4 Ways to Use Instagram to Optimize Your Digital Strategy

Instagram has incredible upside for delivering your marketing and brand message.  
Content marketing is a key component when businesses choose to scale up operations. What can a business owner do to leverage Instagram for source traffic, leads and sale conversions?
Instagram is a complex system that relies on audience size, audience quality, content production, engagement and conversion. 
Instagram enables users to view aesthetically pleasing content that inspires emotion: happiness, sadness, awe, and laughter. Instagram users tend to fit into niche demographic groups that engage with particular content styles and hashtags.
Here are four of the best ways to maximize your return on investment:

1. Integrate influencers into your brand.

Given the growth of Instagram and its influencer community, brands have more opportunities than ever to tap into influencer marketing.
From a marketing perspective, it's best to view influencers as being similar to television shows with ad slots. If you can find the right influencers with the right audiences, you will be able to massively expand your brand following, reach and sales. However, it's important to ensure there is total alignment between your brand and the influencer, since they need to be delivering your brand message.

2. Leverage paid campaigns.

The new Instagram algorithm has made it increasingly difficult to get your content in front of your audience and thus drive engagement. An easy solution is to integrate promotions for your content in order to get in front of more eyeballs.
This is not a new approach, but it's one many people never quite get right. The success of an ad campaigns is reliant on two factors: the quality of your content and the quality of your ad demographic.
Take time to make the perfect content for your ads, and try A/B testing the content in order to optimize each piece of your post and gain better insights about your audience. Once that is accomplished, figure out how to pair your content with your users via the Facebook Ads Manager. The Ads Manager offers a number of ways to build demographics, and you should take the time to become familiar with the system and learn what works.

3. Create shoppable content.

One of the simplest ways of using Instagram to push revenue is to sell your goods via Instagram Shoppable Content. This will let your audience see your best product pictures and be able to purchase right there. It removes a conversion step and helps you be more promotional, while not damaging your content.
However, be careful with how much you spam Shoppable content. One of the biggest mistakes businesses make on Instagram is placing too much focus on short-term profits, while damaging a valuable long-term relationship with users. There is a fine line between helping customers buy your product and filling their Instagram feed with heavy-handed promotional pictures.

4. Use your link.

Instagram famously makes it impossible to post hyperlinks in posts and comments. The only chance for a brand to drive traffic to their site is via their profile link space.
However, many brands treat this as a space filler merely meant to forward people to their homepage. If you want to boost your web traffic, you need to use your posts as opportunities to tell people why they should visit different pages of your site.
This could include posting a picture for a blog post and setting your link to the blog post, or you could post a picture of a product, with the link going to that particular product. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you give regular gentle reminders to your audience that you have a website and that it is something they should check out.
No matter what your business is, it should be active on Instagram. The platform has seen meteoric growth and has shown a commitment to roll out features for businesses.
Spend time on your Instagram strategy. Break down your demographic, sharpen your content creation skills and begin utilizing all of the opportunities Instagram offers to generate a positive return on investment.

How To Build a Successful Startup Without Venture Capital

It's a huge undertaking to fund a startup without VC funding. However, considering that venture capital is possibly the most expensive form of raising capital and that it can lead to losing some control to the VC partners (#dilution), it's also a smart one. 
Kory Stevens, founder of Taft, a direct-to-consumer shoe retailer told his story about how he and his wife Mallory founded and funded a company that is now valued at almost $20M.
Previously, Stevens had been quite successful without VC funding, and it's really valuable equity to give up if it's not something that is need. 
Funding a startup in 2017 is very different than it was ten years ago. 
There are a lot of other possibilities besides expensive VC money.
Waiting an extended period of time is a luxury some start-ups don't have. Others do and if that is the case take advantage of the opportunity.

Forgoing the need for VC money as long as you reasonably can is a smart decision."
Additional funds don't always solve the problems and obstacles which some startups encounter.

How the start-up project began:
Three years ago. The idea to launch a line of designer no-show socks--but there was no cash to place the first order. But we knew people would get excited about it. So we decided to turn to Kickstarter.
Crowdfunding seemed like a powerful option because it allowed us to start connecting with potential customers before we even had a finished product.
Crowdfunding enabled us to generate excitement and then use that interest as momentum when we launched on our own site.
We ended up raising $50,000 in a month with over one thousand backers. It was amazing and we had all the capital we needed to place our first big order.
Choosing the crowdfunding route only cost us a month of hard work and a few hundred dollars.
Crowdfunding also gave us the opportunity to tap into our personal networks. We were able to reach out to friends and family who were as excited about the idea as we were, and in turn, they spread the word to their own personal networks.
Following the success of the campaign, we chose to work with a single angel investor we knew and trusted--which meant we were able to agree on straightforward, mutually-beneficial terms without the usual complications that come with fundraising. And because of our friendship, we were able to buy back the equity we initially gave away (at a handsome profits for our friends) just a year later. They all love Taft, and didn't want to hold us back. Can you imagine a traditional VC doing that for us?
What challenges did you come across as you launched the company?
KS: At first, the trickiest thing was covering costs. Especially with credit. We made the jump from producing $2 socks in Asia to producing expensive, luxury shoes in Europe. Before we could get any business credit, we had rely on our own personal credit to cover our costs--office supplies, the Kickstarter campaign, our rent, you name it. We didn't have enough cash as recent college graduates, so it was certainly dangerous, but this bought us the time we needed. We had to be careful, though. This should only be something you're willing to do if you know you can do it responsibly.

"Lots of young businesses get into financial trouble spending too much too early."

