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Instagram is letting users pay for one of their most sought features

(MARKETING NEWS) Instagram is letting user pay for one of their most prized features. Can you say sketchy?

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Verification for sale

The “verified” checkmark that one finds next to the names of celebrities and public officials has become synonymous with trust. In a time of parody accounts and identity theft, it’s refreshing to know that you can look for that little blue mark and know that the profile you’re viewing is certified legit.

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So it’d be a damn shame if you were to find out that someone like, say, Instagram was allowing for the sale of verification rather than using a vetting system to ensure that those little verified checkmarks appear next to the correct names…wouldn’t it?

Check, Please

The little blue verification check is more than just a symbol of social media prowess. The perks for verification vary depending on the platform; for example, Instagram’s perks include things like higher search rankings and free promotion.

Naturally, this can create a bit of a sense of urgency for up-and-coming brands, figures, and companies that are just legitimate enough to merit a following, but (allegedly) not prestigious enough to earn the verified check mark.

The kicker is that, unlike on Twitter, one cannot request verification on Instagram—you must personally be invited to the cool kids’ club.

Pay to Play

As with any market ever, demand begets supply. In this case, however, the “supply” happens to be a black-market endeavor to purchase and sell those verified check marks for anywhere from three to five figures.

In Instagram’s case, the exclusivity of invite-only verification is exceptionally tantalizing for some, leading the average price to land far higher than pay-for-verification services on other social media accounts.

While Instagram’s official policy prohibits this kind of behavior (because of course it does), the frequency with which accounts are illegally verified is low enough that they seem to be treating it like it’s a non-issue.

Predictable Offense

Ultimately, though, paid verification is a dangerous precedent to set insofar as it gives people with money and the right circumstances an advantage over those hard-working brands that objectively deserve verification more than those paying for it—much like literally any other context in real life.

The bottom line is this: of course Instagram has a black market that sells something coveted and borderline unattainable, and of course people are going crazy for it. That’ll be the case in any market for as long as demand is a thing.

With that said, the next time you see that little blue check mark next to someone’s name on social media, treat it with a moderate dose of skepticism.

#PayToPlay

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove’s Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Real Estate Marketing

Smartphone device plugs in to create 720 ° VR-ready home tours

(MARKETING) VR was once seen as a futuristic novelty, but with the rapid adoption rates, adding this to your toolbox could quickly set you ahead of your competitors.

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VR Maker

Accuracy is an important aspect of any real estate listing, which is why an app called VR Maker may soon become your new best friend.

VR Maker allows you to create a 360° presentation right from your smartphone, creating a seamless virtual reality experience in minutes. Such a presentation allows your clients to view properties’ interiors in crystal-clear detail, thereby removing some of the mystery from your real estate listings and bringing you closer to making a sale.

The way that the VR Maker works is simple: after signing up at iStaging website, you receive a 720° camera attachment for your smartphone (both iOS and Android are supported) along with a rotator unit on which you mount your smartphone. With the VR Maker app installed, all you have to do is make sure that everything is connected and tap “Capture”—VR Maker and the free equipment will do the rest of the work.

“The work” in the above context is quite impressive. VR Maker creates distortion-free 360° images of entire rooms with ease, allowing you to make a virtual house tour for which clients never have to leave the comfort of their homes. This footage also means that you don’t have to worry about uploading 100 photos at a time to make sure that every angle is covered—you can most likely cover the average house in one to two shots per room.

Having 360° footage of your properties isn’t necessary, but it lends a degree of credibility to your listings; after all, it’s hard to hide shortcomings in a home’s guest bathroom when one can see the entirety of the room. Similarly, having a high-definition, comprehensive view of the property gives you a leg up on the competition, and it certainly doesn’t dissuade clients from checking in.

Your clients’ comfort aside, using VR Maker will prove to be a huge time- and resource-saver for you as well, given that the app and equipment take little pre-existing knowledge to use and the shooting process is significantly more efficient than is traditional real estate photography. If you’re interested, head over to the iStaging website today to check out their demo.

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Real Estate Marketing

Want successful Instagram marketing campaigns? Follow these 8 tips

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram has blossomed and more users means a shifting culture – here’s how to adjust your strategy.

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Instagram feeds update fast and there’s a new face-altering filter available each week. Users have figured out how to attract massive followings and even become “Instagram Famous.”

So how should brand marketing efforts fit the attractive, square mold?

