service means having meaningful, back-and-forth conversations with your customers that are oftentimes forward-facing.

In other words, prospects, customers and competitors alike can see how you interact with your buyers. Putting positive interactions front-and-center is a huge plus for any business.

Whether it’s listening to feedback or addressing specific concerns, an ongoing advantage of social media is that it’s the perfect place to provide speedy service and let customers know that you’re there to lend a helping hand.

And of course, social media also represents a prime channel to gather customer feedback. Responding to questions and concerns signals that you’re invested in serving your audience.

Want to know if you’re providing stellar customer service? Sprout can help with that. Sprout’s suite of social listening tools includes sentiment which tracks your brand health, ensuring that your social mentions remain on the positive side. An influx of complaints or questions could signal big-picture problems with your customer success strategy.

4. Curate customer content and stories in a snap

Customer photos and success stories go hand in hand with higher engagement and conversion rates.

And there’s no better place to gather both than social media.

For example, monitoring your mentions and tags can help you uncover positive customer interactions that you can share with the rest of your followers. Many major brands and retailers regularly curate customer photos to use throughout their marketing campaigns.

This is exactly why having a branded hashtag is so important. By encouraging your customers to tag their content, you can uncover shareable posts that your followers will love while also making a connection with your customers.

So many brands have their social presence centered around customer experiences and it’s no surprise why. Social proof in the form of customer content not only shows that you have satisfied customers but also provides your brand with a much-needed sense of authenticity.

5. Positioning power over your competition

This might seem like a no-brainer but it’s worth mentioning.

Simply having an active presence on a social channel represents positioning power for your business.

Think about it. Let’s say your closest competitor has an Instagram account that’s booming with customer photos, Stories and sleek snapshots showing off their product.

On the flip side, you have an Instagram profile that’s gathering cobwebs.

Not a good look, right? Consistently publishing on channels relevant to your business signals that you’re active and open to new customers.

Oh, and don’t forget the literal positioning power of social media in search engines when someone looks up your brand. Your Facebook or Instagram could very well be your business’ first impression on a customer versus your website. This again speaks to the importance of maintaining an active presence.

6. Build backlinks and a better search engine presence

The SEO impact of social media has been hotly debated for years.

Related Articles

That said, the relatively recent concept of linkless backlinks signals that there is a correlation between social media and search performance.

In short, shares and click-throughs via social represent positive search signals to Google. If nothing else, social can represent a sizable traffic source (granted you’re tracking your social traffic via Google Analytics).

Don’t neglect social media as a content distribution channel. A popular piece of content that scores hundreds of likes and shares can drive serious referral traffic to your site, especially when you optimize your social scheduling with something like Sprout’s patented ViralPost technology that ensures you’re utilizing optimal send times.

7. Appeal to younger, social-savvy customers

To say that social media has transformed the traditional advertising landscape would be the ultimate understatement.

Thinking of social media as a sort of hip, “young” advertising channel might seem a bit cliche, especially since it’s capable of reaching customers of all ages.

That said, research reinforces that Gen Z is shaking up marketing by responding less and less to traditional advertising. Given that younger customers are growing up alongside social media, brands will need to adapt beyond in-your-face commercials and ads.

And right now Instagram is the place to be to reach those younger customers. According to recent social media demographics, the vast majority of users on Instagram are under the age of 30.

As younger consumers hop from platform to platform, brands should likewise expect to experiment with new ad channels. The popularity of user-generated content, Stories and influencers highlights the sort of authentic, experience-focused advertising that continues to appeal to the younger crowd.

8. Humanize your brand

Businesses today rightfully want to show off their human side.

And so many brands have benefited from dropping the “suit and tie” vibe in lieu of getting personal with customers on social media.

MoonPie is one of the most popular examples, adopting a snarky, meme-heavy social presence that feels like it’s run by a teenager. Although this sort of approach to social isn’t for every brand, it’s definitely not what most customers would expect and therefore drives engagement.

Some brands manage to humanize themselves through philanthropy and activism. In a day and age where half of consumers want to see brands take a stand on social and political issues, brands like Ben & Jerry’s do a brilliant job of highlighting their human side.

Simply showing off your colleagues and coworkers is an easy way to put a face to your brand, much like Sprout does with our #TeamSprout series.

9. More top-of-the-funnel leads

Lastly, one of the key benefits from social media marketing is more leads, plain and simple.

Given that there are billions of people already active on social media, there’s a non-zero chance that your audience is already there. Whether through paid ads or content promotion, you can reel in more top-of-the-funnel leads by raising awareness for your brand.

In fact, 77% of Pinterest users discover new brands and make purchases based on what they see on the platform. Having a social presence which introduces people to what you’re selling represents yet another way to score more sales. Even if these leads don’t make purchases directly through social, raising awareness could lead them on the path to becoming full-fledged buyers down the line.

And with that, we wrap up our list!

What are the biggest benefits of social media for your business?

A social media presence has become an expectation for brands rather than an exception to the rule.

And we totally agree that businesses shouldn’t latch onto social media “just because.”

Instead, businesses should assess the potential benefits of social media themselves based on specific, actionable goals. Although the impact of the benefits above varies from brand to brand, there’s no denying the business implications of having a social presence.

Of course, we still want to hear from you! What do you see as the benefits of social media for business? Let us know in the comments below!

This post The 9 most overlooked benefits of social media originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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The situation is clear: you must create engaging video content on social media.

You know you have to draw the viewer in and leave an impression, but there are so many ways it can go wrong.

It’s already hard to churn out videos, but it’s a lot harder to make sure your content resonates for the right reasons – you want to get customers excited about your brand.

Your videos must be interactive, transparent, innovative and topical, and the best types of social media video content blend all of these elements.

Here are nine examples of social media video ideas done right to inspire your marketing efforts.

1. Shinola: A 360 Tour of the Shinola Detroit Factory with Luke Wilson

A 360 Tour of the Shinola Detroit Factory with Luke Wilson

From the watch factory to the rooftop, take a 360 tour of our Detroit factory headquarters with Luke Wilson and Reel Fx

Posted by Shinola on Thursday, September 8, 2016

Engaging your customer means a lot more than just getting them to watch or like your video.

If a video encourages your customers to interact with it and gives them some control over the experience they have while watching, your video will be an experience for them to remember. This example from luxury watch brand Shinola is engaging in many dimensions.

Its 360 format means that in order to follow the action, the viewer needs to engage with the video with their cursor, so they will be more focused on listening to the video.

This complements the content of the video perfectly as immersion into the human side of the product’s manufacturing calls for a method that lets viewers feel as if they are right there by the action.

Additionally, the presence of actor Luke Wilson gives customers a familiar face to lead them through the industrial spectacle that is the Shinola factory.

2. Warby Parker: How Warby Parker Glasses Are Made

How Warby Parker Glasses Are Made

Ever wonder how Warby Parker glasses are made? Well, we documented the entire process, from the initial design to the cutting of the lenses. Spoiler alert: It’s a beautiful thing. http://warby.me/2DfoGNj

Posted by Warby Parker on Thursday, January 18, 2018

Warby Parker, an online eyewear retailer, makes it clear early on in this video that one of their priorities is “engaging with customers directly.” However, they don’t leave it at that.

They continue to prove it with an immaculately shot video that gives customers a behind-the-scenes look at exactly what goes into each pair of glasses they make. Not only is the video shot well, but it is informative, detail-oriented and transparent.

This video breaks the stereotype of product manufacturing as a dry, dismal process and turns it into something artful.

This video exemplifies a minimalistic approach: it’s just not complicated at all. When there is purpose behind every frame, customers notice.

A walk through this process gives customers a curated look at the quality control behind the product, and the minimalist design of each frame makes it especially hard to look away.

“A minimalist approach to design is intentional design. Intention guides every choice,” writes Natalie Gotko, content strategist at Clique Studios. Minimalist design is taking strategy first then adding complexity where it’s needed. That strategy works incredibly well in this video, especially for a brand like Warby Parker – which values design not only through its eyewear, but also through everything else within its brand including its stores.

3. Red Bull: Road Trip USA is With Red Bull Racing

Red Bull | Road Trip USA is with Red Bull Racing

On the road again – The American road trip continues! 🏁

Posted by F1 on Thursday, October 11, 2018

Red Bull is the epitome of a company that can gracefully dip its toes into many strains of content, even if they have little to do with the product it sells. This is key to excellent marketing.

If customers associate you with any of their interests, they will be more likely to gravitate towards your product. This video shows the Red Bull’s skill at this as they tap into a widespread market of passionate enthusiasts, creating something that establishes their brand as an authority on F1 Racing.

They do this with music as well — people see them pumping money into an industry they love, and suddenly Red Bull becomes about much more than just an energy drink. The best part about this video is that you don’t have to be an F1 fan to enjoy it. Its scenic imagery and “American road trip” theme makes sure not to box out any viewers who might not be as in-touch with racing.

