Instagram ads to expand beyond US. Here are some top tips for marketers


By Chris Lee

Facebook-owned photo app Instagram is to roll advertising out to new markets following successful trials with a select group of brands in the US. Announced in its blog, Instagram will make ads available in Canada, the UK and Australia later this year.

Since they were introduced in November 2013, Instagram ads have been proven to enjoy higher response rates than other online ads and the service itself now boasts more than 200 million users worldwide in just four years’ existence. It could therefore be very attractive to marketers.

The company said: “So far, our community-focused efforts are working. The results for advertisers have been positive and in some cases, well about the industry’s average for performance. We’re excited to build on this momentum, and in the coming months we will extend the same level of care and consideration as we introduce ads on Instagram to our global community.”

Instagram is working to get ads right

A great deal of audience consultation went into Instagram app development, and Shane O’Leary, a Dublin-based brand planner for consultants Target McConnells, believes this is the right approach.

“As with all social platforms that use a ‘create user base first, monetise later’ strategy, Instagram has a conundrum on its hands that could shape the future of the business,” he told NMK. “It’s interesting to hear [Instagram co-founder] Kevin Systrom repeatedly emphasising the focus for the company is to ‘keep the standard really, really high’ for its first ads. That’s a smart move. Instagram is a space that, more than any other social network, places value on aesthetics, and this simply has to be maintained. People will accept ‘native’ or in stream advertising if it doesn’t jar with what they’re used to seeing on the platform.”

Making the most of Instagram ads

So how should marketers in the new territories prepare for Instagram ads?

For O’Leary, generally brands should think of Instagram advertising as a way to improve the reach of what they are already doing.

“Most brand accounts understand the need to be pleasing on the eye and to focus on equity driving rather than harsh or unpalatable sales messages. Look at what the likes of Patagonia, Adidas, Red Bull and Disneyland are creating, and take learnings from them,” he advised.

According to O’Leary, Instagram extolls the virtue of ‘finding beauty everywhere’ through its recent brand book.

“It’s clear that [Instagram] wants ‘ads’ that don’t look like normal ads, but an extension of what’s already occurring on the platform. Brands shouldn’t move too far from what they currently (or at least should) focus on with other social ad channels – laser targeting, being relevant, useful or entertaining and above all focusing on ‘on site’ engagement,” he concluded. “As we’ve seen with Facebook, and increasingly Twitter, patrolling this is difficult, but it’s of benefit to all parties – users, brands and the integrity of the platform, if advertisers take this on board.”

How to make the most of Facebook’s latest Pages change


By Chris Lee

Facebook recently rolled out key changes to its Pages on desktop, including updated timeline design, more admin tools and access to new insights, such as ‘Pages to Watch’. But what do the changes mean for business? NMK talked to Raphaël Diai, Community Manager at integrated marketing agency Collider to learn how businesses can make the most of the new Page options.

According to Diai, the update set for 13 June is a re-jig, not a revolution. Brands will now have their content displayed on a one-column timeline, with all the information about themselves on the left-hand side and fully customisable.  As an admin of the page, they will get access to a ‘week overview’ column on the right that tells them their weekly stats and from a graphical standpoint the dimensions of the cover image and avatar are the same. However, the bottom part of a Page’s cover image might be hidden by some of the new features (your name, your activity and the like / following buttons) so there is the possibility that some assets might need to be resized or redesigned.

“The updates are really just tweaks. Most users see content from brands not on their pages, but via their newsfeed. So whilst the layout update is important from a brand perspective, it shouldn’t affect any company’s content and the way they engage with their communities,” Diai told NMK.

Changes won’t affect strategy

Diai advises that community managers do not forget that the percentage of people actually looking at their Facebook profile is quite low and that most users see branded content in their newsfeed.

“This layout update is important from a branding perspective but doesn’t really affect your content and community management strategy,” he advised. “What is more of a concern on that front is Facebook’s ‘diktat’ regarding organic reach of Pages’ posts.”

Diai said that the percentage of fans seeing posts that aren’t supported by ad spend is dropping dramatically.

“Organic reach represented 16 per cent of your community two years ago. It’s now more likely that they represent four per cent. From a community of 10,000, that is just 400 people. Knowing that 96 per cent of your community isn’t touched by your content might be quite scary for some brands that spent years and money building these communities,” he warned.

What is the value of Facebook in 2014?

Based on the above maths, Diai believes that several questions then come to mind: What is the real value of being on Facebook as a brand in 2014? Should brands move on to another platform? Should brands invest in social media at all?

