Do I Still Need a .com TLD For My Business?

Choosing a domain name for your business often goes something like this:

1. After hours of brainstorming, you discover the perfect domain name only to find out it was registered 20 years ago.

2. After a few more hours, you settle on another choice only to find out a payment of $50,000 was required.

3. After more hours and more iterations, you end up buying a .com domain name that you don’t feel great about.

This often happens due to the limited supply of top-level domains (TLDs) combined with the recommendation that all businesses should choose a .com or country-code TLD. But does having a common domain extension still matter? Should businesses still buy a .com domain name?

What is a top-level domain?

Before digging into the pros and cons of .coms vs. other TLDs, here’s a brief refresher on domain name terminology.

A top-level domain or TLD is the last segment of a domain name. For example, the most common TLD is .com. Other popular TLDs include .gov, .net, .and .edu. There are also country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) like .ca (Canada), .uk (United Kingdom), and .in (India).

One other note is that top-level domains are sometimes referred to as domain extensions or domain endings. For brevity, I’ll call them TLDs going forward. To learn more about other terms like subdomains and second-level level domains, check out our guide on What is a Domain?

Per ICANN, there are currently 1,532 TLDs for businesses to choose from. That’s an almost endless number of combinations. But should businesses use one that doesn’t end with .com? Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of non-dotcoms.

Do TLDs matter for SEO?

One of the most commonly asked questions about new TLDs is whether they affect SEO. Here’s a direct, 36-pixel sized quote from Google’s Guide on Traditional vs. New Domain Endings:

“Using a new domain ending will not hurt your search presence.”

This makes sense when you think about all the different ways Google can analyze page quality like backlinks, content analysis, search metrics, traffic metrics, and 200 other proven or theorized factors detailed by Backlinko. Another much simpler way to confirm Google’s stance on new TLDs is to notice that they own and use many like https://abc.xyz/, https://docs.new, and https://domains.google.

In other words, .com domains do not rank higher in search due to their TLD. However, they might indirectly rank higher due to Google’s preference for aged brands.

An aged brand is a website or company with a long track record of quality content, frequent updates, and technical uptime. If most other factors are close or equal, a page on an established brand will almost always rank higher than a page on a newer, less proven brand. And seeing that .com domains still make up 46.8% of ranked TLD usage per W3Techs, most aged brands are likely to be .coms.

So if you’re looking to purchase an existing website, a .com domain name might indirectly provide more search value. However, if you’re buying a new domain name, the TLD you choose will not affect your search rank.

Will a non-dotcom TLD help or hurt your company’s brand?

This is a very tough, subjective question with three likely answers:

1. A non-dotcom TLD will help customers remember your brand and serve as a unique differentiator.

2. A non-dotcom TLD will make your brand seem suspect and less reputable.

3. Customers won’t notice your TLD or won’t care about it.

The most frequent answer for your brand probably depends on customer demographics, traffic sources, and other factors.

For example, if you have a tech-savvy audience, they’re probably more likely to be familiar and comfortable with a different TLD. Technical people are frequently early adopters that understand and gravitate toward new, emerging trends. They might also be more likely to notice and care about the TLD you choose.

Alternatively, if you’re selling services to businesses in more traditional industries, your audience might see a non-dotcom as questionable. Paul Graham, the co-founder of the startup accelerator and seed capital firm Y Combinator, believes that B2B businesses, in particular, should prefer a .com whenever possible.

As mentioned in a Forbes article and accompanying tweet, Graham said,

“All other things being equal, .com domain names are preferable, and things are way more equal than people attached to their current name realize.” He also stated that, “dot-com domains are probably more important for B2B, because there you need the legitimacy.”

Finally, it’s always possible that your TLD won’t affect your brand positively or negatively. If your website consists of a lot of single-page, mobile traffic, maybe your customers won’t even notice what your domain name is. Overall, as different TLDs become more common, your customers will likely be equally comfortable with whatever you choose.

Will a new TLD cost more than a .com?

Most popular, new TLDs typically cost about the same as a .com. Per DomainNameStats, .xyz currently has an average price of $0.75, which is actually less than the average price of a .com. .club also has a very affordable average of $0.99. Most other options have similar, reasonable prices but there are some exceptions.

If you’re looking to buy a .makeup domain name, that will currently cost you an average of $5,783.59. I guess I’ll have to find another place to share my extensive collection of beauty tips. Other examples of expensive TLDs include .auto ($2,000), .rich ($1,596), .bank ($801), and .tickets ($389).

Prices might also change when it comes time to renew your domain name. The cost of a domain name is primarily determined by the domain registry (e.g., Verisign, Donuts, or Uniregistry) and the domain registrar (e.g., Google Domains, Namecheap, or GoDaddy). The domain registry first negotiates a price with ICANN, a non-profit that helps prevent unfair price increases. The domain registrar then marks up that negotiated price a little.

Price raises during renewals are typically due to the domain registrar. Some domain registrars are notorious for bait and switching with a low, initial price that increases upon auto-renewal. Questionable price increases are one of the many reasons that choosing a reliable, ethical domain registrar is important.

Are there any risks with a new TLD?

One small, almost irrelevant risk is that some websites or older software won’t be able to recognize your URL is valid. For example, when you create a social media post that links to your company’s website, Facebook or Twitter recognizes it’s a URL and is able to convert it into a clickable link. Some software struggles to do this with newer TLDs.

This scenario is pretty rare as most major websites quickly add support for new TLDs, but you might want to register a .com domain that redirects to your website just in case. You also might want to avoid being an ultra-early adopter of future TLDs.

Another likely negligible risk is that customers will have a tougher time finding your website when they manually type in your domain name. This probably isn’t a big deal because most Internet traffic comes from either search, social, referrals, advertisements, or email.

A study by Conductor using 310 million website visits found that only 12-29% of web traffic was actually “direct” traffic, and a much smaller percentage of that traffic is people typing your domain name into their browser.

As detailed by Moz, direct traffic sometimes includes a variety of scenarios like misattributed search traffic, “dark social” traffic, non-web documents, and improper redirects. It also probably includes some bot traffic. A more realistic estimate of actual direct traffic is probably anywhere from 0-5%.

Are there any indirect risks with a new TLD?