Eventually, though, we did manage to get business credit as Taft grew and revenues increased. Specifically, offers from Paypal and Shopify--Shopify's the ecommerce software behind our website, so we owe a lot to them. These credit lines became tied to the business and, as a result, were much more substantial than the personal credit we were using before.
We don't look at PayPal and Shopify as just service providers, we really view them as partners. They are still a part of our business model to this day and have opened a lot of doors for us.
What other ways did you creatively bootstrap--pun intended--your new venture?
KS: Well, I'm not sure if this is something that would happen for all startups, but certainly for an online store, something that helped us was managing orders effectively. We knew managing orders effectively would be the difference between us making it or going under.
For the first three months, we only offered products on pre-order--nothing was actually in-stock. We posted pictures of shoes we still hadn't produced to ensure there was real interest. We deliberately under-produced, and only stocked what customers were buying.

"Because when you're small and money is tight, buying inventory you can't sell kills your company-especially when the costs to produce your product are so high."

So there you have it. If we've learned anything from Taft, it's that being creative about fundraising and spending can be the difference for a new startup to either succeed or have to shut its doors. Don't make the latter an option and get ahead of it.

What the Paul Manafort Arrest Means

 On Monday, the Mueller investigation begins a new phase that moves it from background music in national politics to center stage. This could have a significant impact on President Trump and both parties.
What's new: "A federal grand jury in Washington [yesterday] approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller," CNN scoops. "The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday."
Why it matters, from MSNBC's Ari Melber: "[W]e're moving away from a political fight, where everyone can see it the way they want, and into ... a legal process — where there are rules of evidence, facts are established. ... Bob Mueller is known to be a pretty careful prosecutor."
Be smart: Matt Miller — former Obama Justice Department official, and close Mueller watcher, emails me: "I think it means this will be a rolling investigation. Rather than conduct his entire investigation and then wrap things up with indictments and possibly a report at the end, he is doing it in stages, the way the Justice Department might attack a drug cartel or a mafia family."
  • Miller adds that this "is a watershed moment for the politics surrounding the investigation. In less than six months on the job, Mueller has already returned indictments.
  • "This isn't a fishing expedition or a witch hunt — it's an investigation that's already born fruit with a grand jury of regular Americans finding probable cause that a crime was committed."

Why Startups Fail At Marketing

What We Know About The JFK Files

The 2,800 newly released, previously classified files on President John F. Kennedy's assassination reveal the internal chaos and suspicion in U.S. intelligence agencies following the momentous event in November 1963.  President Trump announced this past Saturday that he will soon release the rest of the files, which were previously withheld.
What they show: How agencies balanced their own concern that it all might be a part of a larger plot with their need to keep the public calm, the Independent points out.
The latest findings:
  • Former CIA deputy chief of the Soviet Bloc Division, Tennent Bagley, wrote a letter to Robert Blakey, chief counsel of the House Special Committee on Assassinations, in 1978 in which he identified several errors in CIA representative John Hart's testimony. His testimony regarded information on Oswald's time in the Soviet Union.
  • One document reveals that a man named Henry Gourley of Vancouver called Bellingham, Washington, police the day after Kennedy's assassination, saying he had overheard three men at a hotel three weeks prior saying if Kennedy traveled to Dallas "he would never leave there alive." The men were traveling to Cuba.
  • A man named Robert C. Rawls told a Secret Service agent that he heard a man bet $100 that Kennedy "would be dead within three weeks" while at a bar in New Orleans.
  • Documents provide payment ledgers to Cuban exile groups working to overthrow Castro. The document also shows that the first attempt to kill Castro was in 1959.
  • Another document shows a connection between Kennedy and Nixon: A man arrested trying to break into the DNC headquarters at Watergate attempted overthrowing Castro years earlier.
  • The Secret Service had a 413-page document detailing everyone they suspected for killing the president, listing why they may have been mad at Kennedy and their threat level.
  • Per the AP, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent out a memo saying he and an FBI deputy were concerned about "having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin."
  • The KGB alleged to have information indicating that President Johnson played a part in Kennedy's assassination.
  • The CIA offered the mob $150,000 to kill Fidel Castro, but the mob insisted on doing it for free, according to a 1975 document.
  • 25 minutes before JFK was shot, a British newspaper received an anonymous call in which they were told to call the American Embassy for "some big news," according to the AP.
  • In one document, then FBI director J Edgar Hoover confronts the spreading conspiracy theories, writing, "There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead."
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson thought that JFK's assassination was payback for the assassination of Vietnam President Diem, according to a 1975 deposition by then CIA director Richard Helms.
  • Another file describes the Soviet Union's reaction according to a source who said the news was received with "great shock and consternation and church bells were tolled in the memory of President Kennedy."
  • The FBI was carefully tracking Oswald's movements when he was in Mexico City a few weeks before shooting JFK, according to a 1964 cablegram. One memo suggests Oswald spoke with a KGB officer in broken Russian while in Mexico City.
  • A day before Oswald was murdered, the FBI received a phone call from someone threatening to kill Oswald.
  • An FBI report alleges that President Lyndon B. Johnson was a member of the KKK based on an informant's claim to have "documented proof," which was not included, according to BBC.
  • The CIA had thought about sabotaging parts for planes headed to Cuba from Canada and considered assassinating Cuban President Fidel Castro by hiring mafia leaders, according to CNN.
  • The files include memos about communist sympathizers, according to ABC News.
  • So far, there haven't been any bombshells for the conspiracy theorists.
There is more: It will take weeks for researchers to go through the thousands of documents, and the remaining 300 documents won't be released until April of next year due to national security concerns. President Trump tweeted this morning, "JFK Files are being carefully released. In the end there will be great transparency. It is my hope to get just about everything to public!"
Check it outhere.

Nicole Kidman Looks Completely Unrecognizable as an LAPD Detective In this New Trailer

If you're going to be an actor, you have to play other people convincingly. But to truly be considered one of the  greats , you've ...