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Important Takeaways from Instagram's Newest Features


This week, I've been thinking quite a lot about Instagram. And you probably have been, too, due to the large amount of buzz the photo-sharing app has been getting lately. These mentions across multiple online news channels aren't for naught, however. Instagram has actually pushed out a number of updates in the form of new features. And they have been doing so concurrently with the expansion of their ad business, which raises questions about how the timing of the launches of these new features correlates with that expansion. In this blog post, I will outline those enhancements I find most noteworthy, provide my two cents on each and end with an assessment of how these changes relate to the expansion of Instagram's ad business.

Horizontal and Vertical Posts 
AT LAST! The square photo format, once required, has been abandoned, thrown to the wolves and left behind. At least, that's what we thought would happen. But if you scroll down through your feed, you'll note that for the most part, ads continue to follow the square format of yesteryear, despite Instagram's watershed moment. And much more disappointing is that your followers (yes, those people whose posts you like and whom you message from time to time) are not actually embracing the new change as often as you thought they would.

It's as if we have gotten used to Instagram's restrictions, complacent with its rigid structure and happy with what we had been graciously given: photo-editing tools that lacked the option of changing the orientation and size of our posts. For so long, we felt like we were in full control of how we displayed our Instagram content. And now that we have the complete package and the door to self-expression has widened just a little bit more, we aren't using it!

 Whether this is an issue relating to our familiarity with the square format or Instagram’s almost “parental” control is something I can't quite put my finger on yet. It seems like everyone I follow, and of course I, too, still needs some time for adjusting. Maybe then we'll feel comfortable abandoning InstaSize for the unfamiliar freedom of Instagram's new image orientation feature.

“Send To” 
This new feature was actually the one I was most enthusiastic about. For years, we have been tagging our friends in comments on posts we find particularly relevant to them or just plain funny. Scrolling down our feeds, we can see hundreds, even thousands of comments, each with a handle or two followed by a laugh-cry emoji. We shamelessly add to these threads ourselves, not thinking of the amount of notifications the photo’s owner will receive as a result of our thirst for (over)sharing. And so, pretty soon, the tendency to over-share via the act of tagging your friends in comments produces what I read as an aberration on content that actually hinders the natural flow of our feed intake. 

This, of course, presented a problem to the team at Instagram, one that they "fixed" with a new option now placed below every post alongside the "like" and "comment" icons. The solution allows you to directly send posts to users without having to comment. Not only does this eliminate the necessity for, say, embarrassingly posting a flirtatious comment (along with a friend's handle) on James Franco's most recent selfie, but it also encourages conversation within Instagram's newly developed direct messaging feature.

Direct Messaging
First of all, thank you Instagram for making emojis BIG AND BEAUTIFUL! Excuse my seemingly random excitement, but as a result of the expansion of Instagram's direct messaging feature, we can now note each emoji's unique characteristics. I mean… did you know that the rabbit has red eyes?

The optical trait of each emoji isn’t the only good thing worth noting about the newly embellished direct messaging feature. The main benefit is the ability to view direct messages as a continuous thread, rather than a series of comments to an image shared with multiple people. In other words, you can send a post from your feed to a friend, after which direct messaging becomes more like Facebook Messenger in the ways you interact with others: your messages are highlighted in blue while the others are gray, similar to iMessages on your iPhone and Mac. More than just an attempt at pushing Facebook Messenger out from its #1 spot as the most downloaded app, the newly expanded direct messaging feature has the effect of killing two birds with one stone. And I think that's pretty rad of Instagram, considering Facebook's already-established dominance in the social networking circuit. 

My Assessment
These updates seem to be more of a late response to existing issues and concerns about Instagram's user experience rather than expansions to boost its ad business development. However, I would argue that these recent developments in the app’s features are indeed Instagram's attempt to look good to marketers and bring in business. This is to say that while Instagram has become more user-friendly, the app as a product has also become more marketable and attractive to marketers looking to spend money on advertisements. Ultimately, by smoothing out the interface’s quirks and boosting revenue, Instagram can cover the costs of product development while:

  1. Expanding its ad business.
  2. Making the app more user-friendly.
  3. Improving its brand’s online presence.

All in all, I consider this to be very successful marketing. Not bad, Instagram!


This post was written by current Renegade intern Sam Oriach. You can follow him on Twitter @samoriach.

Social News Roundup | August 14, 2015


1. “Boxes” Redesigns Organization: A Discovery Platform for Belongings

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

A new app named “Boxes” is designed to help users organize their personal belongings, as well as have the option to share them with or sell them to others. Check out the new app here.


2. Instagram Tops Snapchat and Vine in Satisfaction and Buzz (Report)

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Photo courtesy of SocialTimes

In a survey of 2,100 adults, Instagram topped Snapchat and Vine in both buzz and satisfaction ratings. Discover the full details of the findings here.