4. Denny’s: Military Husband Reunites With Childhood Friend After 20 Years Apart

Military Husband Reunites With Childhood Friend After 20 Years Apart | Grand Reconnections

Her husband thinks he’s meeting her for a meal at Denny's. What he doesn’t know is that he’ll be reunited with a best friend he hasn’t seen in over 20 years…

Posted by Denny's on Monday, May 13, 2019

When it comes to a viral tearjerker video, nothing strikes more of a chord than the uplifting reunion. The premise here is simple.

A man thinks he’s meeting his wife for a normal meal, but as he arrives he realizes he’s in for something much more substantial. Instead, his best friend from childhood — who he hasn’t seen in twenty years — is waiting for him. They get emotional, reconnect, feel all the feelings and, of course, eat some Denny’s!

It’s the type of moment that any viewer can be moved by, and it all happens in Denny’s, creating an association with the restaurant that stems beyond bacon and eggs. Customers don’t view this type of social media video as a transparent attempt to sell a product, but a piece of storytelling that they will get sucked into and watch all the way through, one whose emotional impact will linger with them until the day ends. It’s subtle, but next time they see a Denny’s, all those feelings will come back.

5. Starbucks: Live from Rufus King Park

We're LIVE from Rufus King Park in Jamaica, Queens to Turn Up The Vote. Join us, Common and Howard Schultz to celebrate National Voter Registration Day.

Posted by Starbucks on Tuesday, September 27, 2016

One of the most impactful innovations in social media recently has been the rise of live video, allowing viewers to tune in and follow an event in real time.

They can comment and react, making their voice heard as the action is happening. Nothing makes a viewer feel like they’re there more than watching through the lens of someone who actually is. The question for brands is, what do you broadcast when you go live? In the case of Starbucks, the answer here was social issues, which can go awfully wrong if pulled off less gracefully than this. Starbucks know their limits, and they stay on the right side of them.

They remain non-partisan, by discussing the importance of voting, an issue that most people can agree on.

They do it with taste, by not inserting themselves or their product into the issue. They prove their worth, by providing a platform for the message to be spread. Viewers react passionately to issues that impact them, and something like this can earn Starbucks’ Facebook page plenty of engagement by piquing its audience’s genuine interests.

6. Genius Verified: Doja Cat Breaks Down the Meaning of “Mooo!”

Talk about a format that benefits both parties.

Genius used to primarily be a website where music listeners could get the scoop on what their favorite rap lyrics meant, until it expanded into a beacon of all types of addicting, marketable video content. The most successful of these has been its “Verified” series, where musicians can sit down in front of a camera and explain their lyrics to the viewer with no room for misinterpretation.

This allows Genius to carve its place as a well-connected empire that gives you one of the most unfiltered experiences available when trying to interpret a song, letting the artists use the platform as a means of getting in on some sweet viral fame.

Doja Cat’s appearance on the series with her novelty hit “Mooo!” basically kick-started her career, taking a song that was viral in only a small crevice of the music world and exploding into a full-blown sensation.

7. Oreo x Games of Thrones Title Sequence

Oreo x Game of Thrones Title Sequence

The most epic cookies of all time are here. #GameOfCookies #ForTheThrone

Posted by OREO on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Engaging customers often involves observing what’s going on in pop culture and finding a way to insert your brand as a voice that knows what’s up and is just as excited as everyone else is.

Of course, Game of Thrones was a huge source of hype this spring, and even those who weren’t heavily invested in the show somehow got roped into the discussion.

By recreating the title sequence using just Oreos, Oreo made something instantly clickable and shareable that was perfectly on-point with the world’s collective enthusiasm. It takes a real GOT nerd to make something as immaculate and spot-on as this, and it’s this type of energy that resonates hard. Also, don’t try to tell me that staring at Oreo’s for this long doesn’t trigger your cravings!

8. Ben & Jerry’s: Social Awareness on 420

It’s hard to celebrate 4/20 when so many people of color are still being arrested for pot. We have to do better. Learn more: https://benjerrys.co/2Xn8vr2

Posted by Ben & Jerry's on Saturday, April 20, 2019

420 is a holiday companies love to cash in on, especially those who sell delicious sweet treats to millennial and gen Z customers.

However, Ben & Jerry’s think outside the box by using their platform to educate their customers on issues that really matter. In this case, the issue is mass incarceration.

Instead of taking the easy angle to the holiday, Ben & Jerry’s take a risk. However, it’s this type of informative video that sucks people in and makes people starts discussions. As we noted in Sprout’s #BrandsGetReal findings on social media in a divided society, people seek this type of awareness from brands and expect them to be positive contributors to social issues.

The reason this works is that Ben and Jerry’s practice what they preach. They have donated a lot of money to these causes, and have repeatedly used their platform to spread these messages. People see this and notice the brand’s authentic and consistent voice.

9. WeWork: Tel Aviv

WeWork’s brand is unique. By reinvigorating the office environment, they are associated with a special blend of professionalism and breaking convention. What better way to exhibit this than giving customers a glance at their own work environment. Customers see this transparency and understand how deeply the brand is committed to its mission of “creating an environment where people work to make a life, not just a living.”

Space transformation through shared workspaces is not only a product they execute for other companies, but a philosophy that they truly believe impacts the way people work, including their own employees.

This Instagram video is cleverly edited and very personal. By showing just how refreshing a space like this can be, it makes viewers want to work nowhere else.

If you read one section from this article…

When you create a video for your customers on social media, it’s hard to know where to begin.

These videos are meant to inspire you: think about your company’s mission, your customers, and the way in which you approach the creation of the video before you start.

Make something worth watching – something that your customers will want to watch over and over again. Your goal should be more than to sell your product or service – you are creating a video that will be on the Internet for anyone to watch. It should be engaging and speak to your unique brand voice

What ideas have you implemented for social video content? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

This post 9 social media video ideas that engage customers originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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If you feel like you don’t quite “get” Instagram marketing, you’re not alone.

On the surface, it might seem like little more than a place for snapshots and selfies.

The reality, though? Instagram is an absolute goldmine for businesses of all shapes and sizes. From social selling to community-building and beyond, there’s a reason why Instagram is booming right now among businesses and consumers alike.

That said, Instagram’s “simplicity” can be deceiving. Many brands struggle to grow or adopt Instagram as part of their social strategy and we totally understand why.

Listen: you can’t afford to “wing it” on the ‘gram. You need a clear-cut, actionable Instagram strategy if you want to grow a presence and attract customers.

And that’s why we put together this post. Below we’ve broken down an Instagram marketing strategy guide to help you get started on the platform and understand the best practices for growth.

Get a complete picture of your Instagram presence with Sprout Social

Whether you want to review your brand’s Instagram growth and engagement or manage your future content more effectively, Sprout lets you do it all in one place.

Intuitive dashboards and presentation-ready reports will help your team get up to speed on where your social strategy stands and where you’re heading.

Start a free trial to try it out for yourself, or schedule a demo to learn more about our Instagram features.

1. Defining your Instagram marketing goals and purpose on the platform

This might seem like a no-brainer, you need to be able to answer exactly why you want to be on Instagram in the first place.

Are you interested in generating leads? Building a community? Brand awareness?

Setting social media goals isn’t fluff. These goals will determine everything from your content strategy to how much time you spend on the platform.

There is no “right” or single goal you have to commit to, either. That said, your ROI from Instagram really boils down to your goals.

For example, Crate and Barrel is a shining example of a retail brand whose Instagram marketing strategy is laser-focused on social selling. Their entire feed centers around showing off their products and encouraging followers to check ’em out as well.

Meanwhile, beauty brands are oftentimes focused on highlighting products while also building a community by constantly going back-and-forth with followers. For example, Glossier frequently features their followers in their feeds as well as inside jokes that only their customers will appreciate.

Local, brick-and-mortar businesses often focus on keeping customers in the loop on their latest promotions while also building relationships. Notice how Dixie Dharma takes the time to respond to their customer comments in addition to showing off their mouth-watering breakfast offerings.

And some brands simply use Instagram as a means to show off their team and go behind the scenes of their business. B2B brands like Zapier might not seem like they have much to gain from Instagram, but manage to use their platform to show off the brand’s human side.

The beauty of Instagram is the sheer amount of creative freedom available to you. Either way, your Instagram marketing strategy starts with your goals.

We recommend that you spend some time digging through Instagram yourself to help inspire your business’ strategy.

Follow some of your favorite brands. Follow some competitors, too. Experiencing the platform as a user is the best way to understand how businesses and consumers interact with each other.

2. Optimizing your Instagram profile for engagement

Here’s some good news: in terms of setting up your profile, Instagram is relatively straightforward.

However, there are a few small details to watch out for as you put together your profile.

Before you worry about creating content for Instagram, make sure you’ve ticked the following boxes. This rings true for new profiles and brands looking to fine-tune their Instagram marketing.

Convert to a business profile

For starters, make sure that you’ve switched your account to an Instagram business profile. Doing so allows you to highlight additional information such as your industry, location, phone number and email address as part of your Instagram bio.