One indirect risk of a new TLD is that some are only available at a limited number of domain registrars. Not only could this lead to a higher price, but this might make you more prone to losing your domain name if you’re forced to use an unreliable registrar.

You should ideally try to purchase a domain name from a registrar that you believe is ethical and technically competent enough to maintain the security of your domain name. An unreliable registrar can lead to minor annoyances or major issues like accidentally transferring your domain name to hackers. A full range of possibilities is discussed in a Stack Exchange thread.

With that said, registrar horror stories are extremely rare. Most top registrars obtained their status by providing ethical, quality service. But like any service provider you do business with, you should try to evaluate a domain registrar’s competency, ethics, and other risk factors.

So should I still choose a .com domain for my business?

As seen above, there’s a lot of different questions to consider. Personally, I believe that if you’re happy with an available .com domain name, you should choose that. But if you’re not, you should strongly consider a different TLD.

In my opinion, having a brand that you believe in is way more important than settling on a name due to a concept that’s quickly becoming obsolete. Having a new TLD might even make your brand stand out.

If you agree and you’re ready to try out a new TLD, our guide on How to Choose a Domain Extension is a great place to start.

How to Make All Your Accounts Safer With Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Nowadays, account security is a major concern for companies and their employees. It can pose a major threat to your employer if you’re hacked — if someone hacks your Gmail account, for instance, he will have access to company contacts, as well as your calendar, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and other private company information.

For this reason, Duo Mobile and other two-factor authentication apps have risen in popularity.

Two-factor authentication (or 2FA) is a safety process you can enable on any of your devices, including your iPhone, Mac, Gmail account, or social media accounts like Facebook. And it’s a smart idea, too — particularly since the total cost of a successful cyber attack is over $5 million, or $301 per employee.

Here, we’re going to tell you what two-factor authentication is, and how you can enable (or disable) it on any of your accounts, to ensure your information is protected in 2019 and beyond.

What is two-factor authentication?

To understand what two-factor authentication is, let’s start with an analogy.

Imagine you live in a dangerous neighborhood, and you only have one lock on your door. Alternatively, your neighbor down the street has a top and bottom lock, and each lock requires a separate key — which means, to break into his apartment, you need to break into two locks, not just one.

Who’s safer?

Ultimately, two-factor authentication is your neighbor’s top and bottom lock — but for your online accounts. It significantly decreases the risk of getting hacked by combining two methods of protection.

Two-factor authentication uses two methods to ensure you’re the correct user. It combines something you know (i.e. a password), with something you have (i.e. a mobile phone), or something you are (i.e. facial recognition).

For instance, to access my online school account, I need to open the Duo Mobile app on my phone, and input my school account’s password — while a hacker might be able to guess my password, he’s going to have a tougher time hacking into my phone, as well.

How to turn off two-factor authentication

It’s relatively easy to turn off two-factor authentication on any of your accounts.

On Facebook, for instance, simply go to “Settings” and then “Security and Login”. Find “Use two-factor authentication”, click “Edit”, and then switch to “Off”.

Alternatively, on Gmail, you’ll want to go to http://myaccount.google.com. Then, select “Security”. Under the “Signing in to Google” section, you’ll see “2-Step Verification”. Click this section.

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 4.40.30 PMNext, select “Turn Off” to disable 2-Step Verification for your Gmail account.

It’s important to note, Apple removed the option to turn off two-factor authentication for Apple IDs created in iOS 10.3 or macOS 10.12.4 and later.

However, you have a two-week period during which you can still disable the function. Simply open your iCloud email account and find the enrollment confirmation email, then click the link to return to your previous security settings.

TAM SAM SOM: What Do They Mean & How Do You Calculate Them?

With all the excitement that comes with starting a new company and gauging its industry’s profit potential or forecasting a revenue goal for your business, you must remember to root these figures in reality.

If you don’t, you could enter a market that doesn’t have a large enough market size to convince investors to back you, or you could set an unrealistic revenue goal for your business and burn your employees out.

Click here to get started with our free market research kit.

To help you avoid these issues, we’ve put together a guide that’ll teach you exactly how to calculate your industry’s total addressable market, serviceable addressable market, and share of market. Read on to start setting realistic revenue goals and entering markets that are worth your time and resources.

TAM SAM SOM Template

TAM (Total Addressable Market)

Total addressable market or TAM refers to the total market demand for a product or service. It’s the maximum amount of revenue a business can possibly generate by selling their product or service in a specific market. Total addressable market is most useful for businesses to objectively estimate a specific market’s potential for growth.

According to MIT’s Global Startup Labs program, the best way to calculate total addressable market is by running a bottom-up analysis of an industry. A bottom-up analysis involves counting the total number of customers in a market (which you can do by adding up the amount of customers each company in this market has) and multiplying that number by the average annual revenue of each customer in this market.

Total Addressable Market Formula

SAM (Serviceable Addressable Market)

Unless you’re a monopoly, you most likely can’t capture the total addressable market for your product or service. Even if you only have one competitor, it would still be extremely difficult to convince an entire market to only buy your product or service. That’s why it’s crucial to measure your serviceable available market to determine how many companies would realistically benefit from buying your product or service.

To calculate your serviceable addressable market, count up all the potential customers that would be a good fit for your business and multiply that number by the average annual revenue of these types of customer in your market.

Serviceable Addressable Market Formula

SOM (Share of Market)

Share of market is the size of your actual customer base or the realistic percentage of your serviceable addressable market that you can capture. This figure can help you predict the amount of revenue you can actually generate within your market.

To calculate share of market, divide your revenue from last year by your industry’s serviceable addressable market from last year. This percentage is your market share from last year. Then, multiply your market share from last year by your industry’s serviceable addressable market from this year.

Share of Market Formula
market research

The One-Hour Guide to SEO, Part 2: Keyword Research – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Before doing any SEO work, it’s important to get a handle on your keyword research. Aside from helping to inform your strategy and structure your content, you’ll get to know the needs of your searchers, the search demand landscape of the SERPs, and what kind of competition you’re up against.

In the second part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, the inimitable Rand Fishkin covers what you need to know about the keyword research process, from understanding its goals to building your own keyword universe map. Enjoy!

