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Influencer Marketing: my guide to getting the ROI you want

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Influencer Marketing is still kind of the new kid on the block when it comes to advertising. Your company can pay a social media “influencer” or blogger (like me!) to promote their brand or location for you. As a consumer, I get most of my inspiration from an online platform. For decorating inspiration I typically head to Pinterest (which really leads you to blogs), and I usually discover restaurants or local stores I want to go try from Instagram. Based on my own habits as a consumer and also as a store owner myself, I can tell you I’m very confident that Influencer Marketing “works”! The real question is how can you make sure it is going to work before you allocate some of your budget to this outlet. Here are a few common questions I hear about this topic, along with some of the advice I usually give before partnering with a brand to help make our collaboration as successful as possible!

What guarantee do I have that working with an influencer will work?

Short answer: just like with any form of traditional marketing, there are never guarantees about sales or visits to your website.

You can’t put an ad in a magazine and guarantee you’ll sell out of your website inventory, right? The biggest benefit of most forms of marketing is reach/circulation/brand awareness. Just like circulation is the number you would focus on before deciding to advertise in a magazine, and viewership is what you would care about before paying to go on a local TV segment, I think the biggest guarantee with Instagram promotion is the reach per post. 20,000 followers doesn’t mean that many people see all of my posts. An Instagram post for me can get anywhere from 3k-over 20k unique views for an Instagram post and 1-2k views for Instagram stories. The average unique reach of my last 10 Instagram posts is 6,300.

Another “guarantee” with Influencer Marketing is often that you will get professional photos for your own social media use. Hiring a professional photographer is usually anywhere from $150 for about 30 minutes to possibly thousands of dollars for a full editorial shoot, so it’s a great added value to get that high quality content for your brand.

Ok, so there are no guarantees, but how do I make sure I get the best possible return?

  • Give a discount. Offer a unique discount code for the blogger so you can track how many sales they brought to the table (I recommend at least 20% off with a short term expiration date).

  • Repetition. From selling my own products on my platform as well as promoting other brands, I can say the most success comes with repetition. When I’ve done a series of 3 posts instead of a one off, that’s when companies tell me they see the most sales. I’ve noticed the same when I’ve promoted a new product or one of my workshops the 2nd or 3rd time.

  • Find the right influencer fit. Do not be blinded by shiny objects like follower count! Sure, hiring Kim Kardashian to post for you (for about a quarter million dollars btw) could help you get Internet Famous. Well, what if you are a Charleston based restaurant? You might actually see more real customers come through your doors if you team up with someone who instead has mostly Charleston followers. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you find an influencer who: is in the same location as you or the same genre. A beauty blogger will probably get more people into your spa than a food blogger, and if you have a store/restaurant/physical location you need to find someone with the majority of their followers also in that area. The only exception I can think of is when it comes to hotels/lodging, because anyone from anywhere could want to travel based on a blogger recommendation. Personally, I’ve added several places to my own bucket list after being introduced to them by gals like Hot Pink Pineapples and Palm Beach Lately! Also make sure you like their: captions, aesthetic, content, personality, etc.

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Be Your Own Influencer First!

Sometime sales are not your main marketing goal; perhaps you are hoping to get a boost in your own Instagram followers. If that’s the case, this simply isn’t going to happen if your Instagram isn’t pretty awesome! Therefore, I’ll often encourage brands to invest in my Instagram Growth Workshop instead of hiring me to promote them. I want them to get follower growth if that is their goal, but when someone clicks over to their page it has to good at first glance in order for someone want to follow along. Someone will decide in a few seconds if they want to follow, largely baed on the overall aesthetic and content you have to offer.

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Is Influencer Marketing Better Than “Traditional” Marketing?