“Well, Facebook might be playing with everyone’s feelings and strategies but it remains the most relevant traffic crossroad and more important it is where your audience is,” he argued. “It’s of course the most visited website (after Google) in the UK and above all it’s the website where users spend the most of their time (average of at least 18 minutes per visit) on the web.”

Diai concluded that brands needs to adapt their Facebook strategy and involve advertising spend in their social media budgets.

“Advertising on social media can be a great and cheap way to reach a broader and a very targeted audience. You just have to expect – and accept – Facebook’s changes,” he added.

Usability explained: Examples and advice for successful user guidance


By Marino Casucci

To help online visitors with orientation and to speed up a user’s search for the right product, most web shops use an auto-suggest function. This means, having typed the first few characters into the search field a list of word suggestions will appear.

Today’s searching technologies allow retailers to play off further data such as pricing, customer ratings and brand logos in the list of suggestions. In this way, access to a whole range of products is additionally supported. However, shops still need to be careful when using these techniques as an overload of text and pictures will only lead to confusion among users.

So which information is relevant and which is not? Basically, it’s important to have a focus: Depending on the branch, product range, target group and business strategy, ecommerce managers should consider which additional suggest elements make sense to display. Beyond suggest elements that help most of the visitors – eg. category or product suggestions and prices – this could be tutorials or icons like “new” or “sale”.

Furthermore, it should be carefully considered which suggestions should appear top of the list: Those with the highest search volume? Those relevant for a current promotion? Or those with the highest profit margin? The answer depends on the company goals and on the image that the website is trying to portray. For an online retailer focusing on quality, it does not make sense to display the cheapest products at the top of the list of suggestions. Instead, products with very good customer ratings would fit better for this retailer. Popular European retailers such as HSE24, Rossmann and OBI demonstrate how the suggest function supports merchandising campaigns and content strategies.

How HSE24 and Rossmann push products through commercials

Articles that are relevant today are likely to be old tomorrow – and vice versa. In order to react on such trends teleshopping channel HSE24 promotes daily product campaigns on TV as well as in its web shop ( The auto-suggest function makes sure that the advertised products are shown in a special way, with a highlighted price and a thumbnail.


Clever merchandising: With thumbnails and coloured prices HSE24 highlights chosen products at the top of the list in the suggest menu.

Also, drugstore chain Rossmann ( uses auto-suggest to leverage sales of campaign products. Articles from the current catalogue appear on top of the list; afterwards the best-selling products are shown.


In contrast to HSE24, Rossmann still shows the initial price of reduced products – softened and crossed out. On the one hand, this could disturb some online visitors who only want to browse, but on the other hand this information helps many users with a concrete buying intention to come to a decision.

OBI inspires online visitors to buy in local branches

Google studies prove the Research Online Purchase Offline (ROPO)-effect: 38% of all offline buyers carry out product research before making the purchase in local branches. In doing so, ROPO customers have a higher average purchasing volume because of additional purchases. The do-it-yourself chain OBI supports this effect specifically, already presenting tutorials to the online visitors in the suggest menu. In this way the customer’s need for information is optimally satisfied.


Whether it’s a video tutorial, a blog article or consultant advice, information is easy to find for OBI’s online user. This ultimately drives customers to visit a local branch, where personal guidance brings the buying decision forward.

Supporting their own shop strategy as well as providing a unique shopping experience is possible for ecommerce managers if they use the right data in the right order in the auto-suggest function. There are always recommendations that are valuable for almost every shop. Our Usability Study in co-operation with the innovative services marketing students of Pforzheim Business School shows that in suggest menus, online users tend to be guided by product prices and classification of categories.

About the author

Marino Casucci is International Sales Director, FACT-Finder.


Performance of social networking sites – Index from Keynote Systems for April 2014


By Thomas Gronbach

The social networking homepages were significantly slower in April than they had been in March, falling from a 1.90s average load time to 2.02s. This continues the downward trend in speed from February to March and brings the collective load time above the Keynote recommended maximum of two seconds. In terms of reliability, the sites performed better in April than they did in March. The only site consistently falling under the recommended minimum of 99 percent availability, LinkedIn, achieved a 99.78 percent success rate this month. This resulted in all of the social network homepages being available for 99 percent of the time or more – a great achievement.