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another portion of our special edition of Whiteboard Friday, the One-Hour Guide to SEO. This is Part II – Keyword Research. Hopefully you’ve already seen our SEO strategy session from last week. What we want to do in keyword research is talk about why keyword research is required. Why do I have to do this task prior to doing any SEO work?

The answer is fairly simple. If you don’t know which words and phrases people type into Google or YouTube or Amazon or Bing, whatever search engine you’re optimizing for, you’re not going to be able to know how to structure your content. You won’t be able to get into the searcher’s brain, into their head to imagine and empathize with them what they actually want from your content. You probably won’t do correct targeting, which will mean your competitors, who are doing keyword research, are choosing wise search phrases, wise words and terms and phrases that searchers are actually looking for, and you might be unfortunately optimizing for words and phrases that no one is actually looking for or not as many people are looking for or that are much more difficult than what you can actually rank for.

The goals of keyword research

So let’s talk about some of the big-picture goals of keyword research. 

Understand the search demand landscape so you can craft more optimal SEO strategies

First off, we are trying to understand the search demand landscape so we can craft better SEO strategies. Let me just paint a picture for you.

I was helping a startup here in Seattle, Washington, a number of years ago — this was probably a couple of years ago — called Crowd Cow. Crowd Cow is an awesome company. They basically will deliver beef from small ranchers and small farms straight to your doorstep. I personally am a big fan of steak, and I don’t really love the quality of the stuff that I can get from the store. I don’t love the mass-produced sort of industry around beef. I think there are a lot of Americans who feel that way. So working with small ranchers directly, where they’re sending it straight from their farms, is kind of an awesome thing.

But when we looked at the SEO picture for Crowd Cow, for this company, what we saw was that there was more search demand for competitors of theirs, people like Omaha Steaks, which you might have heard of. There was more search demand for them than there was for “buy steak online,” “buy beef online,” and “buy rib eye online.” Even things like just “shop for steak” or “steak online,” these broad keyword phrases, the branded terms of their competition had more search demand than all of the specific keywords, the unbranded generic keywords put together.

That is a very different picture from a world like “soccer jerseys,” where I spent a little bit of keyword research time today looking, and basically the brand names in that field do not have nearly as much search volume as the generic terms for soccer jerseys and custom soccer jerseys and football clubs’ particular jerseys. Those generic terms have much more volume, which is a totally different kind of SEO that you’re doing. One is very, “Oh, we need to build our brand. We need to go out into this marketplace and create demand.” The other one is, “Hey, we need to serve existing demand already.”

So you’ve got to understand your search demand landscape so that you can present to your executive team and your marketing team or your client or whoever it is, hey, this is what the search demand landscape looks like, and here’s what we can actually do for you. Here’s how much demand there is. Here’s what we can serve today versus we need to grow our brand.

Create a list of terms and phrases that match your marketing goals and are achievable in rankings

The next goal of keyword research, we want to create a list of terms and phrases that we can then use to match our marketing goals and achieve rankings. We want to make sure that the rankings that we promise, the keywords that we say we’re going to try and rank for actually have real demand and we can actually optimize for them and potentially rank for them. Or in the case where that’s not true, they’re too difficult or they’re too hard to rank for. Or organic results don’t really show up in those types of searches, and we should go after paid or maps or images or videos or some other type of search result.

Prioritize keyword investments so you do the most important, high-ROI work first

We also want to prioritize those keyword investments so we’re doing the most important work, the highest ROI work in our SEO universe first. There’s no point spending hours and months going after a bunch of keywords that if we had just chosen these other ones, we could have achieved much better results in a shorter period of time.

Match keywords to pages on your site to find the gaps

Finally, we want to take all the keywords that matter to us and match them to the pages on our site. If we don’t have matches, we need to create that content. If we do have matches but they are suboptimal, not doing a great job of answering that searcher’s query, well, we need to do that work as well. If we have a page that matches but we haven’t done our keyword optimization, which we’ll talk a little bit more about in a future video, we’ve got to do that too.

Understand the different varieties of search results

So an important part of understanding how search engines work — we’re going to start down here and then we’ll come back up — is to have this understanding that when you perform a query on a mobile device or a desktop device, Google shows you a vast variety of results. Ten or fifteen years ago this was not the case. We searched 15 years ago for “soccer jerseys,” what did we get? Ten blue links. I think, unfortunately, in the minds of many search marketers and many people who are unfamiliar with SEO, they still think of it that way. How do I rank number one? The answer is, well, there are a lot of things “number one” can mean today, and we need to be careful about what we’re optimizing for.

So if I search for “soccer jersey,” I get these shopping results from Macy’s and soccer.com and all these other places. Google sort has this sliding box of sponsored shopping results. Then they’ve got advertisements below that, notated with this tiny green ad box. Then below that, there are couple of organic results, what we would call classic SEO, 10 blue links-style organic results. There are two of those. Then there’s a box of maps results that show me local soccer stores in my region, which is a totally different kind of optimization, local SEO. So you need to make sure that you understand and that you can convey that understanding to everyone on your team that these different kinds of results mean different types of SEO.

Now I’ve done some work recently over the last few years with a company called Jumpshot. They collect clickstream data from millions of browsers around the world and millions of browsers here in the United States. So they are able to provide some broad overview numbers collectively across the billions of searches that are performed on Google every day in the United States.

Click-through rates differ between mobile and desktop

The click-through rates look something like this. For mobile devices, on average, paid results get 8.7% of all clicks, organic results get about 40%, a little under 40% of all clicks, and zero-click searches, where a searcher performs a query but doesn’t click anything, Google essentially either answers the results in there or the searcher is so unhappy with the potential results that they don’t bother taking anything, that is 62%. So the vast majority of searches on mobile are no-click searches.

On desktop, it’s a very different story. It’s sort of inverted. So paid is 5.6%. I think people are a little savvier about which result they should be clicking on desktop. Organic is 65%, so much, much higher than mobile. Zero-click searches is 34%, so considerably lower.

There are a lot more clicks happening on a desktop device. That being said, right now we think it’s around 60–40, meaning 60% of queries on Google, at least, happen on mobile and 40% happen on desktop, somewhere in those ranges. It might be a little higher or a little lower.