I am certainly not trying to knock print advertising, advertising on TV, etc.! I have a local TV segment, so I am confident that is effective, and the times our store has been featured in local magazines we have always seen new customers. I certainly appreciate and welcome any and all press for our brick and mortar store! However, there are a couple of reasons we’ve chosen to primarily utilize our marketing budget for influencer marketing. 1) Influencers have brought us new Instagram followers that are now ours to “keep” and continue to see what we’re doing over and over. 2) As I mentioned before, photography is expensive! We only invest in about 1 photo shoot a quarter, so teaming up with bloggers usually means we get access to new content to share on our social accounts in the interim.

Let’s recap! When it comes to influencer marketing, it’s super important that you:

-know your goals

-find the right influencer for your brand

-set yourself up for success by having a way to measure your ROI or ask for the stats after the campaign is finished

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Also, don’t be afraid to ask for more info up front. It’s perfectly fine to request a screenshot of their follower demographic, or ask to hear about their previous campaigns. As a business owner, I have invested in influencers by gifting product to bloggers. Sometimes it brought me sales and other times it didn’t, but I always made sure I got something out of it. If you’re like me, you may not have a large advertising budget to work with. I really want you to get the most bang for your buck, so always feel free to DM me at @CharlestonWeekender or email me (CharlestonWeekender@Gmail.com) if you have any other questions about all of this!

all images by Elizabeth Burgi Photography

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Influencer Gifting 101: Tips from Oh Joy Founder Joy Cho

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This post contains affiliate links which earn me a small commission.

If you have been wondering how to go about gifting your products to bloggers/influencers, there are some tricks of the trade that will certainly help you get what you’re hoping for.  I happened to see a great story on the @OhJoy Instagram recently where founder Joy Cho spelled out how she goes about influencer gifting.  She has an awesome new line of fun and colorful paper goods that she created along with Cheeky (at Target), so here are her thoughts on how to gift your products successfully!  Be sure to check out my other favorite Oh Joy collaborations here, like the fun hat box suitcase that I’ve been loving!

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1. Research the best fit for your products. Make sure that blogger’s style aligns with the aesthetic of your products.  Can you really envision them using and loving your products? Try to mix it up so you don’t always gift to the same people.  

My two cents:  Try to find people that are already sharing about your products or similar types of products.  They are even more likely to share if they are already a fan.

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2. Reach out to make sure they’re interested.  Narrow your list to 5-10 people to gift product to, then email them to make sure they are open to receiving your product.  You’ll have to email them anyway for their address, but this gives them the opportunity to politely decline if someone passes- they are just being respectful of you if they know it’s not a good fit for them.

3. Wow them with your package.  It’s all in the presentation!  Do a creative wrapping job, send it in a colorful bubble wrap with fun tissue paper, etc.  Include a postcard or something with your branding along with a hand-written note. This is a great way to share where people can buy your product and any relevant tags/hashtags you are hoping they’ll share.  

4. Have no expectations.  If you’re not offering to pay for them promoting your items, you shouldn’t necessarily expect a blog or Instagram post.  When you reach out, let them know that there are no strings attached so they will feel like they can share it in a way that’s as natural as possible.  

My two cents:  When I’ve given my products to bloggers with smaller followings, I’ve gotten a bigger return on the type of content they share.  For example, it’s more likely that you’ll get a dedicated Instagram post or blog post from a blogger who is just starting out. With larger influencers, I usually only expect an Instagram story or to be tagged alongside the other brands they might be getting paid to promote.  You never know- if they really love it they might share in a big way, but this has been my experience when gifting my Turkish towels. 

5. Just keep your fingers crossed that they will love it and share it in some way!  Typically influencers that know something is coming ahead of time will usually share in some way.

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It can be great to reach out to bloggers, and other times they might reach out to ask for your products.  If you aren't comfortable gifting, the best way to decline (well, the way that I most like being turned down) is to say that you have already reached your gifting budget/limit for the time being. Try following Joy’s steps if you're doing the "pitching", and it will most likely help you spread the word about your awesome products!  If you enjoy learning about entrepreneurship, blogging, and social media, read more free resources in the Social Media University section of my site. 