3. LinkedIn Dos and Don’ts for Business [Infographic]

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Photo courtesy of Social Media Today

Your business can attract potential customers and employees by having a polished LinkedIn profile. Advice for a professional profile, such as using simple language, can be viewed in this infographic.


4. How Can You Do Data Better?

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Photo courtesy of SocialTimes                     

With the seemingly endless amount of data to which companies now have access, many have a hard time identifying the most important trends for their specific business objectives. Companies can use data more effectively by first figuring out what they need to learn. See how you can tackle big data in this article by SocialTimes.


5. Report: Digital Natives Do Everything From Mobile Devices

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Photo courtesy of SocialTimes

Early adopters — millenialls — spend an average of 17.3 hours using technology per day, with the majority of that time being spent on smartphones. See the full results of the study by Refuel Agency here.


Social News Roundup | July 27, 2015


1. 3 Creative Ways to Use Twitter Hashtags to Promote Your Business


Photo courtesy of SocialTimes

Many brands make use of relevant hashtags, but hashtag strategies such as encouraging loyal customers to create content can elevate your brand’s presence. Learn all three hashtag tips here.

2. How to Create Compelling Live Broadcasts with Meerkat or Periscope

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Photo courtesy of Adweek

Brands can benefit from being early adopters of live streaming applications Meerkat and Periscope. SocialTimes reveals how to create compelling content on both of these platforms.

3. How to Write Great Copy for Every Social Network [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Photo courtesy of Social Media Today

Each social media platform requires carefully curated content and unique language in order to spread the right message. Find out how to enhance your brand’s copy from this infographic.

4. What Brands Can Learn from Customer Conversations on Social Media


Photo courtesy of SocialTimes

Social media is more than just an advertising tool—conversations on social can enlighten brands of what consumers want and can be used to increase customer satisfaction at a lower cost. Discover the full potential of customer conversations on social media here.

5. Can a Facebook Page Replace a Small Business Website?


Photo courtesy of SocialTimes

According to Facebook, there are currently 40 million active pages for small businesses. Many small businesses wonder if having a Facebook page is enough. Well, apparently it isn’t. Foregoing a website may cost your small business, and here’s why.

The Paradox of Being Plugged In


Some of life’s most precious moments can pass you by while you are staring at your phone. With multiple social media channels available at our fingertips, sharing, chatting, tweeting and engaging with others has become second nature for many and is hard to turn off.

Smartphone in hand, people now seem to spend more time snapping the perfect photo for their Instagram or filming for their Snapchat stories than enjoying real-time events and experiences. This addiction to technology is becoming increasingly widespread – especially among millennials.

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Photo courtesy of Social Times. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for using these social platforms to see the world from new perspectives, and I’m not one to pass up a golden Snapchat opportunity. But at a certain point, these channels can detract from real life experiences and hinder genuine interactions.

YouTube guru and American film director Casey Neistat recently developed an application that helps you enjoy life’s moments through your own eyes and your phone, simultaneously. The social sharing application Beme lets you record moments in your daily life through motion activation rather than by having to stare at your screen and hold down a record button.

This function could be extremely useful at concerts – just press your phone against your chest to activate the motion sensor and start recording. The platform also includes similar features to Snapchat, where each moment is fleeting and can only be seen once. A crucial point of differentiation is the reaction feature, which, unlike favorites and likes, allows people to respond to moments with a selfie. 

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Photo courtesy of Mashable. 

The paradox of being “plugged in” versus “living in the moment” is one with which many people (including myself) struggle. How many times have you been at dinner and checked your phone for that text message from a friend? Or been waiting in line and scrolling through your phone to avoid an awkward wait time or encounter with a stranger?

Forward-thinking brands such as Ringly have come up with wearable solutions to allow you to focus on what is most important. The emerging brand’s slogan: “Put your phone away and enjoy the moment.” Ringly’s “smart ring” will vibrate when you receive a text message or an email so you can leave your phone in your purse.

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Photo from Ringly website. 

While it may be nearly impossible to unplug completely, it’s important to look up from your phone every once in a while and enjoy life through your own eyes rather than your screen.  

Instagram: the King of Engagement


Do you ever find yourself mindlessly opening Instagram the second you unlock your iPhone? I do it all the time. I admit it – I’m an Instagram addict. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing that little orange heart emerge on your iPhone screen to notify you that someone has liked your photo.

 Since its debut in 2010, the platform has garnered huge success, generating 300 million subscribers. The “double-tapping” feature to like photos is now an integral part of our social scrolling ritual. By providing instant updates, Instagram has become an essential resource for people to access information in a way that is both aesthetically appealing and user-friendly.

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Photo courtesy of Social Times. 