The search demand curve

Another important and critical thing to understand about the keyword research universe and how we do keyword research is that there’s a sort of search demand curve. So for any given universe of keywords, there is essentially a small number, maybe a few to a few dozen keywords that have millions or hundreds of thousands of searches every month. Something like “soccer” or “Seattle Sounders,” those have tens or hundreds of thousands, even millions of searches every month in the United States.

But people searching for “Sounders FC away jersey customizable,” there are very, very few searches per month, but there are millions, even billions of keywords like this. 

The long-tail: millions of keyword terms and phrases, low number of monthly searches

When Sundar Pichai, Google’s current CEO, was testifying before Congress just a few months ago, he told Congress that around 20% of all searches that Google receives each day they have never seen before. No one has ever performed them in the history of the search engines. I think maybe that number is closer to 18%. But that is just a remarkable sum, and it tells you about what we call the long tail of search demand, essentially tons and tons of keywords, millions or billions of keywords that are only searched for 1 time per month, 5 times per month, 10 times per month.

The chunky middle: thousands or tens of thousands of keywords with ~50–100 searches per month

If you want to get into this next layer, what we call the chunky middle in the SEO world, this is where there are thousands or tens of thousands of keywords potentially in your universe, but they only have between say 50 and a few hundred searches per month.

The fat head: a very few keywords with hundreds of thousands or millions of searches

Then this fat head has only a few keywords. There’s only one keyword like “soccer” or “soccer jersey,” which is actually probably more like the chunky middle, but it has hundreds of thousands or millions of searches. The fat head is higher competition and broader intent.

Searcher intent and keyword competition

What do I mean by broader intent? That means when someone performs a search for “soccer,” you don’t know what they’re looking for. The likelihood that they want a customizable soccer jersey right that moment is very, very small. They’re probably looking for something much broader, and it’s hard to know exactly their intent.

However, as you drift down into the chunky middle and into the long tail, where there are more keywords but fewer searches for each keyword, your competition gets much lower. There are fewer people trying to compete and rank for those, because they don’t know to optimize for them, and there’s more specific intent. “Customizable Sounders FC away jersey” is very clear. I know exactly what I want. I want to order a customizable jersey from the Seattle Sounders away, the particular colors that the away jersey has, and I want to be able to put my logo on there or my name on the back of it, what have you. So super specific intent.

Build a map of your own keyword universe

As a result, you need to figure out what the map of your universe looks like so that you can present that, and you need to be able to build a list that looks something like this. You should at the end of the keyword research process — we featured a screenshot from Moz’s Keyword Explorer, which is a tool that I really like to use and I find super helpful whenever I’m helping companies, even now that I have left Moz and been gone for a year, I still sort of use Keyword Explorer because the volume data is so good and it puts all the stuff together. However, there are two or three other tools that a lot of people like, one from Ahrefs, which I think also has the name Keyword Explorer, and one from SEMrush, which I like although some of the volume numbers, at least in the United States, are not as good as what I might hope for. There are a number of other tools that you could check out as well. A lot of people like Google Trends, which is totally free and interesting for some of that broad volume data.



So I might have terms like “soccer jersey,” “Sounders FC jersey”, and “custom soccer jersey Seattle Sounders.” Then I’ll have these columns: 

  • Volume, because I want to know how many people search for it; 
  • Difficulty, how hard will it be to rank. If it’s super difficult to rank and I have a brand-new website and I don’t have a lot of authority, well, maybe I should target some of these other ones first that are lower difficulty. 
  • Organic Click-through Rate, just like we talked about back here, there are different levels of click-through rate, and the tools, at least Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool uses Jumpshot data on a per keyword basis to estimate what percent of people are going to click the organic results. Should you optimize for it? Well, if the click-through rate is only 60%, pretend that instead of 100 searches, this only has 60 or 60 available searches for your organic clicks. Ninety-five percent, though, great, awesome. All four of those monthly searches are available to you.
  • Business Value, how useful is this to your business? 
  • Then set some type of priority to determine. So I might look at this list and say, “Hey, for my new soccer jersey website, this is the most important keyword. I want to go after “custom soccer jersey” for each team in the U.S., and then I’ll go after team jersey, and then I’ll go after “customizable away jerseys.” Then maybe I’ll go after “soccer jerseys,” because it’s just so competitive and so difficult to rank for. There’s a lot of volume, but the search intent is not as great. The business value to me is not as good, all those kinds of things.
  • Last, but not least, I want to know the types of searches that appear — organic, paid. Do images show up? Does shopping show up? Does video show up? Do maps results show up? If those other types of search results, like we talked about here, show up in there, I can do SEO to appear in those places too. That could yield, in certain keyword universes, a strategy that is very image centric or very video centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of work on YouTube, or very map centric, which means I’ve got to do a lot of local SEO, or other kinds like this.

Once you build a keyword research list like this, you can begin the prioritization process and the true work of creating pages, mapping the pages you already have to the keywords that you’ve got, and optimizing in order to rank. We’ll talk about that in Part III next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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17 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now

Contrary to what your friends’ photos suggest, Instagram isn’t just a social network for selfies and brunch pics. In fact, Instagram has a whopping 1 billion active monthly users as of June 2018 — the last 200 million of which joined in the prior nine months.

In a time when visual content remains a crucial part of any business’ marketing strategy, Instagram marketing presents a unique opportunity to visually represent your brand, celebrate its personality, and keep it top-of-mind for all those users who scroll through their Instagram feeds every single day.

Although they’re few and far between, there are some brands out there — in every industry, and with every type of target customer — who are doing really, really well on Instagram. These industries include skincare, lifestyle, education, shoes, interior design, entertainment, and even office supplies (one of the most B2B markets you can think of).*Bonus Content* Click here to unlock 20 powerful strategies & hacks for  increasing Instagram engagement.

Ready to get inspired? Check out this list of brands that are thriving on Instagram right now, and what about their posts sets them apart. For each of these brands, we’ve included examples of their best posts. For some of them, we’ve also included their most popular Instagram post of all time in terms of engagement (i.e. combined total of likes and comments) thanks to data from Instagram analytics and management platform Iconosquare.

