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Instagram Filters for Killer Campaigns.

Instagram Filters for Killer Campaigns.

Instagram filters are all the rage and have been for a long time (at least on social media timescales). In fact, they were one of the major original attractions of the platform. But now things have gone a step further and we’re seeing AR (Augmented Reality) filters on Instagram. Since 2019, these AR filters have been open for brands to use as part of their marketing efforts, which opens up a world of possibilities.
Let’s take a quick look at what they are, why brands should use them, potential uses and why now is the right time for an Instagram AR filter campaign for your brand.

AR Filters: What’s the Deal?

It’s simply a matter of incorporating AR technology with the idea of Instagram filters. Basically, using an AR filter, you enhance what your camera sees. Think of those selfies with bunny ears included on top. That’s an AR filter at work. But Instagram AR filters can be applied on top of faces and other objects and the possibilities for creative marketing are endless.

What’s in it for Brands?

People love AR filters because they’re great fun. Who doesn’t like to goof around and share with their followers? And guess what, fun=sharable! So, brands that use AR filter marketing campaigns can increase brand awareness, without being in your face. For some products, such as beauty products or home décor, this can even be a tool to help consumers “try” before they buy.
Apart from increased awareness, the shareability factor of this medium serves to increase engagement and help you stand out as a brand. Remember, it’s easy and affordable to let creativity run wild with tools like this. Plus, an AR filter campaign can be standalone or included as part of a wider marketing effort. You’re only limited by creativity.

Possible Marketing Use Cases

Facial Augmentation – This is the very familiar addition of stuff like rabbit ears or a hat to your selfie. This can be expanded to include other items, such as those with your branding on them or objects as part of some kind of competition. A great example is the filter we did for DFCC Bank during the cricket world cup.

Games – AR filter powered games are a thing too. You can create simple games around your brand, which require users to interact with AR objects to play. One of the most popular and well-known examples globally is the Ben & Jerry’s (ice cream) catch the falling marshmallow game.

Virtual Objects – This is the addition of virtual objects to the frame, usually using facial or other cues to trigger them. We did a really cool one of these for SriLankan Airlines; smiling added a two flight attendant characters to the frame and looking up made a UL aircraft flyby with the celebratory message for 40 years of UL.

Virtual Try-Ons – For relevant brands such as cosmetics, clothes, furniture and others, this opens up amazing avenues for product promotion and customer experience enhancements. Using AR filters, customers can virtually try on or try out your stuff and share with their friends.

Why Now’s the Right Time for AR Filters

Everyone’s on Their Phone – Especially with lockdowns and people staying in due to the pandemic, this is a great time to launch entertaining campaigns using techniques such as AR filters. It’s a great way to promote good safety practices as well on behalf of your brand.

Organic Sharing – Instagrammers are very much more likely to share AR filters on their feeds vs. other content, because guess what… it features them! Effectively encouraging your filter to go viral can have a huge snowball effect. Filters can also be shared as story advertisements to your target audience.

User Generated Content – Why do the work when you can get others to do it for you 😛 Instagram AR filters provide virtually unlimited potential for user generated content, which means more sharing and more talk and time devoted to your brand. Plus, users are 2.4 times more likely to view and share user generated content.

Tracking Performance – Using Facebook’s Spark AR Hub, you can monitor metrics such as impressions, captures and shares to track the performance of your campaign. Cool that Facebook owns Instagram, no?

Customize & Showcase – Instagram AR filters are fully customizable and allow you to design them exactly as you like to showcase your brand’s personality.

Jump Aboard ARight Now!

Have you used Instagram AR filters? Would you like to? Let us know in the comments below. And, if you’re serious, speak to us ARight away and we’ll fix you up with an AR filter to set your Instagram on fire!

Apps That Rocked During Lockdown

Apps That Rocked During Lockdown

As the world locked-down to battle the COVID-19 global pandemic, many online apps were busy
locking-in gains, both in terms of users and profits. With all “normal” means of reaching out, staying
in touch and entertaining ourselves suddenly gone in a poof of corona, people were forced to turn to
their smart devices for everything from communication to news and entertainment.

As a result, while it was all doom and gloom outside, the sun was shining bright in the world of
mobile apps; with many achieving record levels of downloads and activity. So much so that, with all
the corona-crazy going around at the time, many feared even the internet would go up in a cloud of
smoke due to everyone watching Netflix and other… Ahem… on-demand video service “hubs”.

