On June 20th Instagram unveiled the newest feature for its photo-sharing app: The addition of videos up to 15 seconds using 13 different filters. As evidenced by YouTube’s huge success, video sharing has become a major medium for sharing products and connecting with others. So how is Instagram’s new video feature any different from existing video programs such as Vine? And will it open doors for new ways to reach targeted audiences with interesting, dynamic content? While it’s impossible to tell which technologies will flop and which will meteorically rise, Instagram’s take on video sharing holds the promise of great marketing potential for several reasons.

Access to Instagram’s 100 million members. An obvious advantage to using video sharing on Instagram is a connection to the vast number of people who already access the program regularly. Like Facebook, Instagram offers a diversity of demographics constantly hungry for new content to share, like and promote. Every marketer hopes for “viral” content that will spread organically, friend to friend, providing widespread exposure with minimal investment. Instagram’s already rapt audience is ready to facilitate the spread of videos–given that the videos are interesting, creative, funny or cool enough.

The use of Instagram’s widely popular filters. One of the features that distinguishes Instagram from prior picture sharing sites is its use of filters that allow users to brighten, fade, saturate and just generally personalize their photos. Put simply Instagram allows users to make ordinary photos look extraordinary–whether that be tinged in vintage hues or blurred into artistic obscurity. Similarly, marketers now have the ability to easily create video content that reflects the brand or campaign image through the use of filters. With endless possibilities that do not necessarily require professional graphic design abilities to manufacture, Instagram’s video feature opens doors for highly creative, cost effective content.

Instagram’s 15-second cap on video content. It can be hard to communicate an effective message in 6 seconds–which is exactly what Vine requires. Because Instagram offers lengthier content, brands have the ability to string together a video clip that tells a complete narrative. At the same time, 15 seconds falls short of a full television commercial length, reminding its creators to keep content succinct, clean and to the point. Because of shortened attention spans and the constant inundation of information, Instagram’s 15-second videos may be the perfect length to draw audiences in without overstepping the fine line towards every marketer’s dreaded consumer reaction–boredom.

What do you think of Instagram’s video sharing? Is the sky the limit?

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For years, healthcare marketings have been promoting “5-star” rated services and persuading patients to lead healthier lifestyles—without being able to show these tactics work. That’s because we’ve been measuring the wrong things.

That is, until now. These days, access to highly effective marketing and communications tools are at our fingertips in the form of social media, websites, and search engines to create dynamic, measurable ways to engage your community and drive bottom-line results.

Are we measuring the right things?
Traditional marketing communications have been notoriously difficult to measure. Sure, we’re able to measure response rates to direct mail or TV/print ads. We’re also able to count how many people sign up for health events or lectures. By using a customer relationship management (CRM) database, we can measure downstream revenue.

Over the years, we’ve taken credit for influencing outcome by tying together these loosely connected measurements. But sometimes these results took months, if not years, to calculate. And were we really measuring success?

Health care reform, which is forcing us to radically re-think what hospitals provide, also puts pressure on hospital marketers to measure patient engagement and bottom-line revenue. Daunting? Yes, but you’re in luck because everything online is measurable.

Social media is about engagement
With the growing popularity of online social networks, hospitals realize that social media can help build an engaged audience. To do this, hospital marketers must change how we use these tools to communicate. This requires shifting from promotion (“us” marketing) to sharing health information on topics and conditions relevant to customers (“we” marketing).

After making this fundamental shift in social media communications strategy, my hospital (Inova Health System) increased social media followers by more than 400 percent in under a year. More importantly, we were able to measure engagement by using Facebook Insights and Klout.

Engagement leads to action
Increased engagement with your hospital brand via social media means you can begin offering ways for customers to learn from and engage more directly:

  • Ask them sign up for an eNewsletter where you communicate regularly on topics of their interest. Then, measure their engagement through open-rates and click-through rates.
  • Create links to your website so customers can download health information or other content. Services such as http://bit.ly allow you to track how many times people click on your links and when they get to your website, as well as how long they stay there.
  • Promote a health event or seminar and use online registration forms. Collecting names and other relevant information makes it possible to compare that data with your CRM database and cross-promote other ways to sustain engagement.


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In today’s world the use of social media is not only advantageous–it’s expected. As of 2013, 73% of Fortune 500 companies have Twitter accounts, 66% are on Facebook, and 28% keep active blogs. With these numbers rising, it’s not hard to imagine a future where companies across industries increasingly use social media for tasks such as customer service, market research and advertising. Social media is a great means for staying current, reaching a large audience and keeping in touch with what customers are saying–but like any tool, there is a right and wrong way to use it.

Many major brands have suffered their share of social media disasters, meltdowns made all the harder to curb due to their widespread, public nature. So what are some simple, easy-to-grasp guidelines that might help anyone set up and manage social media accounts?