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Building A Brand: Q & A with Hedley & Bennett's Founder

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If you're not already familiar with the cheery lady behind Hedley & Bennet aprons, allow me to introduce you to Ellen Marie Bennett!  You've probably seen her aprons worn by chefs & servers at one of your local restaurants, and they are also the official apron of the Charleston Wine & Food Festival!  The 2018 festival is why I had Ellen on my mind lately; she's here in Charleston to moderate my favorite CHSWFF shindig (Pecha Kucha), and is hosting another fun event called Brunch Squad.  

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Last August I had the chance to visit Ellen's apron factory for her School of Hustle conference.  I learned so much, so I really wanted to have her share some insight for those other hard-working entrepreneurs out there.  I know you'll be as inspired by Ellen as I am!

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Liz: A brand is so much more than just a logo, but that really is part of what makes your business so recognizable.  Tell us how the name Hedley & Bennett and the decision to use the ampersand logo came about.

Ellen: Hedley is the last name of my English grandfather and he was a rocket scientist way back then. His name brings in the proper functionality aspect of the brand. We want to design aprons that perform better and last longer than what’s out there. Then there’s the other side… Bennett is me, colorful and vibrant. Design matters. The ampersand stands for the balance of those two things and the dignity that we offer people when they put on our aprons.

Liz: As a fun-having soul with a big personality, can you share your pros (or cons) of being the own face of your brand?  

Ellen: Being the face of your own company is A LOT of work! Between juggling my role as CEO and managing a business, to running around to events and being the face, I’ve learned that it definitely isn't for the faint of heart.  I mean I definitely love both but it’s a daily struggle.  The pros are having creative control and being able to direct where we’re headed--I’m able to guide the growth of the company and how our message is perceived and be the translator of our narrative. In terms of cons, IT’S REALLY HARD! I’m working long hours around the clock--it’s literally like working three full time jobs. It’s exhausting but something I truly enjoy.

Liz: Hedley & Bennett is more than just a product (aprons), so what are some of the best ways you have found to spread your brand message?

Ellen: Collaborations have definitely played a role in spreading our message--they’re really fun and exciting! Being able to collaborate with like-minded brands and sharing our stories along with theirs have helped us reach new markets, and is something we’re continuing to grow this year.

Instagram Stories has also been an amazing channel that’s helped spread our brand message. It’s a lot of fun being able to show people how a company exists and how we operate between my personal Instagram and the Hedley & Bennett account. We collectively get to show our audience the people behind the business; it’s human and relatable and I love that because it’s real. Our entire Instagram in general has gravitated more towards showing that we really care about our community. It’s a place where we can show people who they are and why we do what we do. Our new Test Kitchen is something we’re really excited for, too.  We have this opportunity to collaborate and share our message with our community on another scale by being able to have them come cook with us at Apron HQ --it’s something that makes us truly unique and we’re really excited for it!

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Liz: One of the things I loved about the School of Hustle was Ellen's advice about putting yourself out there at all times- now at conferences I try not to eat with people I know and I strike up conversations with anyone I can.  What are some ways people can get their brand message out there when they step away from the computer?

Ellen:  You have to put yourself out there! Even if you're uncomfortable, you should do it--don't let being afraid hold you back.  Find what makes your brand special--what makes it real and hone in on that.   Be real, don’t copy others and find what’s original to you. For me, color has always been my art.  Over the years, my color choices and clothes have gotten crazier and crazier, but it’s apart of my identity and the message Hedley & Bennett is getting across. We’re loud and proud and we know it’s important to have fun in what you’re doing and we stay true to that.  At the end of the day, it’s just really important to identify your brand in the most real way possible--be as human as possible, be honest, be unique. It’s so important.

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Liz: Your brand story & identity has really made a mark within your industry, and you've successfully grown your company within a relatively small amount of time.  What advice would you give other up and coming brands to be able to scale at a more rapid pace?