Additionally, Instagram business profiles have access to analytics to help you see how followers are interacting with your account. Of course, we recommend that you go beyond base-level metrics with the help of Sprout Social (but more on that later).

Decide on your brand creatives

Although they’re easy to overlook, your brand creatives are integral to your Instagram marketing strategy.

Specifically, your hashtags and bio.

The process of creating a hashtag doesn’t have to be daunting. For example, most hashtags are either a brand name or slight variations on a brand name.

#Topshop #MyAnthropologie #SkechersStyle

See what we’re saying?

The purpose of having a hashtag is to encourage followers to tag your brand and enable you to do the same. Hashtags serve as a sort of call-to-action to encourage customer photos and stories.

In turn, you and your followers can see who else used your tag and shared their snaps.

For more ideas and inspiration, take a moment to review our comprehensive guide to hashtags for Instagram.

Craft a compelling Instagram bio

Despite being only 150 characters, your Instagram bio is invaluable real estate.

This is your brand’s first impression with customers and potential followers. It represents an opportunity to highlight what your brand is all about and encourage followers to take action.

Oh, and it’s the only place where you can funnel Instagram traffic to your promotions or website.

As part of your Instagram marketing strategy, make sure that your bio includes the following.

  • Hashtag(s) related to your business
  • Some sort of call-to-action (“check out the link below,” “tag your photos”)
  • A trackable link to monitor the behavior of your Instagram traffic (Bitly, Tap.bio or Linktree are all great options)

For example, Whole Foods’ Instagram manages to achieve all of the above.

Again, you have tons of creative freedom on Instagram. For reference, you can check out dozens of examples on our guide to writing your Instagram bio.

Choose a ‘gram-worthy profile picture

According to our guide to social media image sizes, your Instagram profile picture is confined to a measly 110×110 pixels.

Translation? Sleek, minimalist and high-res is the way to go.

For example, Casper includes only the first letter of their stylized brand font for a bold profile pic.

Meanwhile, BarkBox manages to include their entire name with clean, legible text.

Don’t try to cram too much into your profile picture. There are tons of social media editing tools to help you mock up a minimalist logo if you don’t have one handy.

3. Creating content for Instagram that your customers will love

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of your Instagram marketing strategy.

That is, creating content.

Yet again the concept of creative freedom rears its head. With so many possibilities in terms of what you can post, where do you even start?

Here we’ve highlighted some specific Instagram marketing tips that showcase the types of content that crush it based on best practices. Although these aren’t the only types of content you can publish, consider these post types to be cornerstones of your Instagram marketing.

Eye-popping imagery

Stylish snapshots.

That’s exactly what put Instagram on the map.

Photos featuring some sort of striking creative trademark, whether it be a stunning setting or bright color scheme, are the types of posts that reel in the “likes” and comments.

Of course, not all of us have the privilege of working in an industry that allows us to take exotic photos. Thankfully, most modern smartphones have features baked into them to take compelling photos of just about anything.

Also, there are plenty of  Instagram apps which include filters and style options to step up your photos.

People-centric photos

It might sound cliche, but social media is, well, social.

That means centering your content strategy around people. Specifically, highlighting the humans who support your business.

For example, user-generated content and customer photos are staples of Instagram. Sharing such snapshots allows you to show off your satisfied customers and put your products in a real-world setting.

Don’t forget about showing your team some love, too. Going behind-the-scenes and celebrating your colleagues is a simple yet effective way to humanize your brand.

Videos

Video content is among the most popular and shared around social media, Instagram included.

If you’re not a professional videographer, don’t panic. Many brands share bite-sized promos in lieu of big productions.

And yes, you can create video that sells with little more than a smartphone.

Bear in mind that video content on Instagram doesn’t have to akin to a traditional commercial. Vine-style looping videos and timelapse videos are insanely popular and can be put together in a matter of seconds thanks to third-party apps. For example, the video below was created with LifeLapse.

Memes and image macros

Perfect for humor or inspiration, not everything on Instagram needs to come from your camera reel.

In fact, memes and image macros are a way to break up the monotony of your feed and engage your followers on a personal level.

Jokes? Tips? Inspirational quotes? If you’re strapped for ideas, such posts can do the trick. Oh, and you can whip ’em up in no time thanks to tools like Canva.

Instagram Stories

Brands are integrating Stories into their Instagram marketing strategies like never before.

Why? For starters, Stories enable you to “skip the line” in your followers’ feeds by putting your account at the front of their Story queue. Furthermore, time-sensitive content taps into your customers’ sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Great for deals, company updates or just plain playful content, Stories are something you should strive to create on a daily basis. Check out our guide to Instagram Stories to better understand how to create a story that sells.

Instagram marketing tools

No matter which types of content you choose to create, it’s crucial to track the performance of your content over time. This allows you to see which posts are actually resulting in meaningful engagement.

That’s where tools like Sprout are a game-changer versus Instagram’s native analytics. Sprout keeps an eye on engagement trends and content performance to help you better refine your content strategy over time.

4. Publishing your content to Instagram to maximize engagement

Let’s say you have your content ready to publish. Now what?

Good question! Simply posting at random isn’t going to do you any good.

Related Articles

As part of your marketing strategy for Instagram, take note of the following before you put out your next post.

Crafting captions

Each post you publish should have a unique caption. Even the seemingly smallest details of those captions can impact your engagement rate and whether or not your post is discoverable.

With 2,000+ characters to work with, you certainly have creative freedom. However, you’ll notice that many businesses take a “less is more” approach to their Instagram captions.

No matter what you’re saying or selling, make sure that you include a combination of the following in your captions.

  • A call-to-action (a question, “check out our bio,” etc)
  • A touch of personality (use emojis, take up a conversational tone)
  • Hashtags (including your branded hashtags, between one and five is considered optimal)
Timing and frequency

When you publish your content and how often matters when it comes to engagement.

Most brands publish daily or on a near-daily basis. Of course, you don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Also, the timing of your posts impacts how likely your followers are to see them. For reference, here are the optimal times to publish to Instagram based on research regarding the best times to post on social media.

Having to worry about posting in real-time can be a pain. That’s why we again recommend using an Instagram marketing tool such as Sprout to do the heavy lifting. For example, features such as ViralPost can clue you in on when your specific account scores the most engagement. Then, you can automatically schedule your content in advance to hit those times.

Cross-posting from other social networks

For many brands, it makes sense to cross-post your Instagram content across networks such as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Doing so saves you some serious time and keeps you from bouncing from network to network. With Sprout, you can cross-post and edit your individual posts to ensure they’re optimized specifically for Instagram.

5. Promoting your Instagram for the long-term

No matter what Instagram strategies you’re experimenting with, so much of your engagement depends on how you promote your Instagram.

Followers and customers don’t show up by accident. As a result, you need to put your Instagram front-and-center across your other marketing channels.

For example, make a point to prominently feature your Instagram on-site. Whether it’s social buttons or a feed of your followers’ photos, customers should know that you’re active on the ‘gram.

Additionally, promoting your Instagram via email is a smart move. Bellroy’s email signature consistently features their branded hashtag and encourage customers to share their photos.

Heck, you can even use your branded hashtag as part of your physical packaging and marketing. That’s exactly what Extra does.

And of course, promoting your Instagram also means showing up day after day. If you let your account gather cobwebs, you can’t be surprised when your engagement rate takes a dip.

Respond to followers. Engage with other accounts. Committing to Instagram means being an active participant on the platform.

Oh, and don’t forget to mind your analytics! In-depth insights like the ones provided via Sprout can be huge motivations and eye-openers to brands struggling on Instagram. Rather than second-guess what to post next, your analytics more than likely have the answer.

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

What does your Instagram marketing strategy look like?

The best practices and tips highlighted above are fair game for brands of all shapes and sizes.

From optimizing your profile to engaging your followers and beyond, knowing what clicks with customers is a matter of consistency and experimentation.

With the help of tools such as Sprout, you can easily manage the many moving pieces of your Instagram marketing strategy.

We want to hear from you, though. Have you made any changes to your Instagram marketing strategy recently? What’s working for you on the ‘gram? Let us know in the comments below!

This post Instagram marketing: how to establish an effective strategy originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Racking your brain trying to write the perfect Instagram bio?

The struggle is real.

Because those 150 characters represent one of the most important components of your Instagram presence.

After all, it’s the first thing your followers and customers see when they land on your ‘gram. Not only that, but your lone bio link is your only shot to drive traffic and shoppers to whatever you’re promoting.

And so there’s a lot of pressure to make that small space count.

If you’re worried that your Instagram bio isn’t “clever” enough or isn’t doing enough to encourage clicks, don’t panic – we’re here to help.

The anatomy of an awesome Instagram bio

There is no single “correct” way to craft your bio.

And while there are a ton of cut-and-paste Instagram bio templates out there, we recommend that you assemble your own.

Why? Because cut-and-paste isn’t going to help you stand out from the crowd. Instead, we encourage brands to find their own voice and understand the best practices of putting together a bio for Instagram that scores clicks.