 With its Explore feature, content is curated to the user based on the people that he or she follows and the most popular pages. The targeted Discover page takes you to new realms by presenting fresh photos and accounts to follow daily. See where your fingertips take you.

This week, Instagram revitalized its explore page, taking after Twitter and Facebook by presenting news and trends first and foremost on the landing. Now at the top of the explore section, users will find trending hashtags and places. 


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Photo courtesy of Social Times. 

Thanks to Instagram’s intuitive features and smart classification of information, you can see the world through other people’s eyes. The abundance of perspectives available on the app can enhance our lives in a number of ways. For example, if I were wondering what to order at a restaurant, I would search its Instagram page to see photos of the food. Chances are that the most Instagrammed dish is also the most delicious one. Or say that I wanted to plan my next vacation to Mexico; my first move would be to check the Instagram photos of my desired destinations to help me build an itinerary.

So what makes Instagram a winner in the world of mobile apps?

There is no better forum for engagement. With its flaw-hiding filters, users can’t help but double tap. According to a recent study by Yahoo labs, filtered photos are 21% more likely to get clicks and 45% more likely to get comments than unfiltered ones. 

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Photo courtesy of Social Times. 

The app’s success skyrocketed this year with a 15% increase in engagement. For companies, the platform will remain a crucial channel for establishing brand identity and attracting a social audience – especially younger users. 68% percent of millennials say they engage with brands regularly by clicking liking, following and commenting. With that being said — Instagram on, my fellow Instagram addicts!


GIFs: Back and Better than Ever


The GIF, pronounced “JIF” in case you weren’t sure, was invented in 1987 in order for weather maps to save bandwidth on a dial-up Internet connection. So, why are we talking about GIFs now, in 2015?

This format, a combination of pictures that create an endlessly looping, moving image, has been around for a while. However, the recent introduction of autoplay and emphasis on short-form video on many social media platforms has made GIFs relevant again—this time as a new and unique advertising tool.

GIFs, and other short-form animated content, are perfectly aligned to be advertisements on most social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram now all have an autoplay feature where video plays automatically, without user action. Additionally, this short-form moving image is just the right length to be uploaded to Instagram and short enough that users will actively pay attention. GIFs can also be directly embedded into a tweet or a Facebook post, making the viewing process user-friendly.

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GIF courtesy of Giphy

Instead of advertising through words and still frames, some brands have started to work with Giphy and Tumblr to create branded GIF content. Brands like DiGiorno Pizza, seen above, have used these animated loops on Twitter and found that they increased engagement among followers.


How Brands Use Cinemagraphs to Capture Audience Attention Heinekin Brandfolder

Cinemagraph courtesy of Brandfolder

A specific type of GIF, the cinemagraph, has gained popularity on Instagram recently. This type of GIF is a still image with one animated component, and was popularized by digital artist Kevin Burg and photographer Jamie Beck.

The cinemagraph is seemingly hypnotic and draws consumer attention when scrolling down one’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram news feed.  Toyota, Heineken, and Gilt have all used cinemagraph advertisements on Instagram and many other brands are following in their footsteps on Facebook as well.

With the advent of autoplay and the infiltration of advertising content on social media platforms, the use of GIFs and cinemagraphs can be a strategic way for brands to differentiate themselves and capture consumers’ attention. However, it is important for brands not to abuse and overuse GIFS and instead use them only when it is the best way to tell their story.  

Foodies for the win! How to optimize engagement on Instagram


Food infiltrates our thoughts countless times a day. Where are we going for dinner tonight? Wow, that burrito looks good; I wonder where he got it from.

With its hashtag and geotag features, Instagram delivers a multitude of opportunities for restaurants, cafés and sweet shops to become more than just destinations – it allows them to establish and promote their brand from the palm of their hand. 

Following its advent in 2010, the platform has since reached 300 million active users and 70 million photos posted per day  – and many of these photos are food-related. With hashtags such as #food and #instafood populating the captions of 178.6 million and 56 million photos, respectively, Instagram is an essential domain for fostering engagement with all things edible.


Photo courtesy of AdWeek

Food-related accounts are not only fun to follow, but they also provide a necessary service in guiding others on what and where to eat. From this exposure, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafés and little coffee shops are attracting visitors from all over the world. One such account is Baked by Melissa, which has gathered 135K followers by promoting its miniature cupcakes in various places throughout New York City and by keeping up with holidays, movie premieres, sporting events and more. The burgeoning cupcake bakery drives engagement by encouraging customers to post photos of their favorite “Baked by Melissa” moments to be featured on their website.

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 Screenshot of Baked by Melissa’s Instagram account. 

One thing is for sure: these food accounts are doing something right. If Sprinkles Cupcakes can rack up 280k followers, then so can your brand. Of course, these cupcake shops are famous for a reason – they exhibit smart, simple marketing strategies and share-worthy content.