Ellen: I think it’s really important that you find your own path, and follow it. No two paths are the same and we can take advice and inspiration from other people’s journeys, but at the end yours is your own and for you to trek. When I first started making aprons, everyone thought it was ridiculous, but I was determined.  Find what makes you want to get up in the morning and make it yours--make it original.  It takes time but you have to try and figure it out. Try everything and if it doesn’t work, you learn from it and learn not to make that mistake again. You can’t wait for the right moment because it may never come. I always say look and then jump because you’ll figure it out on the way. Bring to the table only something you have the ability to do, and believe in it!

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Doesn't this year's CHSWFF "Street Team" look pretty fantastic in Ellen's aprons?  Follow us behind the scenes of the festival on Instagram here, and learn more about Ellen in my previous post

group photo via Libby Williams Photographs

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Getting Press for Your Brand: Top Tips From a Celebrity Publicist

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I hope you're enjoying my guest bloggers as much as I am! We are all in this entrepreneur game together, my friends.  Catch my last post for a convo straight from the folks at Instagram, but first read on to hear from a fabulous publicist and influencer, Molly Schoneveld!  We recently met up in LA so Molly could share her tips on getting published.  
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Molly is the president of SW PR Shop, a boutique entertainment and lifestyle public relations firm formed in 2008. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, she specializes in entertainment talent as well as luxury lifestyle brands. The same year she started her business, she launched her lifestyle blog called This Yuppie Life, which has given her a unique perspective on the influencer space. 
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Liz: In terms of crafting a pitch, whether it be to ask a media outlet to be published or to secure a brand partnership for your blog, what are some of your main recommendations? 

Molly:

DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Know something about who you are pitching. If it’s a media outlet, read multiple stories especially from whomever you are pitching and try to make reference to something specific so they know you’ve done your homework. If it’s a brand, pay attention to what types of partnerships they have done and actually use the product before you pitch. You want to be able to truthfully say that you are a fan of the brand and have used their product or service.

KEEP IT SHORT, YET IMPACTFUL. This is the challenge of pitching. You have a lot to say, but about 1-2 short paragraphs in which to say it! Edit down your pitch so that you get your main ask within the first few sentences.

YOUR PHOTOS MATTER.  When pitching, only embed one low res image within the email and then send a Dropbox link with the rest. Nobody likes having their email inbox clogged up.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE BOTTOM LINE!  I say this a lot, but you have to remember this is a business. Whether you are pitching yourself to the media or to a brand, you have to know what you bring to the table and tell them how you can add value. If it’s media, it might be beautiful, free images and a story you know will resonate with their readers. If it’s a brand, you will need to share analytics or better yet, a case study that shows that by working with you they will get something valuable.

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Liz: Do you recommend that bloggers reach out to brands directly or should they reach out to PR agencies when they want to work with a company?

Molly: I recommend both. PR agencies are great because they represent multiple brands, and often times have a lot of control over who the brand works with. Offer to take the publicist to lunch or see if you can go into their office for a quick meet/greet. Face time goes a long way. A lot of brands have an in house team that oversees partnerships. I utilize Linkedin a lot to find the right contact.

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Liz: Can you share how a blogger or brand can go about using HARO (Helpareporter.com) to get more press features? 

Molly: HARO is a tool that is completely free—all you have to do is subscribe. Three times a day, a list is emailed with inquiries from reporters looking for sources for specific stories. The key with HARO is to only pitch yourself when there is a perfect fit. Don’t try to stretch to fit a mold that just isn’t you. These reporters get lots of responses, so make sure you really read the inquiry and follow the rules exactly, otherwise you risk annoying the reporter.

Liz: Besides HARO, how can you go about getting yourself press such as magazine coverage or a guest podcast feature?