So, who were the winners? Let’s take a look some of the top apps of 2020 so far in-terms of
downloads. (Source: sensortower.com)

Top Apps So Far

TikTok – The lockdown was an ideal opportunity for mindless entertainment and so it’s no doubt
that TikTok in all its mindless (but fun and creative) glory took the world by storm. The platform has
emerged as a popular social network and is now also emerging as an effective digital marketing tool,
particularly amongst younger demographics.

WhatsApp – No surprise here… People need to stay in touch and with encrypted one-to-one chats,
voice and video calling and group chat features along with its massive popularity, downloading
WhatsApp was a no brainer.

Zoom – Before the lockdowns, few people had even heard of Zoom. But now, Zoom is everywhere.
In fact, if you’ve not used Zoom at least once, please check, because you may be living under a rock!
The excellent video conferencing features of this app, along with its excellent UI and quality of
service made it a rocking star in terms of collaboration and keeping in touch during the lockdown.
It’s also been an excellent tool for learning and has gained a lot of traction, despite initial issues with
data security and privacy.

Facebook & Messenger – Clearly, the last few people who’ve been avoiding getting on the
platform have been sent over the edge by the pandemic. However, Facebook is consistently
amongst the world’s top downloaded apps, so this is nothing remarkable.

Instagram – Lockdown was a great time to scroll through endless feeds of images showcasing other
people’s lives and there’s no better platform for this than Instagram.

SHAREit – Cross-platform and cross-device file sharing became a suddenly critical need during the
lockdown and SHAREit enabled that. The platform also offered other features for entertainment and
communication. The standout feature of the app is filesharing between nearby devices without the
need for an internet connection, thus saving data. No wonder it’s made the list!

Netflix – A no-brainer. Netflix probably saved many from full-scale mental breakdown during
lockdown, so its comforting even to see it on this list.

Snapchat – Another social platform that’s been growing in popularity that got a nice leg-up from
the lockdown.

Google Classroom – Everyone’s been talking about online learning for a long time but there was
never a critical need to implement it till recent events unfolded. This need for online learning has
seen Google Classroom, an excellent tool for creating, distributing and grading assignments, blow up
in terms of popularity during lockdown.

Other Notable Mentions

Other apps too gained in popularity such as Microsoft Teams, House Party, YouTube and Ding Talk
amongst others. Basically, apps that provided communication, collaboration and entertainment
grew in popularity during the period.

Games

Even though games were not included in this list, they were some of the hottest downloads during
the lockdown and included titles such as ASMR Slicing, PUBG Mobile, Save the Girl and Call of Duty
Mobile. The popularity of online gaming on mobile and PC has skyrocketed during lockdown and will
likely continue to do so as people look to avoid unnecessary public exposure.

Sustainability

It’s reasonable to question whether the surges in usage of these apps and services during the
lockdown will last long-term. Life will eventually return to “normal” and, when people are able to go
about freely and do what they used to, will they still choose to spend so much time on their devices?

While it’s left to be seen, some of the growth will likely be sustained, particularly for apps that
provide useful services. Online gaming is also likely to see its lockdown-growth last, as many new
online gamers will likely remain online gamers for years to come.

However, as life returns to a state of “normalcy”, whenever and whatever that may be, some of this
growth in users and activity will likely reverse itself to the median. But the great news is that the
present increased popularity and usage will see better services, more competition and thus more
innovation in the near term; giving users the best experience possible.

What do you think? What apps did you download? Which of them will you keep using? Tell us in the
comments below!

Learn! Even Under a Rock.

Learn! Even Under a Rock.

The Rise of Online Learning Platforms & Our Top Picks

The COVID-19 global pandemic has turned the world upside down. And when you turn something upside down, good things can often fall out. One of these has definitely been the true widespread adoption of online learning and online learning platforms.

The technology and the platforms have been available for quite some time. However, with easy access to in-person learning experiences, there was never really a major compulsion to adopt online learning on a grand scale, except in certain circumstances. But now, with the pandemic having its way with the world, nearly everyone has opened their eyes to the possibilities of online learning platforms and technologies.

The potential is truly massive! And that’s why we’ve decided to list some of our top favourite online learning platforms. But before that, let’s look at some of the major advantages of online learning.