But what best practices are we talking about? We’re glad you asked!

Include a call-to-action

Ask yourself: what exactly do you want your Instagram followers to do?

Check out your site? Shop your feed? Share your hashtag?

Either way, be loud and clear about that desired action.

Although your IG bio might seem self-explanatory, consider that your bio link could very well be your introduction to a potential customer. Don’t assume that they’ll take action: tell them what to do.

For example, Yeti encourages followers to share photos featuring its products coupled with the #BuiltForTheWild hashtag.

Meanwhile, Bellroy funnels its traffic to a store link and quite literally points to it with an emoji.

See how that works?

Feature your branded hashtag(s)

Of course, hashtags are central to your Instagram presence.

And what better place to put ’em on display than your bio?

You can feature as many tags as you want, although most brands typically include one or two. Note that hashtags in your Instagram bio don’t make your profile discoverable via search.

Check out how TeeFury uses two branded hashtags to encourage and promote user-generated content.

Hashtags actually serve as a call-to-action by themselves in addition to your bio link. For example, clicking through one of TeeFury’s tags allows followers to explore user-generated content and see their products in the wild.

Think about your link

Remember: Instagram only allows you to post one link in your bio.

How do you make it count? For starters, make sure whatever you’re linking to makes sense based on your business’ goals. Most brands use a custom, branded URL rather than a generic homepage link.

The benefits of this approach are two-fold. Not only do you have the opportunity to shorten your URL, but also track the behavior of your Instagram traffic once they click through.

For example, tools like Bitly or Tap.bio allow you to create trackable, branded links that don’t look clunky or bulky.

Similarly, you’ll see many retailers and ecommerce brands use their customer shoppable feed links (like this Like2Buy link from Curalate).

If you don’t want to restrict yourself to a single link, tools like LinkTree can do the trick.  LinkTree links are both customizable and trackable but also allow your Instagram traffic to take multiple actions upon clicking through your bio.

For example, Skillcrush has a pretty minimal Instagram bio…

…but upon clicking through their LinkTree, visitors have a variety of options to click on based on what they’re looking for.

And as a side note, make sure that your link is up-to-date and working properly. This is especially important if you’re consistently switching up your promotions.

Let your personality shine

There’s no rule that says your Instagram bio needs to be strictly business.

Besides, there are tons of creative ways to show off your brand voice in 150 characters or less.

For example, bold brands with name recognition often take a minimalist approach to their bios. A slogan and hashtag don’t take up many characters but have the potential to speak volumes.

Emojis are a popular way to inject some personality into your Instagram bio, too. Suavecita does exactly that, using an emoji-list format that we see often from beauty brands.

Humor is also fair game. Viking Books’ bio is clever (“We publish great books. Here are some photos of them.”) and manages to make their profile stand out in a way some may not expect from an account not strictly based in comedy.

 

A slogan or sentence that highlights your brand’s values is also a great way to make your bio pack a punch. For example, the North Face defines its mission statement and doesn’t come off as a salesy brand whatsoever.

Most Instagram bio ideas follow a list-style format

As you’ll notice with most of our Instagram bio examples so far, many brands follow a list format.

There are a few reasons for this. List-style bios are scannable and easy to read. Just like people don’t feel like slogging through a paragraph of text, bullet-points get your message across to folks faster.

Given that the vast majority of Instagram users are visiting you via mobile, a list-style bio flat out makes sense.

Plus, list-style Instagram bios are fair game for pretty much any type of business.

Beauty brands? Local restaurants? E-commerce empires? Check, check and check. The short, punchy style of a list bio forces you to get creative with the space that’s available.

Here’s a sample Instagram bio template using a list format.

  • Slogan or brief mission statement
  • Hashtag
  • Location
  • Call-to-action
  • Bio link
Make the most of your character count

Beyond using a URL shortener, there aren’t too many tricks to cut down on your character count.

However, local businesses, in particular, should be aware that setting up a business profile is a brilliant way to save space.

For example, business profiles allow you to feature your address, phone number, email and industry without needlessly taking up characters.

You may not have to worry about this if you have a minimalist bio – just something to keep in mind.

18 of the best Instagram bio examples you can swipe from

Now that we’ve outlined the best practices of writing an Instagram bio, it’s time to craft your own.

And to help you make it happen, we’ve highlighted some of the best Instagram bios we’ve found in the wild.

Broken down by industry, check out the different approaches brands take to encourage followers to interact with their bios.

Retail and e-commerce

If you’re primarily concerned with sales, your bio’s calls-to-action are crucial. This includes your shoppable links and approach to promoting customer photos.

Chewy’s list-style bio is definitely a winner. With a compelling slogan, crystal clear calls-to-action and a customer service reminder, they tick all the boxes of what makes an awesome IG bio.

Target’s bio is somewhat similar but scores style points by being so simple and clean. Just because you have 150 characters available doesn’t mean you have to use them all.

Skull Candy’s bio is unique because it changes from month-to-month as they update their promotions and color scheme. Following specific content themes is a great way to promote your Instagram, granted you keep your bio up-to-date.

Beauty

Witty bios are the bread and butter of beauty brands. Oftentimes we see an emphasis on user-generated content as well as personality.

Colourpop boasts a list-style, minimalist bio with emojis. This amount of minimalism is indeed bold and makes sense for an established brand with such a huge follower count.

Aveda’s bio is wordier but manages to show off their consciousness and mission in the process. Note how they couple their evergreen branded hashtag (#AvedaColor) with a promotion-specific tag (#SapMoss).

Meanwhile, Milk Makeup’s bio highlights what separates their brand from the pack with an emphasis on product quality. Note their all-caps slogan for style, too.

SaaS and apps

For SaaS and tech brands, Instagram is no longer unexplored territory. Rather than take a stuffy approach to your bio, consider how you can highlight your unique selling proposition (USP).

Sprout’s own Instagram bio defines a mission statement, features a hashtag and includes a trackable, campaign-specific link.

Hubspot takes a similar approach, although their bio link is notably centered around specific pieces of content.

LifeLapse has a wordier bio but for good reason. Including social proof, a branded hashtag and emojis, readers are led directly to their download call-to-action with a trackable link.

Solo businesses and influencers

If you’re flying solo, your Instagram bio is more than likely going to be focused on your location, USP and how people can get in touch with you.

Chicago photographer Alicia Fierro uses a list-style bio that emphasizes her portfolio, a brand tag (@Southwestair) for social proof and a link to her homepage.

Rosie Clayton’s bold bio uses an emoji-heavy, list-style bio. Visitors know exactly what she’s about and how to contact her in addition to her shoppable bio link.

Meanwhile, Em Frederick uses a truly minimalist bio that works well with her aesthetic, including only an email address and no bio link.

Hospitality

Hospitality and service-based businesses typically focus on how they’re different from the competition.

Marriott Bonvoy’s list-style bio features a benefit-driven statement, a branded hashtag and a clear CTA to drive bookings.

Pei Wei notes their commitment to natural ingredients in addition to promoting UGC and online ordering.

Viking’s wordier bio manages to establish their principles and uses their #MyVikingStory as a call-to-action to fill up their feed with UGC.

Small and local businesses

Finally, here are some Instagram bio examples from smaller, local businesses.

Pop-up shop Orlandough users an emoji-filled list-style bio to highlight their killer donuts, noting that they have no physical location and that followers should check out their event calendar.

Another list-style bio, Sugar Fix Dental uses their Linktree to serve as a mini-website as potential patients browse their services.

And Early Mountain Vineyards rolls out a wordier bio that features some social proof alongside a community hashtag.

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

Ready to write a better Instagram bio?

Although it may seem like an afterthought, your Instagram bio isn’t something you should take for granted.

Within 150 characters, you have the opportunity to show off your brand’s personality and convince customers to choose you over the competition.

So ask yourself: is your bio click-worthy or is it going to waste? By understanding Instagram’s best practices and taking inspiration from the examples above, chances are you having everything you need to make your bio count.

We want to hear from you, though. What are some of the best Instagram bios that you’ve seen out there? Do you change yours regularly? Let us know in the comments below!

This post Instagram bio ideas and tips for maximizing your account originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Social media has become so ingrained in our daily lives that most social media icons are instantly recognizable. You don’t need to see the name of the platform to associate the blue “f” icon with Facebook or the retro camera icon with Instagram. Most people also know what would happen if they click on those icons when they see them on a website or email.

For marketers and business owners, this offers an excellent opportunity to implement social media icons into their marketing strategies. You can add them to your home page, blog posts, emails or even marketing collateral.

At the same time, there’s a lot that you should consider before you use these social media logos including the best practices and legal conditions. It’s important to remember that social media icons are also the respective company’s registered trademarks. This means they have copyright protection, so you can’t do whatever you want with them.

In this post, we’ll discuss the best practices to legally use these popular social media icons and where you can find them. You’ll also gain some insight into the importance of using these icons in your marketing strategy and how to use them.