Molly: At least 90% of my business is about building relationships. If you own a local boutique, for example, you need to start meeting freelance writers who write for your local media and/or editors at those outlets. Look to see what press other boutiques have gotten in your area and start making a list. The media likes new and they like “newsy”—meaning you will have better luck pitching yourself as a brand if you are either brand new OR you have something new to report. I have had great luck pitching myself first to people I have a prior relationship with and also providing free professional images.

Podcasts are really the hot place to be right now because they are so niche. Even if a podcast doesn’t have a huge audience, you can know for certain that those that tune in care about the topic. Personally, I only pitch myself/company to people that I have a relationship with and that I know cover people like me. 

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Liz: A lot of bloggers & small businesses don't have a budget to work with a PR team on a recurrent basis, so are there other ways to form a mutually beneficial relationship with a publicist?

Molly: The reason having a publicist is such a large investment (and the reason I have a career) is that pitching media is incredibly time consuming.  It takes thoughtful research and a lot of outreach that can go unanswered. I hear all the time (and I totally agree!) that it is SO hard and sometimes awkward to pitch youself. I offer a consulting package that is way less than hiring my firm on retainer. I have worked with bloggers and business owners on getting their materials in order, crafting a pitch, brainstorming ideas and oulets. Finding a consultant who can be your cheerleader and someone to bounce ideas off of can be a less expensive way to get PR help. I essentially tell you what to do and then you go do it!

I also wrote a whole blog post on 9 free ways to promote your business, so for more tips check it out: https://www.thisyuppielife.com/2017/11/13/9-free-ways-to-promote-your-business/

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WOW!  I can't wait to implement some of Molly's awesome strategies!  If you know you're one of those people that's terrible at pitching yourself, check out her website for more info on her PR consulting.  If you want to give it a try to put yourself out there more, make sure you read my "Secrets to a Better Pitch for Bloggers" post (which has a template for crafting a better pitch).  If you found this as helpful as I did, please share on Pinterest!

images c/o Lish Creative

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Instagram Answers Our Burning Questions!

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If you're new to this blog, I hope you'll find the "Social Media University" section of my site to be a valuable resource!  I hope to offer more and more helpful insight to other entrepreneurs through my blog, and who better to learn from than someone at Instagram!  Today we're learning from Morgan Cornelius, who I had the pleasure of connecting with through the School of Hustle at the Hedley & Bennet apron factory last fall!
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Morgan (@morganrcornelius) works with the Small Business Community on Instagram. Specifically, she meets, works with, and educates small and medium businesses every single day. She loves working with entrepreneurs, and hearing how their businesses came to be. Prior to Instagram, Morgan worked at Yelp and acted as their small business outreach manager for North America. While there, she fell in love with the passion and drive small business owners put into growing their businesses.  
Morgan was gracious enough to answer some of my burning questions about Instagram.  All in all, I came away with the impression that Instagram isn't "out to get us" like we all think based on the many rumors we hear.  I didn't get a strong sense that she was trying to convince me I needed to pay to play either.  And you know that great "shadow ban" debacle?  It was just an Instagram glitch.
Morgan Cornelius & Ellen Marie Bennett emceeing the 2017 "School of Hustle"

Morgan Cornelius & Ellen Marie Bennett emceeing the 2017 "School of Hustle"

-Hashtags-


Liz: Do they help or hurt your potential visibility? i.e. should we use all 30 hashtags, should we mix it up or use the same ones all the time?

Morgan: Hashtags are a great way to reach more people by adding them to the caption of your post. You can also add a location tag to your posts which will appear in location pages on Instagram. Hashtag and location pages feature public posts and stories that have been shared with the corresponding hashtag or location.

My takeaway:  Keep on keeping on with the hashtags, and it sounds like they should go in the caption vs. the comments.  Just don't use hashtags that aren't relevant to the content you're posting.


-Engagement groups ("pods")-

Liz: Do these engagement groups help us or hurt us? One theory is that by having a group of our friends agree to regularly engage with each other, we can stay connected while also boosting our visibility out in the feed/algorithm longer by having higher engagement rates. (These "pods" are set up as a group direct message where everyone sends their latest post).