Communicate regularly. By posting, tweeting or blogging on a fairly fixed schedule, you can create a dependable, communicative presence that followers will learn to expect and appreciate. Conversely, adding to your account sporadically or infrequently will reflect a lack of effort. This goes for page comments by followers as well–be sure to respond in a timely fashion.

Show personality, but stay professional. Social media is a unique form of communication for many companies in that it is by nature casual, personal and highly interactive. It may be tempting to use slang, be colloquial and post pictures of, say, cute kittens. By all means, embrace the conversational nature of social media–to a point. While people will connect with you more if you keep posts concise and not too intellectual, you also should remember to keep brand image (and some sense of professionalism) true to your company.

Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to click on. While this may seem obvious, many companies make the mistake of simply being too boring. While it’s great to post things relevant to your field, make sure the links aren’t technical to the point that they will only attract a small segment of the population. Supplementing posts with pictures, infographics or videos is a great idea since studies have shown that people are more likely to engage with visuals.

Listen to your audience. There are many fancy tools for measuring social media metrics, but the simplest ones might be the most informative. Try posting only visuals for a week and see how many view and/or clicks you receive. Take into account how many “likes” each post receives. In other words, certain posts will engage your audience more than others, and you can use this information to create the perfect formula for maximum engagement.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. With all this being said, don’t forget to think outside the box when it comes to social media. The great thing about this medium is that it’s new enough that some of the greatest ideas on how to use it for marketing probably have yet to be invented. Try asking questions, posting a poll or getting creative with pictures or video. Just remember to avoid anything that could even possibly be offense and to remain courteous to all of your followers–unless you want a social media meltdown on your hands.

Have some interesting social media tactics? Let us know in the comments!


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The holidays are a great time for friends, family, celebration–and b2b marketing.

According to Katie Hollar, marketing manager at online software database service Capterra Inc., lots of marketers back off on their marketing efforts in December, even though it’s a perfect time to run a holiday-themed campaign.

“When we talk to companies around the year-end and give advice about getting leads, we notice that a lot of companies lower their budgets in December,” Hollar said. “But we always encourage companies to advertise in December. It’s great because you can get increased visibility compared to your competitors, who might not be advertising as much.”

Capterra is in a good position to observe holiday marketing trends. Not only does the company run its own b2b marketing campaigns, hoping to attract both software vendors and companies looking for software into its database, it also helps advise client companies on their own marketing efforts.

“Software tends to be a long buying cycle,” she said. “So it makes sense to run ads in Q4 because Q1 is such a strong buying time.”

The idea behind effective holiday advertising is to keep it light and nonpushy. The end of the year is a good time, Hollar said, for thanking clients, sending out messages of appreciation, light-hearted and funny content, and raising visibility without a hard sales push.

“People are thinking of other things,” she said. “Sometimes a simple thank-you to existing customers is a great way to score sales in the next year. And I think this isn’t something people would mark as spam.”

Examples of this kind of advertising include the HubSpot unicorn spoofing the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and Marketo’s “Greeting Maker,” which allows people to easily make greeting cards with prompts like “I’d love to see my _______ make a scene at the holiday party.”

There is a fine line in holiday advertising, said Adam Q. Holden-Bache, CEO of Mass Transmit, an email marketing company. You want to have fun—like the holiday-themed broker/agent “sledding” game he designed for a major insurance company—without crossing the line or offending any religious sensibilities.

[Read more: Holiday b-to-b marketing]

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From folklore spun by a campfire to sitcoms played out on Sunday evening television; from Grimm’s fairytales to Harry Potter, storytelling has been part of human culture since the dawn of communication.

I like to imagine that the first tale was told over dinner, a primitive version of the nuclear family gathered around a simple meal, their silhouettes outlined by the glow of a fire. Sitting face-to-face, they gestured, signed and sounded out a story about who they were, where they’d been and where they wanted to go. And in that moment relationships would be forever changed.

Throughout history, stories have conveyed our values, hopes and dreams. They are a medium through which we can see how we are unique, and yet they highlight the similarities that bind us in our journey.

The dawn of technology, however, left many of us wondering whether the art of storytelling is threatened by an ever-increasing tendency towards the impersonal nature of a fast-paced, productivity-driven world. Is an automated response on Facebook to a customer service question just as effective as real person-to-person interaction? Is letting others know who we are destined to become a figment of times gone by?

Here at The Signature Agency, we believe that the art of storytelling is as important now as it’s ever been.

While the tools have changed, the basic desire for human contact, for empathy, and for a belonging to something larger than ourselves has not. And while we may not be able to rid the world of widespread teen-texting epidemics or Twitter marriage proposals, we’re making it our mission to use the very technology blamed for distancing us from each other to bring us back together.

We believe it’s amazing how clearly time, effort and a creative human touch can shine through when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, email or blogs. So in the age-old tradition, we’re asking you to tell us your story with the promise that we’ll pass it on over the digital age equivalent of a campfire reward with friends.

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