For example, Sprinkles invites customers to like their page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to learn the secret word of the day, which can be whispered at each Sprinkles location to earn a "buy one, get one free" deal. I think “free cupcake,” Sprinkles thinks “free followers.” Therefore, it's a win-win.

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Screenshot of Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Instagram account.

While free cupcakes are fabulous, here are three takeaways from these sweet shops’ social strategies that may be helpful for any brand:

1.) Track the trends. With hashtags such as #NationalDonutDay generating 18k posts online within an hour, it’s crucial to put out content that aligns with social media’s most buzzed-about events, holidays and news, all the while connecting back to your own brand. 

2.) Encourage engagement with questions, calls to action and contests. Users are more likely to engage with content with which they feel a personal connection, for example, if a photo caption prompts me to comment with the team I want to win the NBA Championship, chances are, I will (Warriors, obviously). 

3.) Show some love. Engagement is a two-way street. To keep your followers hungry for more, it wouldn’t hurt to throw them a favorite, retweet or a quick comment to let them know that their opinion matters.


Social News Roundup | June, 12, 2015


1. 3 Surprising Benefits of Scheduling Your Tweets 

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Photo courtesy of AdWeek

Scheduling your Tweets ahead of time helps to create a stronger and more consistent brand voice, allows you to be creative and can relieve stress. Read more here.

2. American Pharoah May Be The Most Brand Friendly Horse Ever

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Photo courtesy of AdWeek

The last time a horse won a Triple Crown, 1978, was years before many advances in the digital world and ad industry. Even before American Pharoah’s win, he had marketing deals, and was making history in advertising. See some of his deals here

3. 5 Ways to Maintain Brand Cohesion on Social Media

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Photo courtesy of Social Times

Social Times shares the 5 ways to make sure that your brand has a consistent voice on social media. Check out the full infographic.


4. May Media Publishers Report: Bleacher Report, BuzzFeed Video on the Rise

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Photo courtesy of AdWeek

BuzzFeed Video has seen the highest increase in engagement- 45% up from April- across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

See the full report.


5. Instagram Cleans Up Its Website To Mimic Mobile and Make Photos Pop

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Photo courtesy of Mashable 





Take a look for yourself.


6. Facebook Now Wants You to Explore What’s Trending in 5 Topics

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Photo courtesy of Mashable

Facebook is testing the organization of its Trending section on the homepage. The updates to this area will help make Facebook an effective distribution platform for publishers to share their content.

Here’s more information.

Social News Roundup | May 1, 2015


1) The lowdown on how to market to millennial parents

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Image courtesy of Adweek

As the first truly digital-native generation, millennials operate by a different set of rules than previous generations. For the new rules, click here... 


2) Use this hack to automatically post your Instagram photos to Twitter


Photo courtesy of Adweek

Using the popular app If This Then That (IFTTT), you can set up a recipe to automatically post your Instagram as tweets, accomplishing twice the work just as fast. Click here for a detailed how-to. 

3) Instagramers take note, you can now tag picture using emoji hashtags # 👏👍😄

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Image courtesy of Mashable

It's time to add a little emotion to your posts. To see what else Instagram added, click here... 


4) Did you know: Low value marketing pushes consumers away from brands.

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Image courtesy of Adweek

Poor advertising practices breed negativity towards brands who prepetuate them. For more details, click here... 


5) 7 things to consider before setting up a Facebook page. 

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Image courtesy of Adweek

If you can't give clear answers to these questions, you might be jumping the gun. Click here for the seven questions.

Social News Roundup | December 12, 2014


1) A look back on Social Media in 2014

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Photo Courtesy of Media Bistro

You may be surprised which 2014 marketing predictions came true, and which ones didn’t. Find out here.

Facebook and YouTube released their ‘2014 Year in Review’ videos this week where they highlighted some of the most-discussed topics and viral videos of the year. 


2) Facebook introduces Call-to-Action Buttons

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Photo Courtesy of All Facebook

The seven calls to action that will be available include: Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up and Watch Video. Read more...


3) Twitter releases tailored audiences for their mobile apps


Photo Courtesy of Media Bistro

The purpose of the product is to help users “drive the highest possible ROI in app install and app engagement campaigns” as stated by Kelton Lynn, Group Product Maneger at Twitter. Read more...


4) LinkedIn slowly rolling out a new design for users

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Photo Courtesy of Social Times

The redesigned homepage features an updated dashboard, a “Keep in Touch” box as well as an area designated for the site’s publishing platform, LinkedIn Pulse. Read more...


5) Facebook gets Trendier

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Photo Courtesy of Media Post

Facebook adds a live feed and other features to the Trending section on their page. Read more...


6) Instagram surpasses Twitter in number of users

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Photo Credit Social Times

This week Instagram hit a milestone and reached 300 million followers vs. Twitter’s 284 million. Read more...

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