The benefits of using social media icons

Social media icons make it easier for people to find your business on social media, helping you connect with your customers and increase your following. You can add them to your website and digital marketing materials. A lot of businesses also use them in their business cards and physical marketing materials like posters and invitation cards.

When people see social media logos on your print material, they’ll be able to know that your business is on those channels. You’d typically include the relevant social media handle next to the icon, so people can easily find you. In the case of digital logos, they would link to your social media profile and people can just click on one to find you there.

For instance, clicking on any of the following social media icons on the Sprout Social homepage will take you to the company’s respective social media channels.

Using social media icons is a great way to keep everything neat and uniform. Since they’re easily recognizable, people know exactly what happens when they click on a certain icon. Plus, you wouldn’t have to annoy your visitors with intrusive popups asking them to follow you. Now that you have learned about the importance of social media icons, let’s dive into where you can find free social media icons, while also following brand guidelines:

Brand guidelines on social media icons and where to find them Facebook icons

You can download the approved “f” logo files from the Facebook Brand Resource Center.

  • Guidelines
    • Only use the “f” logo in the correct color and shape. If there are any technical limitations preventing you from using the official Facebook colors, opt for black and white.
    • It should be the same size as all the other icons.
    • Do not animate or represent any physical object as the “f” logo.
    • Do not deconstruct the logo or modify its design in any way.

Source: Facebook Brand Guidelines

Instagram icons

You can download the approved Instagram icon files from the Assets section of the Instagram Brand Resource Center.

  • Guidelines
    • Only use the icons from the Instagram Brand Resource Center. You can download versions in multicolor or black and white.
    • You have the freedom to replace the color with any solid color.
    • All other aspects of the design should remain unchanged.
    • Always maintain the icon’s proportions and do not make it smaller than 29X29 pixels.
    • You’ll need to request permission if you’re going to use the icons for radio, broadcast, out-of-home advertising or print that’s larger than 8.5 inches X 11 inches. All requests should be in English and should include a mock-up of how you intend to use the icon.

Source: Instagram Brand Guidelines

Twitter icons

You can download the approved icon files from Twitter Brand Resources, along with the complete guidelines to using them.

  • Guidelines
    • Using the icon without a container is preferable, but you have the option to use it inside a circle, square or square with rounded edges.
    • Only use it in Twitter blue or white. In case of color limitations, you can display it in black after getting permission from Twitter.
    • If you’re placing it on an image, always use the white logo.
    • Do not alter it in any shape or form. This includes skewing or rotating it, filling it with patterns, and adding elements.
    • Do not animate or anthropomorphize it.
    • Do not surround it with other birds or creatures.
    • Only use the most updated version of the logo.
    • Do not overemphasize it, but make sure it’s at least 32 pixels wide.

Source: Twitter Brand Resources

LinkedIn icons

You can download the correct icon files from LinkedIn’s Brand Resources, along with the complete usage policies.

  • Guidelines
    • ‘LinkedIn prefers that you use a solid white background to display its logo. When that’s not possible, you may use a solid light color.
    • You should always use the correct color version online. If there are color limitations in print applications, you may use a solid black version.
    • The icon should always be in a rounded square container.
    • It should be at least 21 pixels tall for online applications or at least 0.25 inches tall in print applications.
    • Do not modify or distort any elements including the colors.
    • For use on film, television or other video productions, you’ll need to request for permission.

Source: Linkedin Brand Policies

YouTube icons

You can download the approved icon files from the YouTube Brand Resources page.

  • Guidelines
    • Maintain a clear space of at least half the icon’s width around the YouTube logo.
    • In digital content, the logo should be at least 24dp tall. In print, it should be at least 0.125 inches or 3.1 mm tall.
    • Never alter the logo in any shape or form. This includes changing the spacing between the letters, replacing the typeface, adding visual effects and changing the shape.
    • You can choose from two versions of the full-color logo–white and almost black. Use the first on a dark background and the latter on a light background.
    • Do not use any other colors aside from red, white or almost black.
    • It should only link back to a YouTube channel.

Source: YouTube Brand Resources

Snapchat icons

You can download the full brand guidelines and approved Ghost logo through Snap Inc.

  • Guidelines
    • Only use black and white for the logo.
    • Do not modify the logo in any shape or form.
    • Do not add other characters or creatures around it.
    • Use only the versions found in the Snapchat Brand Guidelines Kit.
    • Make sure it’s the same size as all other logos.
    • It should not be more prominent than your own brand logos and marks.
    • It should be at least 18 pixels tall or 0.25 inch.

Source: Snapchat Brand Guidelines

Pinterest icons

You can download the approved Pinterest badge from its Brand Guidelines page.

  • Guidelines
    • Always use the Pinterest logo in Pinterest red without any alterations, both online and in print.
    • Always use it with a call to action that’s proportionate in size to the logo. Use phrases like “Find us on Pinterest,” “Popular on Pinterest,” “Get inspired on Pinterest,” “Visit us” and “Find more ideas on Pinterest.” Never use phrases like “Trending Pins,” “Trending on Pinterest” or any phrase in which “Pin” is used as a verb.
    • Always link the icon to your Pinterest URL.
    • Do not use the wordmark in place of the logo

Source: Pinterest Brand Guidelines

WhatsApp icons

You can download the approved logo files from the WhatsApp Brand Resources page.

  • Guidelines
    • Use the green and white logo whenever possible.
    • Use the black and white version when the content is mostly black and white.
    • Only use the green square logo when you refer to the iOS version of the app.
    • Do not modify the logo in any shape or form, or change its colors.

Source: WhatsApp Brand Guidelines

Best practices on how to use social media icons

Using these social media logos the right way can help you establish a strong social media presence. Here are some guidelines and best practices to follow before you use them.

Don’t make any alterations

This is where a lot of brands and marketers fall behind. You can’t make any changes to the logos because they’re registered trademarks. This includes rotating them, changing their colors, animating them or adding elements. Even if the logo colors don’t match your website color scheme, you can always use the monochrome versions like Calendly does in the screenshot below.

Maintain uniform space and size

If you’re using more than one icon, make sure they’re all the same size in terms of height, width and resolution. Each company has specific requirements to maintain a certain amount of clear space between their icon and other elements. Make sure you follow these requirements so each icon has proper visibility.

For example, look at how the Content Marketing Institute adds ample space between different social media icons.

Choose a strategic location

Make sure your social media icons are prominently visible if you want them to have the desired impact. That said, they shouldn’t overshadow your brand either.  SparkToro, for instance, adds theirs at the bottom of the page and features their social share buttons within the sidebar. These locations enable users to easily locate and click the icons to share while blending seamlessly into the page experience.

Use them beyond your website

In addition to your website, you can use these social media logos in your videos, marketing collateral, newsletters and emails to increase their impact. This way, you can make sure that more people learn about your brand’s social media and possibly even follow you. For example, take a look at how Sprout adds prominent social media icons at the end of our email newsletters:

The icons are positioned in a prominent place within our newsletter, but also include a call to action to entice the user to connect with us on additional channels.

Conclusion

Each social media network has unique rules and requirements for using their brand icons. While we’ve covered the basics in this post, make sure you check out the specifics on each network’s respective resource page. Moving forward, the most important rule to remember is to avoid making any alterations to the icons and to stay up to date on each network’s specific guidelines.

Got any more ideas on how to make the most of social media icons? Let us know in the comments.

This post Your ultimate guide to social media icons originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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If you’re struggling with your social presence these days, you aren’t alone.

After all, businesses have their hands full when it comes to social media and customer expectations.

But perhaps what’s most striking is just how many goals brands are tackling at the same time. Here’s a quick glimpse from Sprout’s 2019 Social Index.

With so much on our plates, it’s no wonder why brands are looking for helping hands who’ve walked the walk on social media.

That’s where a social media marketing agency can be a lifesaver.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand what to look for in a social media agency and how to make sure your agency experience is a positive one.

Why hire a social media marketing agency, anyway?

OK, fair question.

The amount of information and resources available to modern marketers is staggering.

Heck, just look at what we offer at Sprout. Between our suite of social media management tools and strategy guides, we’ve managed to help countless businesses grow their social presences from scratch.

That said, a DIY approach to social media isn’t always ideal or plausible. Not every business can take care of social media in-house and hey, that’s totally OK.

How can a social media marketing agency help you fill in gaps or level up your strategy when it comes to social media and your business goals, though?

Agencies have an unparalleled level of expertise

Simply put, agencies are capable of running campaigns and providing a level of knowledge that simply isn’t possible in-house.

For example, an agency with a proven track record of running social ads has a definite edge on someone learning the ropes of Facebook’s in-depth ad-targeting.

And rightfully so. That sort of expertise is what you’re paying for.

Social media is so much more than clever captions and chasing the white rabbit of “going viral” (ugh). The fine details of social algorithms, audience segmentation and analytics alone require some serious knowledge to navigate. Again, that’s the benefit of hiring someone who’s been there and done that.

Whether it’s because of their years of real-life experience, their breadth of client work that has exposed them to a variety of social and marketing tactics, or just the fact that agency professionals live and breathe social and digital marketing strategies day-in and day-out, agencies are an untapped resource for so many brands … an expertise that folks can’t always replicate in-house.