(Psst — Want to get a stunning Instagram Story auto-magically created for your brand? Check out StoriesAds.com, a free Story generator from HubSpot and Shakr. Click here to get started.)

17 of the Best Brands on Instagram

1. Lego

Followers: 3.8M

If you’re not following Lego on Instagram, you’re missing out on some entertaining content that isn’t just product plugs for kids.

The famous plastic building block brand populates its Instagram feed with fun takes on pop culture references everyone is bound to appreciate — something many businesses can learn from on their own Instagram accounts.

While most of Lego’s posts do serve to announce the release of new Lego characters, the main value in its Instagram account is to emulate familiar social tropes in a classic Lego way. Some of them are pretty impressive, like the life-sized flying car from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

2. Califia Farms

Followers: 219k

Califia Farms natural beverage products have some of the most attractive packaging we’ve come across. In fact, it’s so iconic that it won top honors in the global packaging design category from Beverage World Magazine.

Instagram is a perfect platform to showcase that cool, curvy bottle, and the folks at Califia don’t shy away from doing just that — most of the brand’s posts feature the beverage’s containers in some way, whether they’re the main subject of the photo, or more of an accessory in the context of the active, healthy lifestyle Califia’s buyer personas love.

Califia Farms Instagram showing waffles
Califia Farms Instagram

Something Califia does really well on Instagram is create fun, playful videos and GIFs. Check out this one, which they used to teach viewers how to create a fresh tomato basil soup:

And this one, which is just plain fun to watch:

3. #FollowMeTo

Followers: 499k

Ever seen those photos of a woman leading a man by the hand in all different parts of the world? That pose was made famous by a couple named Murad and Natalia Osmann for their #FollowMeTo project.

Their Instagram account is a mix of stunning images of the classic #FollowMeTo pose that have been edited beautifully, as well as some really interesting behind-the-scenes photos of their world travels — including some fun photos of the “making of” the famous pose.

FollowMeTo Instagram account showing snow on mountains
FollowMeTo Instagram account showing Chichen Itza
FollowMeTo Instagram showing woman in blue dress
follow-me-to-instagram-2.png

4. Lorna Jane

Followers: 822k

If your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality? Australian activewear company Lorna Jane has done an awesome job answering this important branding question with its Instagram content. Spend just a few seconds scrolling through these photos, and you’ll quickly be able to name the target Lorna Jane buyer: a young, sporty, twenty- or thirty-something woman who values looking good while maintaining an active lifestyle.

The images posted by Lorna Jane, which often show the brand’s clothing and accessories, as well as images of women who embody its target buyer persona, are colorful, playful, and inspirational, which is a perfect representation of the brand’s essence — in other words, its heart, soul, and spirit.

Lorna Jane Instagram account showing woman holding dog
Lorna Jane Instagram account showing donut holes and limes

5. Letterfolk

Followers: 306k

Letterfolk is a small business run by a husband-and-wife team who create and sell beautiful, handcrafted felt letterboards. Each letterboard comes with a full set of characters so people can personalize the walls of their homes, which means endless room for creativity.

Instagram is the perfect platform for them to inspire customers and aspiring customers with real customers’ boards, as well as ideas they’ve come up with and staged themselves. Their Instagram content is funny, thought-provoking, and relatable — all recipes for shareability.

Letterfolk Instagram account showing they said meme
Letterfolk Instagram account showing couple on June 24 2017

Letterfolk’s Most Engaging Post

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[Click here to see the post.]

Why it’s engaging: Not only is this photo showing a funny and clever message, but it’s also very, very relatable to women — one of Letterfolk’s target customers. It’s also a very taggable photo, so the comment section is rife with Instagram users mentioning their friends’ usernames so they can share in the fun.

6. Apartment Therapy

Followers: 1.9M

Apartment Therapy’s Instagram account really is a source of therapy, if you love the sight of cozy homes. If you’ve seen social media posts from Apartment Therapy before, rest assured the pictures of residences on its Instagram account are just as creative.

Two recent posts to Apartment Therapy’s Instagram feed are below. From the plant-friendly living room on the left, to the comfortable A-frame on the right, this brand gives its Instagram followers plenty of inspiration to personalize their own space and, according to its Instagram bio, “live happy, healthy lives at home.” Apartment Therapy Instagram account showing plant-inspired living roomApartment Therapy Instagram account showing bedroom in A-frame apartment

7. Paris Opera Ballet

Followers: 340k

The city of Paris is known for many lovely things — wine, cheese, and art are just a few. But that last one, art, is photographically captured on the Instagram account of the Paris Opera Ballet, or Ballet de l’Opera de Paris.

The account captures candid images of the ballet’s dancers during performances, rehearsals, and backstage, giving viewers an artful glimpse at what goes into the ballet’s productions. It also makes use of something called banners on Instagram, when larger photos can be divided into multiple pictures to create a tiled banner of smaller photos. (There are several apps available to pull that off, but to start, check out Tile Pic).

The way this account highlights performance venues is noteworthy, too. The third photo beneath the first two below provides an intimate shot of rehearsal, conveying a gritty behind-the-scenes feel that can generate excitement for productions.

Paris Opera Ballet Instagram account showing performance of Crystal Pite
Paris Opera Ballet Instagram account showing male dancers

8. Tentsile

Followers: 189k

“Stunning” is the first word that comes to mind when I scroll through Tentsile’s Instagram photos. The company sells tree tents, what they call “portable treehouses” that will “literally take your camping experience to a new level.” Their Instagram is full of shockingly beautiful scenes of their product in use in all matter of terrain: rainforests, mountains, beaches… you name it.

Tentsile Instagram account showing campground Tentsile Instagram account showing water hammock

Tentsile’s Most Engaging Post

Why it’s engaging: Tentsile’s followers are interested in seeing the unique tent uses and setups that customers come up with. Not only is the post above a video — which are known for getting more engagement than photos — but the preview shot alone shows an intriguing location for a tree tent. For starters, how the heck did they get it up there?

9. Desenio

Followers: 910k

Look at the colors of any well-known brand and you’ll notice that they use the same colors over and over again — in their logo, on their website, and in their social media images. Using the same colors over and over again is a great way to establish brand consistency and help consumers become familiar with your brand.