Lucky for you, Buffer has done all sorts of research for you and rounded up eight key guidelines to follow when creating marketing content for Instagram. Here’s what they recommend:

1. Younger audiences like relevant, relatable and creative content.
Instagram’s user base is primarily 18-29 year olds and more women use the platform than men, according to the Pew Research Center. This demographic is fond of inspiring, beautiful and unique content. If you can create high-quality images and videos that can be described as “current, creative and useful” – the top three words used teens and young adults used to describe Instagram – you’ll be in good shape.

2. Post consistently, not constantly.
If you stick to a regular posting schedule and publish well-made posts, engagement will follow. Irregular, low-quality, constant posts won’t do you any favors. In fact, it may drive followers away if your posts becoming a nuisance and/or don’t measure up to others.

3. Post when it works best for you.
When’s the best time to post on Instagram? No one really knows; research varies. Make your own schedule based on what you’ve seen work for your audience.

4. Don’t neglect Instagram Stories!
Snapchat was all the rage for a while, but Instagram Stories are slowly taking over. According to Techcrunch, Instagram stories generated an average of 35 percent more views for brands than Snapchat.

Another study found some Instagram users pay more attention to stories than posts, too. Maximize engagement by posting a story every so often. Not sure how to create amazing story content for your brand? Free template resources, such as this one, can get you started.

5. Add hashtags and location tags.
These are tools to help users find your content. Use them when you can.

TrackMaven found nine hashtags seems to be the magic number for maximizing post engagement. Just don’t be obnoxious. However, use too many and your posts may be hidden from the hashtags feeds if they appear “spammy.”

6. Create a mix of videos and images.
Videos took over Facebook, and that may be Instagram’s fate, according to L2 and News Whip studies. However, whether videos will outperform images on Instagram depends on each brand’s followers. Experiment with videos and compare their performance with your image posts. The data will reveal what your followers prefer.

Read also: How to automate your Instagram posts to maximize results

7. Utilize user-generated content.
Big brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and GoPro collect the best customer-created photos taken of their products and repost them to their Instagram accounts – with great engagement success, too.

If you’ve noticed consumers frequently tag your company in pictures relevant to your product and brand, experiment with this strategy. It could be a great (and simple) way to expand your reach and reward consumer loyalty.

8. Caption lengths can vary.
Don’t make your captions longer or shorter than need be. The point of a caption is to convey a message, and this can be done in many ways: From a lengthy text story to a handful of emojis.

Instagram recommends keeping captions to 125 characters or less so users don’t have to click “read more,” but don’t forgo important details in an effort to be concise. Once again, quality versus quantity.

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Real Estate Marketing

LinkTree is one of many tools social marketers need

(MARKETING NEWS) When it comes to social media marketing, there are ways to get more coverage than just your feed — linktree is one of them.

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If you’re a marketer, especially in any sort of lifestyle or cultural space, the benefits of Instagram are undeniable. From its visual format to its fast-growing user base, Instagram is becoming a go-to visual media platform in an era where audiences are eager for it.

There’s just one problem; turning that attention into engagement is difficult. Links back to stories can only be shared in your profile bio, instead of within specific posts. For content marketers and publishers, changing out links at least once a day can be a hassle.

Thankfully, there are tools out there to help overcome these issues, no matter what your budget might be. We can look at LinkTree and LikeShop for two distinct examples of that range.

Both tools offer a standalone web page, with its own URL, where users can access an assortment of articles from a publisher. Each article is linked using a picture that a user would see on the publisher’s Instagram, and the user can access a historical archive of all articles in one place.

Best of all, you never have to change out a link in your profile; much like a custom URL shortener, your users can access the content you want them to see through one single URL.

Logistical benefits aside, publishers also enjoy data feedback through LikeShop and LinkTree. Depending on the tool used, you can see traffic numbers broken down by article, by day, etc.

These tools also allow you to customize the visuals and templates of your landing page, so that your brand experience is more consistent across these social media touch points.

LikeShop has been around for a while as an enterprise solution.

You can find its technology employed by Conde Nast publishers, such as Pitchfork and Vanity Fair, along with a host of others. As such, pricing isn’t openly disclosed, either on or off their website (that’s code for “it’s probably really expensive”).

However, it does have the most features of the two solutions. Mainly, Instagram publishers who push product can insert commercial links directly into their posts, to help increase conversions.

LinkTree is a newcomer to the game, and they are looking to bring a more affordable solution to market. In addition to offering a standalone free tier of service, they also offer a pro package for $6 per month. The pro plan gives you more customization and tracking options.

Whichever one works for you, these tools are a great investment for making your social media following engage with your website content, be it educational or commercial.

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