There were some notable spikes in April, for example, Friends Reunited dipped to 89.69 percent availability on April 10th. This could have happened for a number of reasons, such as a promotion or advert increasing traffic to the site and the resulting pressure may have caused the site not to load as it should for some visitors. Flickr also saw some changes in April, and from the 18th to the end of the month, the average page size increased from 1.86MB to 3.98MB. As a result, Flickr’s average response time increased by 0.58s (up to 3.20s), an increase that could prove damaging to customer relations if it continues in May.

Flickr had the most severe change in response time of the social networking homepages and this is likely due to changes on the page – the number of objects increased from 32 to 38 and the page size increased from 1.84 MB to 2.81 MB. Other social networks also had a similar experience; Bebo saw an increase in its average load time from 3.84s to 4.37s, which may have been due to the increase in object numbers from 33 to 52 and page size from 0.92 MB to 1.09 MB.

April tells a clear tale to the social networks that offering a consistently good customer experience is vital. Not only did April see instances where there was a dramatic change in customer experience – Friends Reunited – but it also saw longer term changes that prove the impact site composition can have on the average time a homepage takes to load. Changes in performance will impact customer retention and in a competitive marketplace, where speed and availability matter, this is something which can sort the winners from the losers.


About the author

Thomas Gronbach is the director of marketing in Europe for Keynote Systems. He’s responsible for marketing Keynote’s web and performance management and mobile cloud testing products. Prior to Keynote, Thomas worked at Fujitsu – a Japanese enterprise IT provider – where he was responsible for developing go-to-market activities and marketing strategies for Fujitsu’s cloud product offerings. Thomas has also held a number of roles at Oracle. Thomas holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Computer Science from Berufsakademie in Stuffgart, Germany and a Master’s in Sports Management from the University of San Francisco.

About the company

Keynote Systems is the global leader in Internet and mobile cloud monitoring. It provides companies with solutions for continuously improving the online experience. Founded in 1995, Keynote provides testing, monitoring and measurement products and services for any enterprise including online portals, e-commerce sites, B2B sites, mobile operators and mobile infrastructure providers. Keynote products and services help companies improve customer experience in four areas: Web performance, mobile quality, streaming and real user experience testing.

Bloggers matter, so how can you reach them?

By Chris Lee

Blogging has been mainstream for more than a decade but for many brands and their PR agencies aiming to identify and engage with key influencers, bloggers have different needs and practices to journalists. So how should brands interact with bloggers, many of whom enjoy genuine reach and higher trust among their audiences than traditional media?

Tailor approach according to audience

Sarah Moore is blogging engagement manager for Blogging Edge, an agency dedicated to blogger relations. For Moore, her focus is on building and maintaining relationships with bloggers.

“When identifying influencers within various sectors, we look for bloggers with an existing interest in the brand or product we want to promote, as well as how well they engage with their readership,” she told NMK. “Taking time to read blogs also helps, as you can quickly identify if a blog will be a good fit through the general tone of the site, the use of photography and the design elements.”

Moore continued: “While being bloggers ourselves definitely helps in starting a dialogue, it is important to remember that bloggers are just like the rest of us – busy people juggling numerous different commitments alongside running a website.”

Getting details right, like addressing them with the correct name and spelling the title of their blog properly, may seem obvious, but they are crucial considerations, she warned.

“There is nothing worse than receiving a generic email that starts ‘Dear Blogger’ – it demonstrates that you haven’t bothered to look at their blog at all. Reading ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ or ‘PR’ pages where available should give you enough information to construct a meaningful opening email,” Moore added.

Most bloggers Moore works with run their websites in their spare time, so marketers in the same position might face is a lack of communication during regular working hours.

“Unfortunately there are also some bloggers out there who will accept products without reviewing them. While this is rare, it does happen on occasion, so it’s important to manage your or your client’s expectations,” she concluded..

Blogging relations case study

One of the leading blogger relations services in the UK is Best British Bloggers from digital consultants Stickyeyes, which includes 10,000 bloggers on its network. The service matches bloggers to its client campaigns according to their influence and authority on their chosen subjects.

Hotel company Hilton Worldwide came to Best British Bloggers with a clear demand; to reach out to key online influencers in the UK and Ireland to raise awareness of the Hilton brand.

This would be the first time that the Hilton brand would attempt to connect with key bloggers and online influencers, but expectations were high. Not only did Hilton want to increase its online exposure and increase brand awareness, the company also wanted to create a new breed of brand advocates who could speak with authority to large and highly engaged audiences.

The campaign would also be a key contributor to Hilton’s wider search marketing campaign, with a focus on creating unique, relevant content, social shares and quality link referrals.