Why It’s Awesome

  1. Accessibility – These platforms and resources, many of which are free, can be accessed by anyone, anywhere as long as they have access to at least a smartphone. There’s also no logistics involved in accessing these platforms such as travel/accommodation, making them more affordable. Also, online learning is not limited to large platforms; any organization or individual teacher can use tools like Google Classroom, Zoom and others to facilitate online learning for students and employees.
  2. Special Pandemic Benefits – Many online learning platforms and traditional educational facilities are offering their courses and resources free of charge or at significantly discounted rates at present.
  3. Flexibility – Unlike traditional learning methods, each individual can choose when, where and how to learn. Of course, there are some exceptions such as with live streams, but otherwise, it’s really up to the individual how they approach their learning.
  4. Affordability – Online learning platforms are almost always more affordable, with many even being totally free to use. Yes, there is the cost of data, but this is truly negligible when compared with the costs of travel/accommodation and incidental expenses when considering traditional options. Basic but capable smartphones are also now more affordable than ever.
  5. Efficiency – Online learning is often more time efficient. Plus, it is possible to access a variety of resources rather quickly so your options are unlimited.
  6. Certification – Obtaining certification in many areas of study is also possible online.

Our Top Picks

Remember that some of these options may not be applicable to you depending on your level/area of study. We have listed these on an overall basis and in no particular order.

DP Education This Sri Lankan YouTube channel is focused on mathematics for middle and upper school. The videos are available in all three languages and the instructor goes through syllabus material with visual aids and clear explanations. It’s a great local initiative with plans to expand.

Khan Academy – An American non-profit organization created by Salman Khan (Sorry, not the Bollywood guy, this one’s an American educator), whose passion for teaching and learning inspired him to create an online platform with now over 6,500 video lessons covering a wide variety of subjects and with everything accessible for free.

Coursera – They offer a wide variety of courses from universities and companies around the world. Courses include Google’s Python Crash Course and other popular courses from Stanford University, Imperial College London, Duke University and others. Of course, these are not free but are still easy to access and often very affordable. Everything from one-time workshops, professional courses and even master’s degrees are available from online universities through Coursera.

Skillshare – If you’re a YouTube watcher, you’ve probably already heard of Skillshare with their widespread advertising on the platform. This is an online learning platform for artists and creative people with courses on drawing, illustration, photography, design, writing and others. Many lessons are free, but for a small subscription fee you can access top-notch courses and learning material.

Codeacademy – This is a platform dedicated to teaching people to code. Students at any experience level can join and follow the courses to become proficient in any of the major coding languages today. You can access a lot of the content for free but you will need to pay for members-only content and more advanced features.

Udemy – A platform providing plenty of options for online classes in business, marketing, IT, design and much more. You need to pay for the courses but you can preview them before you commit. There are plenty of options to choose from here and many areas of study, but it is a paid service.

edX – Another online learning platform that provides university level courses in various fields such as the sciences, business, technology and the humanities. They offer courses from top universities such as MIT, Harvard, Berkley and companies like IBM with professional certificates and “micro” degrees available online. Many of the courses are even free, though you’ll have to pay if you want certification.

Have you been using online learning platforms during or before the pandemic? What do you think about online learning? Tell us in the comments below!

COVID-19 Marketing Campaigns That Rocked!

COVID-19 Marketing Campaigns That Rocked!

In the face of the global pandemic, there was an immediate need for innovative and relatable marketing communications; to address customer concerns, to move towards solutions and to bring people together (while they stayed safely apart). This resulted in amazing marketing efforts on the part of many brands, which we would never have seen if not for the global crisis we are facing.
Here are our top 10 favourites (in no particular order):

Guinness’s St. Patricks Day Video

St. Patrick’s Day is a big day for Ireland and Guinness. But this year, they knew things would have to be different. The result was an inspiring video that encouraged the safe celebration of the occasion (with a pint of Guinness of course). The central idea being that “we will all march again if we stand together now”.

YouTube’s #StayHome and help save lives #WithMe Video

YouTube put out an amazing video during the lockdowns to encourage people to stay home and save lives. The video is unique as it brings together some of the world’s most popular YouTubers in a single video, with a single unified message; stay home and do stuff #WithMe (i.e. with your favourite YouTube personalities).

Apple’s Creativity Goes On Video

This video starts out rather hauntingly with scenes from places that would usually be crowded and lively, like cinemas, being deserted. But then it moves on to take a more inspiring tone of how, through technology, people are still communicating, creating and inspiring each other. How, no matter what, creativity goes on.

Nike’s Instagram Post

For a company that is heavily vested in the outdoors, Nike’s message on Instagram was truly inspirational and definitely showed consumers that they genuinely care (and that their marketing team are geniuses). It was a simple text post, but it’s effect and idea were incredible. A great lesson on how simple things can provide amazing results when well-executed.

Honda’s #StayHome Video

A witty, cleverly written and executed video that shows how the world has changed and expresses hope for the future, without even a hint of negativity, fear or panic. Now this is an inspiring video!