Morgan: Authenticity and transparency are key to building sustainable engagement on Instagram. Trying to somehow game the system may provide a short-term benefit, but I don't think it's a recipe for success long term. In addition, Instagram's feed ranking is powered by machine learning, which is constantly adapting to new patterns in data. So it can recognize inauthentic activity and make adjustments.

My takeaway:  If Instagram is able detect patterns (i.e. the same people always commenting over and over again), we are better off not putting time and energy into pods.  I like Melissa Camilleri's "ENTICE" method to foster more engagement with your followers (learn about it more here, on the Think Creative Collective Podcast).


-Professional Photos vs. Phone Photos-


Liz: I personally notice that when I post a really great photo like this, they automatically get such a bigger overall reach & better engagement. There are rumors that hi-res/professional photos are somehow detected by the algorithm and may be shown more than phone photos. Any truth to that? 

Morgan: There isn't any truth to this. In fact, we share a number of creative tips for business owners around how to create great content without being a professional photographer here. We want businesses to feel empowered to create great content regardless of their marketing budget or their access to a professional camera.

My takeaway:  Morgan also said iPhone photos aren't given priority over pro photos- so I think both sides of this rumor is just that.  However, I do think the better quality images you post (in composition, clarity, and overall interesting subject matter) will just naturally get more engagement than dark, blurry photos.


-Algorithm Changes-


Liz: Are there new algorithm changes coming soon and if so, how will this affect small businesses and bloggers? I feel like more of my posts get seen and have a consistent reach on my smaller account (@cannonboroughcollective). It feels like the more you grow the harder it is to reach your followers. Are smaller accounts getting more of a "boost" in the algorithm? Are personal accounts vs. business accounts getting shown more?

Morgan: Instagram uses an algorithmic feed ranking system to determine the order in which people see photos and videos. The algorithm relies on a variety of signals to surface content a person is interested in. Since we've rolled out personalized feed, one key learning is people respond to great content regardless of whether it's from friends or a brand they are passionate about. We don’t penalize businesses for being businesses. We want people to see the content they care about, regardless if the content is from their friends or brands they are passionate about. We’ll continue to improve feed to show people more of the posts they find interesting.

Morgan's Tip for Businesses: Experiment with video or posts that feature multiple photos or videos as they are great formats to tell your business' story by sharing more information in an engaging experience.

My takeaway:  I have personally noticed more and more small accounts (under 1000 followers) coming up in my feed more frequently than the big accounts I follow.  I did switch back to a personal account for a week to see if it made any difference in engagement, but I don't think it did so I'm back to a business account.  As a user, I try to like and comment on the accounts I would like to see more of, and in turn Instagram does seem to show me that content the next time I log on.


-New Features-


Does using the bells and whistles of the platform (like cute Instastories filters or Instagram Live, etc.) help your overall reach in the algorithm? I heard that doing stories & doing more Instagram lives helps more of your followers see you (on a regular basis, not just at the time of the story/live).

Morgan: My best advice would be that it’s always a good idea to adapt your content to best connect with our changing community (think videos, IG stories, multi-post, boomerangs, hyperlapse etc).

When it comes to engagement, there are a lot of dynamics that can impact it and all sorts of other things that are totally outside of your control. Even aesthetic fatigue can also be an issue for some people. On our side, people are also following more than ever before, and as a result their likes might be spread out across a wider range of content. We also launched Instagram Stories in the last year which is now drawing the eyes to two different places on the home tab. Engagement is made up of SO many different factors — there's no silver bullet. 

My conclusion:  I personally notice that doing occasional Instagram live videos and consistently creating Instagram stories keeps my audience interacting with me.  It never hurts to pop in to have more face time with your social media community!

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I so appreciate Morgan giving us some information straight from the Instagram horse's mouth. Comment below if you have any other questions, and hopefully we can continue our conversation with Instagram!

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