That’s what the Swedish online art print company Desenio does beautifully on their Instagram account. They use a lot of blues, greens, greys, and blacks, which evoke senses of calm, healing, luxury, and trust.

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Desenio’s Most Engaging Post

Why it’s engaging: When your Instagram account is predicated on brand consistency, deviating from the usual theme or color might be off limits. But in minor doses, throwing something new into your feed can give your account a boost of engagement. The post above was a simple holiday card from Desenio, but it was so dramatically different from the look and feel of the business’s usual interior design, followers just had to click through to see more.

Many of the comments included exclamations of how beautiful and evocative the post is. One commenter was inspired enough to describe what winters are like where they live. To increase your own comment rate, follow Desenio’s lead by posting images of things and situations that remind your followers of things they care about in their personal lives.

10. No Your City

Followers: 26k

The folks at No Your City produce a documentary series that captures the fascinating stories of people all over the world, but mostly in New York. The brand’s Instagram account, though, is less about these stories and more about showcasing gorgeous images from the city itself.

What we love about these photos is how closely they follow the best practices for taking great photos with your phone. Each one of No Your City’s photos seems to follow at least one of these recommendations, whether it’s focusing on a single subject, embracing negative space, playing with reflections, or finding interesting perspectives. The photos are consistently stunning, and as a result, the brand has built a solid following.

No Your City Instagram account showing Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York No Your City Instagram account showing brownstone apartment in Brooklyn, New York

11. Vans

Followers: 15.2M

Vans is known for its stylish shoes, but the brand’s use of social media is just as stylish. Its Instagram business account is no exception.

The maker of the classic checkered slip-ons has an aggressively flashy Instagram feed, featuring both standalone product shots and action photos of people expressing themselves in their favorite Vans gear.

Vans’ Instagram account’s most unique quality is likely how much skateboarding content it has. The brand doesn’t just appeal to teenage skaters anymore, but it shows its loyalty to that lifestyle in an engaging way. Below, Vans features an Indian girl with a caption that describes her as the “only girl who regularly skateboards in her town.”

Vans Instagram featuring Kamali, an Indian girl who skateboards

Vans’ Most Engaging Post

Why it’s engaging: Just because you’re promoting an ordinary product launch doesn’t mean the social media post supporting the launch should be equally ordinary. Vans’ recent video, above, endorses a line of shoes called ComfyCush, but the video itself is a little, well, weirder. And for a business so dependent on style, the right amount of weird can give Vans an awesome amount of engagement.

12. Divinity LA Bracelets

Followers: 238k

Here’s an example of a small business performing very well on Instagram. A beaded bracelet could have any theme.

divinity-la-instagram-1.png Divinity LA Bracelets Instagram account showing woman kayaking

Divinity’s Most Engaging Post

Divinity LA Bracelets' most engaging Instagram post

Why it’s engaging: The caption reads: “Each Sea Turtle and Hatchling bracelet sold helps a Hatchling make it to the ocean.” People tagged their friends to show them the cute sea turtles, or to say “WE NEED TO SAVE THEM!”

13. WeWork

Followers: 479k

WeWork provides shared office spaces in cities and countries all over the globe — so it only makes sense that they should post a lot of photos showcasing their beautiful co-working communities. They do an amazing job photographing the spaces in ways that make followers like us wish we could jump into the photos and plop down with our laptops and a coffee.

They don’t stop at posting photos of their shared workspaces, though. WeWork uses Instagram to capture and share moments from some of the largest branded events that members (and their friends) look forward to all year, like WeWork Summer Camp. Hashtags are used to label these events — like #WWCamp — and to encourage customers to share their own photos of the spaces, using WeWork’s memorable slogan: “Do what you love.”

Our favorite is the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag. Not only is it awesome because, well, dogs … but it’s also a great way for the company to promote their laid-back culture while also inviting customers to interact with their brand on social. Near the end of each year, they actually choose the best photo submissions to the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag on Instagram and Facebook and put together a calendar for the following year.

Creative WeWork office space
Creative WeWork office space with mural and palm trees
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WeWork’s Most Engaging Post

Why it’s engaging: For all its beautiful photos of people and office spaces and dogs, some of you might be surprised that one of this company’s most engaging Instagram posts of all time doesn’t take place in a WeWork office space at all. The video above is an example of influencer marketing done right. By partnering with actor and investor, Ashton Kutcher, the company caught the attention of its audience, and made it shareable by showing its followers a speech Ashton gave that resonates with WeWork’s followers.

Use free design tools like Canva, PicMonkey, or even PowerPoint to create these images easily.

14. Finfolk Productions

Followers: 222k

Ever wanted to be a mermaid? You can come pretty close, thanks to companies like FinFolk Productions. Believe it or not, silicone mermaid tails you can put on and swim around in are actually quite trendy in certain areas and for certain age groups — typically young girls, which is one of Instagram’s core users.

Finfolk Productions’ Instagram feed is full of beautifully shot photos that play into the mermaid fantasy by looking more like mythical art than real people.

Finfolk Productions Instagram account showing woman underwater wearing mermaid fin
Finfolk Productions Instagram account showing mermaid fins

Finfolk Productions’ Most Engaging Post

 
 
 
View this post on Instagram

 
 

SPECIAL REVEAL: The Finfolk Swarovski Crystal Silicone Tail ✨ Available now on the website for purchase. 🐚💎💍 (UPDATE: tail has sold!) • Alright, beautiful mermaids and mermen, this is a release I (Bryn) have personally been anticipating for a long time. Thanks to our amazing team here at Finfolk, everyone agreed to this project and came together to make it happen. As many of you know, my own wedding is upcoming this spring. I never knew that planning a wedding would open up so much inspiration for me. While searching through many couture bridal gowns and other items, I began to envision how a truly couture bridal mermaid would appear. Apparently, all iridescent white with over 8,000 hand laid Swarovski crystals is the result I concluded upon. It is with great joy and some anticipation, that we release to you all, the Finfolk Swarovski Crystal Silicone Tail. Available now to be obsessively gazed upon (as the staff has now done for weeks while completing it), and for purchase to one very special and lucky mermaid. This is a project truly and especially from my heart, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as we enjoyed conceptualizing and creating it. • Included with this tail is a matching crystalized Stargazer top and stunning custom made Octavia circlet by @thevirginiamermaid 💎 💍 🧜🏼‍♀️ • • #finfolk #finfolkproductions #finfolkmermaid #mermaid #mermaidtail #swarovski #swarovskicrystals #crystals #rhinestones #glitter #sparkle #wedding #bride #bridal #couture #couturefashion #fashion #bridesmaid #weddingdress #diamonds #iridescent #weddinghair #weddingphotography #photography #

A post shared by Finfolk Productions (@finfolkproductions) on Feb 24, 2019 at 10:40am PST

Why it’s engaging: The post above is two things in one: a new product and a sentimental announcement by the company founder, Bryn Roberts. For most of Finfolk’s followers, the white mermaid fin above isn’t just a different color from the typical fins made by the company. It’s also emblematic of Bryn’s recent wedding, for which she wanted to make a bridal-style mermaid fin that all of Finfolk’s customers would appreciate.