Cargills Food City’s Online Shopping Video

A great example from Sri Lanka, this vibrant and lively video serves to address customer concerns, move towards a solution and help bring people together (while they stay safely apart), all at the same time. Its hopeful tone helps to inspire confidence in the chain for the future.

Messaging Post-COVID

The effects of the global pandemic mean that brands now need to address it with their marketing whenever possible. By creating marketing campaigns that are sensitive to the pandemic and prevailing restrictions worldwide, the benefits to brands are two-fold. On the one hand, by including the appropriate messaging, brands can have a direct positive impact on communities, helping to reduce the spread of the disease. On the other hand, brands will be able to better position themselves as responsible and proactive in the minds of consumers through such marketing campaigns.
What do you think of these videos and posts? What was your favourite COVID-19 marketing campaign? Have we missed it? Let us know in the comments below!

A Dummy’s Guide to SEO!

A Dummy’s Guide to SEO!

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, which is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website/page in the unpaid (organic) results of web search engines. Through SEO you can make your page rank higher in results, which means more visitors and thus more potential customers. SEO is a great internet marketing strategy that takes into consideration how search engine algorithms work, what people search for and which search engines are preferred by people (Hello Google!). In this article, we’ll look at the basics of SEO and how you can ensure your website is ranked as high up as possible in search results.  

Onsite vs. Offsite

There are two distinct types of SEO: Onsite SEO and offsite SEO. Onsite SEO refers to everything that you can do to ensure great SEO on your website itself. This is also referred to as on-page SEO and is what we’ll go into depth about in this article and provide insights on how you can DIY onsite SEO. Offsite SEO refers to SEO that is not directly on your website and refers to the actions you can take to promote your website on the web, besides advertising. These include link building, social media marketing and social bookmarking and are beyond the scope of this article.  

How to DIY your Onsite SEO

Now let’s take a look at how you, yourself can ensure that the onsite SEO of your website is up to scratch.
The SEO Audit
The first step is to conduct an SEO Audit, which is an evaluation of the search engine friendliness of your website. The SEO audit will look at what’s working, what needs improvement and where your efforts should be focused. Free Tools You Can Use
  • Google Analytics – This service tracks and reports website traffic.
  • Screaming Frog – This is a website crawler that allows you to crawl websites’ URLs and fetch key onsite elements to analyze onsite SEO.
   
Fundamentals of an SEO Audit
These are primary areas you need to cover:
  • How secure is your site? – How secure is your site? – Using HTTPS:// instead of HTTP:// makes your site more credible and preferable in search results. Learn more about HTTPS here.
 
  • Canonicals – A canonical tag is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. They prevent duplicate content from appearing on multiple URLs. For example, the results should identify and list results from any of the following three URLs as one source: yourblog.com, http://yourblog.com, https://yourblog.com Check out this link to learn more about canonicals.
  • txt – This file contains special instructions for the search bots. For example, if your file reads “Disallow:/” then no page on your site will be crawled, if it reads “Disallow:/Sponsored” no page with ‘sponsored’ in the URL will be crawled. More in depth information here. The robots.txt file must be located at the root of the website host that it applies to. For instance, to control crawling on all these URLs http://www.example.com/ , the robots.txt file must be located at http://www.example.com/robots.txt .
  • Plugins – Plugins are awesome but left unchecked they can really plug up the speed and responsiveness of your site. So keep only the ones you’re actively using, use as few plugins as possible and drop ones that may be slowing your site down. Not sure what plugins are, see here.
   
  • Navigation – Ensure that all the important parts of your website are no more than 3 clicks away. This will result in search bots identifying your site as easily navigable.
 
  • URL Structure – How you structure URLs for different pages of your site make a huge difference. Basically they should be kept under 128 characters, make sense and use words. For example “/p=9067” is not a good
  • URL. Also, using dates in URLs like this, “yourblog.com/2018/09/27/activity” is not a good idea.
  • Broken Links – Ensure your site doesn’t have any as they wreak havoc on your SEO. A broken link or dead link is a link on a web page that no longer works.
 