The same rings true when it comes to growing communities or engaging customers. Sure, you could do it yourself. But would it make sense in terms of your team’s time and energy? A campaign that might take months for you to put together in-house can be done by an agency in no time

Agencies have access to top-tier tools

On a related note, any agency worth their salt has access to tons of tools and analytics platforms to help manage those campaigns and produce results faster. For example, we love to shine a light on success stories such as B Squared Media who used Sprout’s agency tools to increase their client’s campaign CTR by nearly 60% (and engagements by over 650%).

Agencies can juggle multiple campaigns at once

It might be cliche to say, but time is money.

Agencies have the bandwidth to run multiple campaigns at once that could otherwise bog down your team internally. By working with a social media marketing agency, you can make better use of your team’s time and get more done with the people you already have.

Agencies can elevate your team’s own social skills

Contrary to popular belief, working with a social media marketing agency isn’t simply a matter of outsourcing.

In fact, working directly with an agency is arguably one of the best ways to invest in your own team’s social skills.

Think about it. Campaigns run by agencies can clue you in on what strategies, tactics and channels make the most sense for your brand. Each data point or success story on behalf of your business is a lesson in what works (and doesn’t) on social media. This mentality is especially important if you only plan on working with an agency for the short-term.

The common thread of these benefits? A social media marketing agency can be the key to uncovering a positive ROI for your social efforts.

Sprout’s 2019 Social Index notes that 63% of companies are concerned with explaining and improving their social ROI, with that number likely to tick upward in the future. The insights from a social agency can do the trick for brands still trying to wrap their heads around social.

How do I know if I need a social media agency?

You might be wondering whether you’re “big enough” to work with a social media marketing agency.

And on the flip side, you might assume that doing so is simply out of your budget.

The reality, though? Just as no two business’ needs are the same, there is no “one-size-fits-all” in terms of what an agency does or looks like.

Companies both big and small work with agencies big and small. Whereas an enterprise-level business might need help with community management or social content creation, small and solo businesses might invest in a one-off social audit.

Here are some questions to ask that can help you understand whether working with a social media marketing agency makes sense.

  • Do you need a fresh perspective and expertise to help define your social media goals and social media campaign strategy?
  • Are you struggling to grow your social following or engagement rate?
  • Are you failing to see a clear, definable ROI for your social media presence?
  • Do you suspect that you’re spending too much time or money in-house on social media?
  • Are you capable of sourcing leads from social media but aren’t sure how to close them?
  • Do you have a sizable budget for social media internally but aren’t sure how to maximize it?

If “yes” to any of the above, it might be time to explore what agencies have to offer.

What social media agency services are right for my business?

At this point, you may be wondering what the heck a social media agency actually does for clients on a day-to-day basis.

The short answer? It depends.

Based on our 2019 Agency Report, here are the most common social media agency services offered today.

  • Social media management. Allowing an agency to take the reins of your social presence can save you a ton of time and stress.
  • Paid social media. More and more brands are investing in social ads as the landscape becomes increasingly “pay to play.” An agency can help you craft paid campaigns that actually result in returns.
  • Content development. Creating social content can be complex and time-consuming depending on your industry. If you’re stuck in terms of strategy, an agency can certainly help.
  • Analytics. Breaking down your social metrics goes hand in hand with that ever-so-important ROI. Agencies can make sense of your numbers and take action accordingly.
  • Strategy.  What should you post? What should your priorities be in terms of channels and engagement? Whether as a one-off audit or through ongoing consultations, an agency can let you know.
  • Engagement. Social algorithms are fickle and platforms are constantly changing. Rather than second-guess the best practices of scoring social engagement, agencies live and die based on their ability to move the needle.
  • Community management. Creating engaged, active social communities is one of the most rewarding yet time-consuming aspects of social media. For some brands, an agency is the only way to really make those communities possible.

Chances are you might need help with more than one aspect of your social presence. Thankfully, most agencies offer multiple services and packages to help clients reach their goals.

How to choose a social media agency

Now, onto the good stuff!

Let’s say you’re at the point where you’re trying to choose between social media agencies and wondering what to look for. Here are the major points to consider before you come to a decision.

Start with their track record

If you want to know what an agency can do for you, look at what they’ve done for other clients.

An extensive, detailed portfolio with proven client results is what separates the best social media marketing agencies.

Do the clients they’ve worked with mirror your own business or industry? What numbers are they boasting and how are they backing them up?

Ideally, you can find someone who has published case studies which detail their track record and process. For example, Walker Sands has some incredible case studies that dive into specific metrics and results from their clients’ campaigns.

So does Thin Pig Media, a full service marketing agency that seeks to be a true extension of their clients’ teams.

Figure out if they fit within your budget

Before you get enamored with an agency, you need to make sure that you can realistically afford them.

The good news? Investing in an agency doesn’t mean breaking the bank. There’s a rather wide array of pricing based on specific needs and services. You can learn more from our 2019 Agency Report noted earlier.

Again, some agencies package their services while others offer pricing based on your audience size.

See what they specialize in

Just like businesses occupy niche industry spaces, agencies can do the same.

Some agencies might specialize in working with brick-and-mortar retailers. Others might work primarily with larger SaaS clients.

Additionally, some agencies might have secondary services such as content marketing or SEO that go beyond the scope of solely social media. In addition to the services themselves, also consider how hands-on (or hands-off) an agency expects to be.

For example, Chatterkick has an amazing services page which details not only what they do as an agency but also the level of involvements clients should expect.

And hey, that actually leads us to our final point.

The importance of expectations when working with a social media marketing agency

To wrap things up, one of the most important aspects of working with an agency is mutual alignment and communication about expectations.

Listen: agencies aren’t miracle workers. Businesses should be both patient and realistic in terms of what they expect an agency to do.

Is it in an agency’s best interest to turn you into one of their success stories? Absolutely. Yet just because your business doesn’t blow up overnight doesn’t mean that an agency has failed. Not by a long shot.

Investing in understanding the why and the how of the work that your agency does helps you develop a level of trust and proactive communication to build on day-to-day tactics, not feel in the dark and wondering how your money is being spent.

Businesses and agencies must clearly communicate what they expect from each other. Although this isn’t a one-way street, many agencies note that the worst agency<>client relationships are due to vague or unclear expectations about what working together means. The need for business and agencies to develop an open, cooperative relationship can’t be stated enough.

It all circles back to businesses looking for a positive ROI and agencies being able to deliver. This is exactly why businesses and agencies alike work so closely with tools like Sprout to make sure everything’s on the up-and-up.

Ready to find the right agency for your brand?

With the tips above, you have just about everything you need to start hunting for a social media marketing agency.

But we also have something else to speed up the process.

We recommend starting your search with Sprout’s agency partners. Our directory can help you hone in your search and find certified agency partners that have Sprout’s suite of tools baked into their services. You can also search by specific parameters such as top-rated and tiers.

Pssst – if you happen to be part of an agency, make sure to sign up to join our agency partner program yourself.

To wrap things up, we still want to hear from you. If you’re on the fence about hiring a social media agency, why? What has your experience been like working with agencies in the past? Let us know in the comments below!

This post How to find a social media marketing agency originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Two years ago, we launched our Agency Partner Program with the help of key agencies, our founding members. As we evolve our agency offering and build on the learnings and collaboration we’ve had with our founding members, we want to take a moment to recognize these agencies, who offer excellence to their clients in social media day in and day out.

Here is a list of the agencies who helped found the program. To learn more about these, and all of our certified agency partners, check out the Partner Directory.

Platinum 

Arcane Digital

Arcane is the original digital-first agency helping its client partners navigate the ever-changing technical and digital landscape. Check out its participation in our digital #SproutSessions series.

B Squared Media

B Squared Media is a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in “done-for-you” social media marketing and advertising. B Squared was also named Sprout’s 2018 Partner of the Year.

Fifty & Five

Fifty & Five is a full-service digital & social media agency with a passion for creating memorable conversations between brands and their consumers. See how Fifty & Five racks 3.7M social messages annually.

Friendemic

Friendemic specializes in online reputation tools, using their proprietary review tracking and management product, for many of the world’s largest automotive brands, retail-level dealer groups, individual dealerships and retail businesses nationwide.

Koch Communications

Koch Communications is a digital marketing and public relations agency in Oklahoma City, focused on strategically guiding its clients’ goals and projects from concept to completion.

Project Bionic

Project Bionic is a comprehensive social media marketing agency that helps its clients reach their KPIs faster, share their stories more effectively and earn more customers who care about their brands.

SSPR

SSPR is an award-winning Digital PR Agency that pushes the boundaries of conventional public relations. Its tailor-made campaigns help its clients launch brands, disrupt industries and engage with the audiences that matter most.

The High Road Agency

The High Road Agency is a full-service marketing solutions firm based in East Tennessee. Its mission is to deliver results by targeting its clients messages in a digital world.

