Instagram: Marketing Strategy for Businesses

In 2010, a new exciting social media medium became available to all apple iPhone, iPod and  iTouch products. Instagram quickly gained momentum and popularity. As an exclusive, picture sharing app, no one ever imagined it would reach the potential it has today. Today, Instagram is available on all smartphones, tablets, macs and PC’s. Instagram has more than 150 million monthly active users worldwide.  Instagram is not only one of the top social media tools around but it is also becoming one of the biggest marketing tools for businesses. 

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Through Instagram, many companies are now able to connect directly and effectively with their consumers. The reason for this is that they are now able to communicate with their audience directly by sharing photos, likes, and comments. Through this segway, consumers feel that they have a personal connection with their favorite brands. Therefore brand awareness and  sales increase. The way  companies can establish and spread awareness to their brand is by using this new innovative tool properly to their advantage. 

Brands can use their Instagram feed with content their personal content in two ways: by creating original brand content and curating customer content. They can make their images and videos unique to them and capture the attention of more consumers. When brands and companies are being original about what they post, they have the opportunity to be authentic, and “in the moment”, which works best at connecting with consumers than traditional ads. 

Brands can really take advantage of Instagram by maximizing the success of non-traditional media advertising and marketing. In doing so, they put customers at the center of the experience and really engage with their consumers and target audience. 

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Because of this unique way in which Instagram is beneficial to businesses, it has become more than just a social media tool. It has reached a point where all of the social media sites before it have strived to achieve such as Twitter and Facebook. Instagram growth is accelerating and so are the devices in which users can have access to the site. With technology at an all time rise, businesses can definitely take advantage of this new, innovative tool to maximize their company success and reach consumers at a more personal level. 

 

Sources:

Gladwell, M. (2013, November 4). The Year of the Instagram Strategy. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2014, from

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-gladwell/the-year-of-the-instagram_1_b_4171833.html

 

Instagram as a Growing Business. (n.d.). – Instagram Blog. Retrieved April 30, 2014, from http://blog.instagram.com/post/63017560810

 

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Afghanistan censors U.S. troop media

By Matt Gillis

Censorship is no new development in the field of advertising in the United States. Over time, advertisements promoting sexual themes, violence or substance abuse have been pulled from the media landscape in an effort to protect a healthy cultural image.

While some believe the removal of advertisements in the United States hinders a company’s right to freedom of speech, most understand that advertisements promoting negative subjects are reasonably censored. However, countries like Afghanistan are facing media censorship that not only limits freedom of speech but also obstructs their progress toward cultural independence.

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Recently, the Afghan government has begun shutting down television spots airing advertisements that support United States involvement in Afghanistan. Due to their disagreements with Washington, the government will continue to censor advertisements promoting United States troops after 2014.

The United States funded advertisements, including one that was aired by Afghanistan’s most widely watched broadcaster, are being censored after several weeks of broadcast due to their content; They encourage President Hamid Karzai to sign a security pact that would allow United States troops to stay in Afghanistan.

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The commercials feature interviews with Afghanistan’s own citizens who also support Karzai’s signing of the pact, saying, “You should accept the people’s demand and sign this as soon as possible.”

The advertisements were taken off the air after the source of their funding was put under investigation. Karzai’s censorship actions are part of his latest hostility toward Washington, and he cites that the United States is doing too little to fight terrorism after the country experienced a deadly restaurant attack.

Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, over 150 radio stations, 50 televisions stations and 1,000 newspapers have developed. However, Afghanistan’s media censorship as a way of limiting freedom of speech has inhibited the country’s progress toward media independence.

While these media outlets understand that the source of funding of these political advertisements was from ISAF, they aimed to treat the content with similar terms and conditions as they would an advertisement from any other company.

As I understand it, advertising in the United States, for the most part, is a protected practice under our constitutional right to freedom of speech. While censorship in the United States is used as a means of promoting a healthy society, censorship in other parts of the world is used as means of control.

In the case of Afghanistan, does advertising have the power to establish freedom?

Reference list:

–       Afghanistan Cracks Down on Advertising in Favor of US Troops. (2014, January 22). VOA. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from http://www.voanews.com/content/reu-afghnistan-cracks-down-on-advertising-in-favor-of-us-troops/1835097.html

–       Shalizi, H. (2014, January 22). Afghanistan cracks down on commercials that favour U.S. troops. Reuters. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/22/us-afghanistan-us-advertising-idUSBREA0L0OT20140122

Bitstrip: A New Way of Personal Storytelling

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The latest trend to sweep Facebook is a new and innovative way for consumers to share their personal stories with friends. Avatar culture has been elevated to a new level: cartoon depictions of your life. Bitstrip is a new cartoon generator on Facebook that allows consumers to create personalized cartoon strips with tailored captions, scenes, and by including friends (Elfring, Comicvine). Bitstrip users can create an avatar that represents them as well as avatars to represent their friends. These cartoons are easily shared on Facebook and depict various storylines from the lives of Bitstrip users (Kurwa, NPR). For example, I will share a personal Bitstrip of mine.

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As seen in the picture above, Bitstrips are completely customizable. Users can search a library of 1,000+ cartoons and customize them. One’s avatar is used. The avatars can be specifically tailored to look like the users. One can change everything from eye color to nose shape to clothing choice (Donna Hamer, Bitstrip Tutorial). The cartoon avatars can later be manipulated into different positions and customized text can be added as a thought bubble or as a caption (Elfring, Comicvine).

Above one can see an example of a Bitstrip with a friend. Taylor-Anne is a cat aficionado in the real world. She genuinely thinks that her friend, Deena, would be a great companion if she were a cat! She is able to share this interest with her Facebook friends by creating a comedic cartoon featuring her friend, Deena. This is a way of engaging the Bitstrip population and creating a story as a way of conveying friendship and a sense of humor. Similarly to storytelling in advertisements, Taylor is using a vehicle to create her own story.

Although Bitstrip was created in January of 2013, it is now becoming popular (De Hoyos, News92fm). Servers were not able to support the mass amount of new users for a few days, with over 5 million hits on Facebook alone. After introducing the mobile app, the app experienced crashes from such high volume visits.

What does this mean to Bitstrip users and how does this relate to Advertising? Bitstrip users offer a new, unique niche to tap into for consumers. This cartoon generator offers a new and exciting way for social network users to share their life stories with their friends. Similar to brand storytelling, consumers can use their personal avatars to express their moods and expand their experiences by including their friends. Because these cartoons are easily accessible to see on social media sites, they are spreading at a viral rate.

Bitstrips offer a unique way for consumers to participate in storytelling. In a way, they are advertising themselves to their friends by adding a multi-dimensional element tot their social network page. With statuses becoming more and more mundane, Bitstrips offer a more interesting platform for personal storytelling. While this application is merely a way for consumers to share their own personal stories, marketers and advertising companies could find a way to sponsor cartoon strip pictures. Because Bitstrips is a method of personal storytelling, advertisers could use this to their advantage by inserting products or services into the already customized cartoon strips. For example, a subtle product placement or the promotion of a certain brand in a cartoon would be an excellent way for an advertising company to reach their audience. Furthermore, an entire network of Facebook users, if shared, would view these cartoon strips. This would both increase brand exposure as well as awareness. This would allow the advertisements to seem natural and would introduce a new platform for reaching users. Because more and more people have become averse to reading traditional forms of advertisement on Facebook, Bitstrip cartoons that are funny yet promoting a product would be shared and enjoyed by social network fans worldwide.

Below is a link to a YouTube tutorial on how to create a Bitstrip. What story will you tell?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeYWS7WsSek