I never knew that planning a wedding would open up so much inspiration for me. While searching through many couture bridal gowns and other items, I began to envision how a truly couture bridal mermaid would appear. Apparently, all iridescent white with over 8,000 hand laid Swarovski crystals is the result I concluded upon. It is with great joy and some anticipation, that we release to you all, the Finfolk Swarovski Crystal Silicone Tail.

15. Shiseido

Followers: 660k

Shiseido started out as Japan’s first Western-style pharmacy 140 years ago and has since developed into selling high-quality brightening and anti-aging skincare, makeup, and fragrance products.

Its company mission is to inspire a life of beauty and culture — a mission they portray beautifully through their Instagram content. If you take a look at their feed, you’ll notice they post three images at a time so the posts appear in a row pattern on their larger feed — a very clever and original way to organize their content.

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Shiseido’s Most Engaging Post

Why it’s engaging: Back in late March 2016, Instagram started rolling out the ability to upload 60-second videos — and we’ve seen some amazing Instagram videos from brands ever since, like the one above from Shiseido. The one above lasts nearly all 60 seconds and its product demo is curiously satisfying to watch. The subject’s purple hair also gives followers a slightly edgier look to consider when browsing the company’s makeup collection. (Hot tip: Posts featuring faces, especially for a skincare brand, are ideal for boosting social media engagement).

Don’t be intimidated by highly professional Instagram videos like theirs. You can post highly engaging videos on Instagram without a huge video team or a bottomless budget. Here’s a step-by-step guide for making great videos on Instagram without breaking the bank.

16. Sephora Collections

Followers: 626k

Sephora Collections’ brand personality is playful, colorful, and feminine. It does a wonderful job of characterizing this personality in its Instagram content, using bright colors, patterns, and fun captions.

This branded Sephora account also diversifies its feed with a lot of fun Instagram video content that gives off the same playful vibes.

Sephora Collection’s Most Engaging Post

Why it’s engaging: Sometimes, you just have to cut right to the chase. Sephora made magnetic makeup brushes and wanted the world to see them. Businesses must be careful how much product-focused content they’re posting, but when you come up with something you know your customers will love, your best bet is to simply show it in action.

17. Staples

Followers: 64k

The folks at Staples do a lot of things right when it comes to Instagram content, but there are two that particularly grab our attention — engaging with followers by asking questions and including calls-to-action in captions, and staying true to the brand’s playful-yet-practical personality.

When it comes to engaging Staples’ followers, it’s all about asking questions in the photo captions. For example, check out the second photo below featuring a series of emojis — its caption reads, “That’s pretty much our day. How about yours? Tell us in emojis.” Scroll through the comments on that photo, and you’ll see followers had a lot of fun responses. The caption paired with the first photo below — the one with the cupcakes — asks users to tag someone who they want to thank.

Staples does a great job staying true to brand by posting fun photos such as the “2016” shot written in office supplies and using the #OfficeHack hashtag to engage their following.

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The folks at Staples also use Instagram to post cute videos and GIFs, like the one below that shows businesses how they can use Staples supplies to create a “revamped breakroom.”

 

A revamped breakroom = a reenergized office

A post shared by Staples (@staples) on Feb 7, 2018 at 8:58am PST

Ready to populate your Instagram Story with pics and videos that are as captivating as the content above? We believe in you — just download the free branding guide below and get to posting.

Instagram Hacks

How to Get Started With Influencer Marketing

Influencer taking a selfie.Open up your Instagram app and tap the magnifying glass to look through popular posts. Chances are, you’re going to find a few sponsored posts from influencers. This means that these Instagram users have partnered with companies to promote their product or service, either for a fee or in exchange for free products or services.

These companies are smart to do this because many Gen Y and Gen Zers resonate more with products and services that they see their peers using. This is called influencer marketing, and it can be a great strategy to use for your business.

Here’s how to get started with influencer marketing in your business.

1. Define your digital marketing goals.

In order to determine if your company will be successful with influencer marketing, you need to take a look at your overall digital marketing goals and budget. If you don’t have enough budget to pay out your influencers, putting any effort in influencer marketing is a waste of time. 

However, if you’re trying to reach a younger audience, build a larger audience on Instagram, and have more user-generated content to incorporate into your strategy, influencer marketing might be a great idea.

2. Create a target influencer profile.

You don’t want to reach out to a dozen influencers to create partnerships if their followers aren’t actually going to be the least bit interested in your product or service. Instead, you need to sit down with your marketing team or agency to build an influencer profile based on the interests of your target audience.

What do you need to look for in an influencer?

  • They’re active on social media.
  • They have a large audience.
  • They have an engaged audience (i.e., a good percentage of their followers actually comment and like their photos).
  • They’re authentic.
  • Their content resonates with your brand.

Your target influencers should look a lot like your target audience because it’s likely people are following bloggers and influencers to whom they relate. If you’re reaching out to influencers who don’t look anything like the type of people who would buy your product or service, you’re not going to have any success.

3. Find your influencers.

This is the tricky part: actually finding the perfect influencers to work with your brand. Where do you even start looking, and how do you reach out to them?

First, take a look around social media. This makes it easier to take a look at their current content and followers to see if they fit well within your brand. Search for hashtags relevant to your audience and be sure to follow several so that you can keep up with them for a while before deciding whether you should reach out or not.