Gold

BConnected, LLC

BConnected is a social media management agency hired by companies and organizations to manage and enhance their social media platforms.

Bien Media

BIEN is a digital media and design studio based in San Diego, California that provides creative resources for the hospitality, food and culture industries.

Bloomerang

Bloomerang Solutions is a digital marketing agency aiming to help professional and retail services find their place in this digital space.

CF Search Marketing

CF Search Marketing is a Digital Marketing company that specializes in SEO, SEM, SMM, reputation management, social advertising and webcare. It helps auto dealerships all over the United States increase conversions, website activity and sales.

CJRW

CJRW offers a full range of services, making it the only agency in Arkansas that truly allows clients complete control over every aspect of their campaigns.

Clicmark

Clicmark is a digital agency that integrates social media, website and digital tools to help their customers generate traffic, leads and clients through digital media.

Kirvin Doak Communications

Kirvin Doak Communications (KDC), based out of Las Vegas, has developed results-driven marketing communications campaigns for some of the most successful organizations in the fields of travel and hospitality, entertainment, gaming, attractions, non-profit and healthcare.

Mindstream Interactive

Mindstream is a fully integrated customer experience agency, creating meaningful brand interactions for its amazing clients across the U.S. and Canada.

Page 1 Solutions, LLC

Page 1 Solutions is an award-winning, full-service internet marketing agency providing services such as content development, design and programming, SEO, PPC, promotion through blog writing and posting, social networking management, video production and much more. They specialize in dentists, attorneys, plastic surgeons and ophthalmologists.

Social Babies

Social Babies is a social media agency that specializes in strategy, content, community management and paid social advertising.

Social Czars

Social Czars is a reputation management agency that helps to restore, protect and enhance the online reputations.

SocialSEO

SocialSEO is a digital agency that specializes in search engine optimization, social media marketing and search engine marketing services.

Thin Pig Media

Thin Pig Media (TPM) is a full service marketing agency with extensive expertise in the hospitality, gaming and entertainment industries, serving clients in four countries. It offer its clients a wide range of services, including traditional media, digital media and social media marketing.

Voce Communications

Voce is an award-winning marketing and communications consultancy laser-focused on all things tech.

With over two decades of technology expertise, its team knows what it takes to keep clients relevant in a rapidly evolving space.

Silver

Arkside Marketing, Inc.

Arkside Marketing is a full-service ad agency specializing in regulated industries such as law firms, automotive, healthcare, and education. Arkside offers unique opportunities and creativity to clients seeking cost-effective advertising with personal customer service.

Circulate

Circulate is a creative marketing agency that specializes in digital; it was purpose-built to serve the needs of innovative artists and brands.

Eighty Three Creative

Eighty Three Creative is a full-service marketing agency offering everything from brand creative and production to result generated digital experiences.

eSpark Media

eSpark Media is a digital marketing agency specializing in revenue building and sales generation. They incorporate quality website design, Google Analytics, online lead generation, SEO, advertising, social media marketing, branding, content creation, group workshops and personal training plus other digital strategies in order to help its clients hit their goals.

Focus Digital Marketing

Focus Digital Marketing is an agency centered on providing content management, site management, campaign creation & management, and web design expertise for small-to-medium enterprise and start-ups.

Fore

Fore Digital Ltd. is a creative marketing agency specializing in big ideas, bold campaigns, innovative solutions and emerging technology.

G Squared

G Squared is an award-winning, full service agency that creates data-driven websites, campaigns and content. 

Go Be Social Media

Go Be Social Media is a premier Los Angeles social media and internet marketing company that consults and then creates online marketing campaigns and develops web presence and online advertising strategies for businesses, products and celebrities.

Hype Well Media

Hype Well is an industry-leading social media and online marketing company that executes, manages and optimizes all social media and online marketing efforts.

Idea Grove

Idea Grove is a Dallas-based PR firm with an international roster of B2B technology clients. It specializes in building authority for your brand in ways that other agencies don’t.

KloboMedia

KloboMedia is a social media agency/consultancy helping people and brands succeed in social media by using data to identify how its clients fit in the social conversation, and creating goals and strategies to maximize their publishing efforts on social.

L.A. Social Karma

L.A. Social Karma is a social media management agency that provides Facebook, Instagram and email marketing services.

Lever Interactive

Lever Interactive is a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in performance-based marketing management, with a focus on search engine marketing. Lever Interactive combines the experience of seasoned search and online professionals with the latest in advertising technologies.

Mambo Media

Mambo Media is an award-winning, woman-owned digital marketing agency based in Portland, Oregon, delivering new media strategy and cutting-edge technology to its clients in the private and non-profit sectors.

MBT Marketing

MBT is a marketing agency with a fifteen-year history serving regional and national clients. Its services include strategy development, advertising, PR, creative services, traditional media, social media and advanced digital media capabilities.

Mindgruve

Mindgruve is a global, independent marketing agency comprised of strategists, creatives, marketers, data scientists and engineers from around the world driven by one common purpose—creating groundbreaking work that helps brands drive business growth.

Digital Natives Group

Digital Natives Group is a digital marketing agency that specializes in holistic branding and strategy missions, and custom activations on web, mobile and social. Digital Natives Group was also the winner of our 2017 Social Media Campaign of the Year and was named 2018 Partner of the Year award.

SocialCompass

SocialCompass boutique marketing agency that specializes in helping small- to medium-size businesses develop a successful digital marketing strategy. SocialCompass is also the winner of our 2017 “Happy Clients, Happy Partners” award.

Whiteoaks International

Whiteoaks International is an award-winning PR, content creation, digital and social media agency for B2B technology brands in the UK and around the world. Whiteoaks was also named Sprout Partner MVP in 2017.

VTWO

VTWO is a boutique consultancy focused on establishing quality relationships with its clients and creating unique solutions across a range of disciplines.

Bronze

AngusMack

AngusMack provides online and traditional marketing services for businesses, large and small.

Crowd

Crowd is an independent global creative agency helping brands burst into life by creating and nurturing carefully coordinated communication strategies.

Crush Social Management

Crush Social Media Management is a full service social media management firm located in Marina Del Rey, CA.

Demand Frontier

Demand Frontier is a leading global digital services provider offering agile marketing services in the form of “agency-as-a-service” for many of the top marketing organizations in the world who are looking to build best practice marketing teams and do more with less.

eDesign

EDESIGN offers a range of services from the latest in website design to mobile apps, videos, graphic design and all aspects of digital marketing, as well as complementary services such as copywriting and printing.

Elevation Brands

Elevation Brands, the digital arm of Miller Meiers, is focused on delivering comprehensive strategic digital marketing communications solutions to its clients.  The team offesr an array of digital marketing solutions including social media, website design & development, content development and mobile app marketing.

Fandom Marketing, Inc. 

Fandom Marketing is a full-service digital agency that has built a reputation on transforming loyal fans into fully engaged customers.

Wild Seed Marketing

Wild Seed Marketing is a full service marketing company specializing in the produce industry, offering services from websites to social media, and strategy to branding.

Lead to Conversion

Lead to Conversion helps companies of all sizes get more leads and sales through effective web design and online marketing. Lead to Conversion specializes in brand development, responsive website design, search engine optimization, PPC management, social media marketing, email marketing and video production and promotion.

ME Marketing Services

ME Marketing Services is a full-service social media and digital marketing agency based out of Georgia, offering a wide range of services from social media management and consulting, to website design and content marketing.

Mind Methods 

Mind Method is a full-service marketing agency based out of Sydney, Australia, that focuses on advertising campaigns, digital and online marketing, creative and design, small business marketing, brand/logo development and marketing communications.

Robot Creative

Robot Creative is an award-winning creative marketing firm that specializes in providing branding, web design, social media and marketing-related services for companies seeking accelerated growth and increased visibility.

Sarah Best Strategy

Sarah Best Strategy is an award-winning digital marketing agency that helps organizations shine in the digital space. It works primarily with national nonprofits, NGOs, fair trade organizations, and companies that create meaningful impact on their customers, communities and the world.

Soello

Soello is a social media agency based in the heart of Bristol. They create and deliver engaging content through a range of online platforms.

ZGM Modern Marketing Partners

ZGM Modern Marketing Partners is a full-service digitally focused marketing firm with offices in Calgary and Edmonton specializing in media, creative, planning and conversion.

Wednesday Seven

Wednesday Seven is the hospitality industry, specializing in creating customized marketing and creative services.

This post Recognizing our Agency Partner Founding Members originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Sprout Social is proud to be included on the 2019 Crain’s Fast 50 list, which recognizes the fastest-growing businesses in Chicago who are at least six years old and have achieved at least $15 million in 2018 revenue. This is the third year Sprout Social has been included on the list and we are honored to be recognized alongside the region’s best and most innovative companies.  

“Our sustained growth is a testament to the hard work and passion our team puts in every day, and the emphasis we’ve placed on our customers and our people,” said Justyn Howard, CEO of Sprout Social. “We’re grateful to have our efforts recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business for a third year and look forward to continuing to provide world-class solutions and service to our 20,000+ customers around the globe.”