Best British Bloggers helped connect key influencers in fashion, beauty and lifestyle with Hilton.

“The #RediscoverHilton campaign focused on helping influential bloggers rediscover an aspect of life that was important to them and to their readers, with the stories told through their blogs to an audience of millions,” according to Stickyeyes. “Whether it was taking people on an action-packed city break or giving someone a chance to unwind on a spa weekend, #RediscoverHilton would demonstrate the diversity of Hilton’s hotel breaks and bring the Hilton brand to a completely new audience.”

More than 2.8 million people were reached by the #RediscoverHilton campaign, which helped lead to a 125 per cent uplift in brand citations across social and coverage on 33 third party blogs.

Retailers surprised by speed of march to mobile


By Chris Lee

The leading UK mobile retailer Argos received £400m in m-commerce sales, accounting for a tenth (10 per cent) of its overall online sales.  However, on average the top 20 UK retailers generate five per cent of revenue from m-commerce, according to the 2013 Internet Retailer Global Mobile 500.

According to Skava’s McCormick, the rapid rise of e-commerce caught many traditional retailers out, and mobile commerce has taken it one step further.

“In addition to e-commerce booming m-commerce took many retailers by surprise and many retailers simply don’t know how to handle it,” she told NMK. “The fact that mobile has only been around for a few years also means there are very few mobile experts.”

Don’t cut corners with mobile commerce

McCormick argues that many retailers went with a quick and cheap mobile solution to have an offering on the market.

“But you get what you pay for and these ‘quick and cheap’ sites are poorly designed and have poor performance, which means that they are not an easy shopping experience from a customer perspective,” she added. “The senior management look at the conversion figures on mobile – some people in the UK report only 0.2-0.4 per cent conversion on mobile and assume that this is because people simply don’t want to shop via smartphone – but this is actually just a reflection of a poorly designed site. The retailers who have invested big in their mobile strategy and take it seriously are seeing much higher conversions.”

According to McCormick the quick and cheap sites usually use the same layout and navigation as the desktop site but mobile actually requires its own unique navigation.

“[The reasons] why people come onto a mobile website is different than a desktop,” she explained. “The store locator for example is buried on the desktop website but needs to be front and centre on a mobile website. Mobile requires a much more shallow navigation compared to desktop websites. People have little patience on mobile and if your website is slow and heavy to load they abandon it and go to your competitor or Amazon.”

The Amazon factor

McCormick added that every retailer must remember – if Amazon sells their products – that it provides an “amazing mobile shopping experience”. As soon as a consumer thinks of an item they need to buy it is so easy to buy on Amazon mobile and this will continue to increase as a threat, she added.

“If your mobile website is slow and cumbersome to shop from a large portion of your customers will simply quit and go to Amazon and how long will it take a retailer to win that customer back?” McCormick said. “Just like desktop websites before them – it is a learning experience of what works and what does not work.”

Another factor is that, according to Forrester, even in the US 45 per cent of the major retailers do not even have analytics on their mobile websites.

“There is no similar data for the UK but considering the UK seem to be lagging behind the US on their mobile strategy we can assume that many UK retailers don’t have analytics on their mobile websites or someone within the company analysing them,” McCormick added. “Every day more and more people are giving up feature phones for smartphones. There is a whole new segment of the population who will use their smartphone as their main computer.”

Smartphone traffic grew 78 per cent in the UK last year and now accounts for 20 per cent of all e-commerce traffic. 

“For many retailers it is simply a case that they don’t have the internal resources, internal understanding to keep up with the rapidly shifting trend from brick and mortar to desktop to mobile,” McCormick concluded. “Whenever there is a major shift in an industry such as this you will see old slow to change companies lose significant market share to new more nimble startups.”

The mobile marketing takeover

By Amber Waddy

Mobile phones were so alien to us back in the day, and yet these days they are completely normal. Smartphones are more advanced and more interactive than they have ever been, and there are still new and innovative developments under way for many key players.

When it comes to things like branding and advertising it is useful to know how to reach mobile audiences as well as those sitting at their computer, as the folks at Surge know well. They have come up with a brand new infographic demonstrating just how important mobile networking really is for everyone.

For instance, were you aware that more people use their cell phones to catch up with backlogged emails than those who use a standard PC unit? And that there are more annual smartphone purchases than tablets, laptops and desktops combined? Why not have a look below to learn more…


About the author

Amber Waddy is a Marketing Consultant at Surge Digital.

Surge Digital is a marketing and media agency that specialises in social media management as well as web design and development.