Here are a few other ways to find your influencers:

Do a Google search. Look for bloggers and experts within your industry that have a voice within your demographic. Read blog posts, conduct searches for influencers in your niche, and do plenty of research before deciding on your influencers.

Use an influencer marketplace. Sites like TapInfluence were created for this exact purpose in mind: connecting businesses with influencers who can help promote their products or services. Look for a couple of good influencer marketplaces to check out and see if you can find any experts in your industry.

Set up social media monitoring. We already covered using social media to search for your influencers. For long-term influencer research, set up social media monitoring tools to keep an eye out for certain keywords that influencers in your industry likely use. Search for conversations surrounding your business and your industry to find people who are already talking about your product or service and see if you can get them talking about your specific company.

social-media3-14. “Stalk” potential influencers.

We mean social media stalking, not stalking in the literal sense. Check out their entire social media profile. Read their captions. Look at the comments on their posts. Look at how many likes each of their posts gets. Click all of the links in their profile to see where they lead. Check out the types of accounts they’re following. Take notes on how often they promote brands, and who those brands are.

No, it’s not creepy. You’re vetting potential faces for your brand on social media. You want to make sure they’re going to represent you well. Doing thorough research on their social media profile can help confirm whether or not they’re a good match for you. Then you can reach out.

5. Get in touch with your potential influencers.

Some influencers make it easy to reach out to them for any potential brand partnerships. Others are a little bit harder to reach. Start with the ones who lay it out plainly with something like a PR/marketing page on their blog/website with a clearly outlined media kit and contact form or email address.

Then move on to the influencers that you would love to work with but who may be a bit tougher to find.

Start by introducing yourself. Let them know who you are, what business you’re with, and why you’re contacting them. Chances are, they’ll be happy to hear from you and will have no problem getting right back in touch with you. Then you can discuss rates, product/service exchanges, and more before deciding whether or not to work together.

Influencer marketing can be an incredibly powerful tool for your business, especially if you’re marketing to the younger generations. Partnering with real people on social media over celebrities helps create a peer relationship with the influencers and their followers. Their followers are seeing real, actual people using your company’s products/services, and it’s going to make them that much more likely to be interested in your business themselves.

To learn more about influencer marketing and other digital marketing strategies that could help grow your business, contact us today.

9 Fantastic LinkedIn Ad Examples (& Why They Work)

LinkedIn is undeniably an important platform for distributing content. 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn as a content distribution channel, compared to just 89% on Twitter and 77% on Facebook and YouTube.

On LinkedIn, you can post either promoted or organic content linking back to your site or product — while you can certainly use LinkedIn ads to target your audience and ensure higher visibility, you can also post content on your page itself for brand awareness, or to spread information on a new product or service.

LinkedIn has a wide reach, and its audience typically expects business-related content, making it an ideal site for posting company information. In fact, compared to Facebook and Twitter, it’s the number one most popular advertising channel for B2B marketers:

Image courtesy of Demandwave.com

However, LinkedIn’s popularity among marketers means its a crowded space. To truly stand out, it’s critical you use the platform to share high-quality, compelling ads.

To help you create ads that inspire your audience, we’ve compiled this list of nine fantastic LinkedIn examples — and why they work.

1. Dell EMC

Dell EMC’s advertisement is a humorous and accurate use of the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday. The ad showcases an image from the 90’s, and begins, “Thanks to our customers …”, which is a truly heartwarming display of Dell’s gratitude and humility over their own growth. To create a compelling ad, consider how you can make your content relatable to your audience.

2. Tableau Software

A good advertisement can draw positive attention to your brand without immediately trying to sell a product or service. For instance, take a look at Tableau Software’s ad, which spreads the word about the company’s commitment to ending veteran and chronic homelessness. Additionally, the image is authentic and sentimental, and draws attention to the ad’s purpose. How can you not want to click the link?

3. Adobe

I’m particularly impressed with Adobe’s commitment to negating stereotypes — for instance, in this ad, their text initially mentions leadership advice in general, before offering female-only executive tips in honor of Women’s History Month. The advertisement is also easy-to-skim, for LinkedIn users who are quickly perusing a page. In general, short-and-sweet does well on the platform, so this is a smart move.

4. JetBlue Airways

jetbluelinkedinadJetBlue’s advertisement is impressively simple, which enables the audience to quickly gather all necessary information — mainly, “20% off”. Additionally, “A springboard for Spring travel” is catchy and unique. Most of JetBlue’s LinkedIn content avoids directly selling to their audience, so this piece doesn’t feel too promotional. Instead, it feels helpful. Plus, the “Two-day sale” creates a sense of urgency, and could compel an audience to begin perusing JetBlue flight deals.

5. Toptal

You might use LinkedIn to share helpful content with your audience. While not directly selling a product or service, this method undoubtedly helps you showcase your brand as a thought leader, and attracts more visitors to your site. Toptal, for instance, uses their LinkedIn profile to share helpful content related to their service. Additionally, Toptal’s content makes a general statement — “the modern workforce demands greater flexibility” — to attract a wider audience, and avoid seeming too promotional.

6. Elon University

As an alumna of Elon University, I might be a bit biased, but the university does a great job avoiding images and using graphics and videos instead to draw attention to their content. Since 59% of executives would rather watch a video than read text, it’s a good idea to include video in your promotional strategy on LinkedIn.

7. Visa

Visa is another example of a company that makes good use of video on LinkedIn to promote new campaigns or programs. In fact, their videos are often addictive — like this one, which features a variety of women talking about their decision to start a business. The two-minute video is incredibly moving, and does a good job relaying the importance of Visa’s new Visa Everywhere Initiative.

8. HelloFresh

hellofreshlinkedinadSince HelloFresh is sharing content initially published by another company, the ad seems particularly authentic and genuine. Additionally, the hashtags are fun and feel relatable, and the image conveys the ad’s meaning particularly well.

9. WeWork

weworklinkedinadIn an era of always shortening attention spans, brevity and simplicity is key — which is why WeWork’s advertisement is especially impressive, with short text and a simple image to convey its message. Additionally, the messaging, “Just moved in and already outgrowing your workspace?”, in conjunction with the image, is especially engaging and attention-grabbing.