From opening our EMEA headquarters in Dublin to reaching almost 600 employees worldwide to ongoing partnerships with brands of all sizes across the globe, Sprout’s footprint continues to expand. We are looking forward to another year of impactful growth following Sprout’s latest round of funding in December 2018, which will accelerate plans for deepened platform capabilities and increased international expansion.

Thank you to our team for being relentless about solving hard problems, and to our customers who not only believe in our product, but who play a pivotal role in making our continued growth possible.

Want to join Team Sprout? We’re hiring.

This post Sprout Social named to Crain’s Fast 50 list for a third year originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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I’m pleased to announce that Sprout Social founder and CEO, Justyn Howard, has been recognized as a Glassdoor Top CEO for U.S. companies with 1,000 employees or less in 2019. This is the third year in a row that Justyn has been placed on the list and is a reflection of the supportive culture we’ve been able to establish and maintain at Sprout. Recognition from Glassdoor is entirely based on reviews from Sprout employees who share their thoughts about job and company satisfaction, senior leadership and company culture.

Justyn is a strong leader for many reasons, but what he’s most known for internally is his contagious empathy. His ability to put himself in the shoes of our customers and our team informs every decision he makes. Keeping both of these perspectives in mind allows him to drive the business forward while simultaneously providing ample opportunity for personal and professional growth for our team members.

“We have two primary objectives at Sprout: to help our people and our customers thrive,” said Howard. “These two objectives reinforce each other and are critical to the success of our business. I’m honored to work with a team that is so committed to our people and to be recognized by Glassdoor for the work we do.”

Over the past year, we’ve scaled our team to almost 600 employees, expanded our international footprint within the EMEA region and have earned the trust of over 20,000 customers. Amidst this rapid growth, Justyn has maintained a 99.9% CEO approval rating and an overall company rating of 4.8. His direction is the glue that holds our team together and has allowed us to embrace every change along the way.

So, what does #TeamSprout have to say about our CEO?

“He treats every person at the company, regardless of position, like they really matter and his gratitude, vision, and passion is infectious.” – Account Executive

“Our CEO, Justyn, is extremely passionate about caring deeply for our employees and customers, which makes a positive impact on how everyone carries themselves.” – Product Marketer

“I’ve worked at various organizations over the past decade, but the executive leadership at Sprout is unmatched. They have the ability to inspire not just through their words, but the way they live their lives and manage their teams.” – Anonymous Employee

We are grateful to our team members who have shared their experience of what it’s like to work at Sprout on Glassdoor, and for a leader who prioritizes the growth, development and wellbeing of our team.

Want to join Team Sprout? We’re hiring.

This post Sprout Social’s Justyn Howard named a Glassdoor Top CEO for a third consecutive year originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Are you looking to become an influencer with a supportive community of followers and sought after brand partnerships? Read on to learn about how I used Instagram to share my passion and connect with others, developing into a nanoinfluencer along the way.

So what exactly is a nanoinfluencer? This is a highly niche subcategory of social media influencers who typically have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers. Nanoinfluencers are often regarded as a more authentic alternative to major influencer accounts since they often start out like I did–as personal accounts focused on a genuine passion.

Passion and a deep understanding of my topic area came first. I had been investing heavily in non-toxic products for skincare and household and I knew others were interested in learning more based on the highly engaged conversations I was having.

From this starting point, I was able to take my story of a journey to non-toxic living and build an engaged community while using my company, Sprout Social’s product to optimize my strategy. Below are some highlights from Clean Beauty Republic’s first month:

  • Over 1000 organic followers
  • Up to 100 comments on each photo
  • 21% Engagement rate
  • Over 80 partnerships with brands
Set a clear content goal

Wondering how I did it? First, I set a clear content goal: to share my knowledge with others, engage in the community and test products from up and coming brands with a focus in the non-toxic product space. I found a name that no one else was using with keywords I was targeting–clean beauty–and created both an Instagram Business Profile and Gmail account for brand engagement. I set up my profile description to mention relevant hashtags such as #cleanbeauty and #nontoxiclifestyle to optimize search. Finally, I added a profile photo of myself to humanize the account.

Use Insights to drive strategy

I began to plan out my photo strategy. As an employee of Sprout, I wanted to put our platform into practice for my own account and see what types of insights I could gather. The Instagram Top Messages Report showed that my posts get more engagement when I use natural light so I plan content around the weather. I set aside an hour or two to shoot as much content as possible when the sun is out. By capturing a variety of content in bulk I am able to use the Sprout calendar to schedule posts which is a big time saver. It also allows me to preview my posts on the grid so I can schedule in the most aesthetically pleasing way. I typically post five to six product shots followed by an image of myself to connect with my followers. A surprise visit from my cat every so often boosts engagement and gets the conversation going.

Photo setup

I purchased a few basics for my setup – a ring light for selfies and a few yards of fabric for a clean backdrop. I use a Canon to shoot but many people use their iPhone. I ensure my images look consistent by using Adobe Lightroom and some presets I bought on Etsy. I make sure all my images are sized 1:1 per Instagram’s best practices.

How to reach the widest audience

My audience insights show that my audience is most active from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. so I post daily around 9 a.m. I then share my post to my Instagram Stories knowing only a certain percentage of followers will see my post in their feed. I use a GIF overlay to tease my audience forcing them to click the image to see the full post. Motion is also said to drive higher engagement.

Hashtag strategy

After experimenting with various clean beauty and nontoxic living hashtags I used Sprout’s Instagram Outbound Hashtag Report to understand which ones had the highest engagement.

From there I created an iOS keyboard shortcut so I can easily add the hashtags to each of my posts using text replacement. I then add additional custom hashtags based on the content and relevant themes of the day, such as #texturetuesday, to drive engagement. In addition to using hashtags to mention brands I also tag them in the images so my audience can click through and purchase a product. I frequently revisit the report to see how it changes and modify content types.

Building a following

When getting started, I found a few accounts with similar focuses. I looked at their comments and followers and started to engage with and follow their followers. I browsed various hashtags such as #discoverunder500 and #discoverunder1k to follow similar accounts knowing these are smaller accounts who are more likely to engage and follow back. I also frequently visited the ‘Suggested for You’ section at the bottom of the Activity tab which are curated based on my account.

Mind your ratio

Follower ratio is important when getting started. I was careful to keep my following just below my follower count to avoid looking spammy. I use a tracking app to see when people unfollow me so I can remove the excess following from my account. I only follow back accounts with similar interests knowing they are more likely to engage. A large following with low engagement will hurt your overall engagement rating which may affect the Instagram algorithm.

I also pay attention to follower ratio when following an account. An account who is following equal or less than their followers will typically engage and follow back. If they follow less than half or more than double, they either may not follow back or could be spamming with low engagement. I also check their comments to see whether or not they reply and engage with their followers. Before I follow someone I always engage with their content by liking as many photos as possible or commenting before following as they are more likely to follow back.

Be authentic and create connection

The key to supporting and building up a community while keeping them engaged is to stay as authentic as possible. Connecting with my audience is key. I share bits of my life and feelings about health, weekend plans, stresses, work. I also speak to topical events that everyone can relate to whether it be news, a holiday or weather. I respond to all DMs and strike up conversations with my regular followers. When posting, I am transparent about whether a product works for me regardless of it being promotional and I always aim to ask questions to drive conversation.

Keeping your audience engaged

I aim to respond to every comment received on my content. I batch responses out 2-3 times per day so it feels like I am responsive but also allows me to focus on my day job. Responding helps continue the conversation with my followers and it also encourages people visiting my profile to follow me since they see that I am engaging regularly. I also aim to visit my closest followers daily and interact with their posts.

I show support to my community by sharing my followers’ feed posts that inspire me to my Story. This will tag them, allowing my audience to click into their photo and engage. Often times they will reshare to their story giving visibility to my account. If I am notified that my photo is shared in someone’s story I repost it to my story. This shows credibility and engagement in the community, which encourages others to do the same.

Another way to drive engagement is by doing a giveaway – either solo or in partnership with a brand. By giving away product, I can set rules to encourage people to follow me, tag friends and share the post to their stories. Brands also love to partner on giveaways to drive traffic to their pages and will typically handle the cost of product and shipping.

Key takeaways

My Instagram journey to becoming a nanoinfluencer has been extremely eye opening and has allowed me to build an entirely new community while sharing my knowledge with others. It has also given me the opportunity to better understand our product and develop empathy for our customers. Sprout’s Instagram Business Profile Report has given me the insights needed to optimize the types of content I capture, the way I craft messages and ensure I am always posting at the optimal time based on my audience, which has truly taken my engagement to the next level.

I hope you enjoyed the glimpse into the intricacies of building and maintaining a social community. I encourage you to find your passion and share it with others, as the connections made along the way are both fulfilling and inspirational.

This post Nanoinfluencer marketing 101: How I got 1000 engaged followers in 30 days originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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