Pages & Posts
For great SEO, it’s not just about the website in general but also about pages and posts. Here are some tips:
  • Page Title – Your title is important; use keywords in it, avoid click bait or bait and switch tactics and keep it under 65 characters.
  • Meta descriptions – This is a brief summary of your post that is displayed as a snippet on the search engine results page. These can get people to click on your page but should be under 320 characters and highly relevant to be of any use.
  • Content – the beef of your website! Must be of high quality (duh!) and at least 300 words or more.
  • Schema Markup is important – This a tool that tells search engines about your content. For example say your name is Mr. Silva and you’re an author. If you use mark up, anyone searching for Mr. Silva will get indexed results for your books and other references too, under the search result for your main website. Schema markup is code (semantic vocabulary) that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users. If you've ever used rich snippets, you'll understand exactly what schema markup is all about. Here's an example:
 
  • Formatting – No one likes to read a jumbled mass of words and good formatting can ensure that consuming your content is easy on the eye and the mind. Use different heading styles and subheadings along with bold and italic styling features to emphasize words or content.
 
Image Content
Did you know that Pinterest is the second largest search engine in the world not owned by Google? And that it is almost entirely image based? Using SEO on the images you have on your website can help drive traffic to your site by:
  • Appearing in image search results – Correctly used images can appear in image searches.
  • Being pulled by social media when your post is shared.
  • Being critical for visual search engines.
How you can make the most of your image content for SEO:
  • Name them well – A name like ‘Fried-Chicken-Recipe-breading’ will do wonders for you, while a name like ‘image_045992’ will see your image being ignored.
  • File size matters – Keep it less than 70 kb for quick loading, you can always link to higher quality images if necessary.
  • Alt Tags are important – These are alternative textual descriptions of your images that can be used by search bots. An alt tag, also known as "alt attribute" and "alt description," is an HTML attribute applied to image tags to provide a text alternative for search engines. Applying images to alt tags such as product photos can positively impact an e commerce store's search engine rankings.
  • Fill in the description – Most people ignore the description area of images, but you shouldn’t. They are great at making your images more relevant in searches.
 
Extras
Apart from the key areas described above, you should also pay attention to:
  • Privacy Policy – Having a clearly defined one, makes your website more preferable to search engines. Learn more here.
  • Sitemap – An easily discoverable sitemap will allow search engine crawlers to follow the links to all of your individual web pages so that they won’t miss out on anything.
  • 404 Error Page – An HTTP 404 error appears when links are broken or dead. Make this friendly and human, search engine crawlers love that. Find out more about 404s here.
 
  • Look at your Bounce Rate – This is the percentage of visitors to your website that navigate away after viewing only one page – A high rate basically means your site is boring and you need to do something about it.
And there you have it, a basic guide on DIY SEO. Using these tips and tricks, you can ensure that your website has the best chances of being relevant in search results and thus drive more traffic to your website. Share your SEO experiences and questions with us in the comments below!

Tickling Gen Z Cockles with Social Media

Tickling Gen Z Cockles with Social Media
How Gen Z Differs from Millennials & How to Target Them
In case you haven’t noticed, time has passed and there’s a new generation upon us; Gen Z. In the past all the marketing banter was focused on how to target millennials and while millennials are still extremely important, Gen Z is coming of age and on track to becoming the largest generation of consumers by 2020! So let’s take a look at how Gen Z is different from Millennials and some things to keep in mind when using social media to target products/services to this emerging generation.    
Differences & Preferences in Social Media Use
Having almost been born smartphone in hand, Gen Z is the most tech savvy generation ever. But their behaviors and activity patterns on social media are distinctly different to the previous generation. Here’s how: Fun Content over Friends: While millennials used social media to update statuses and keep up with what their friends were up to, Gen Z uses social media more to fill up time and consume content. They are more likely to use it for entertainment than to stay connected. Interruptions by brands (aka ads) are not tolerated well and so it’s become essential that brands create content that cuts through noise and that Gen Z will want to watch, read and, more importantly, share. Creating original, innovative content is more important that creating content around a product.     Fewer Platforms but More Time Spent on Each: Despite the growth of social media platforms, Gen Z is choosy about where they engage and share their content. Gen Z spends longer on social media but uses way fewer platforms than millennials. Since they are looking for entertainment, YouTube is one of the most popular platforms for Gen Z. They’re also less likely to be on Facebook or Twitter and more likely to be on Instagram or Snapchat. They’re also very graphically oriented, preferring visual content over text based content.     Influencers more influential than brands: Influencer marketing will become more important as Gen Z comes of age. It’s become a popular marketing strategy and will only become more so. This generation is probably less trusting of brands than even millennials, who were already a difficult bunch. They prefer taking cues and inspiration from their favourite YouTubers, Instagrammers and other influencers because they feel it’s more genuine. Gen Z is less likely to follow brands on social media and less likely to visit brand pages than millennials, so brands need to gear up for this.  
Engaging with Gen Z: Things to Keep in Mind!
  • Big on Social Responsibility – Since this is so important to this generation, brands will do well to align their missions and campaigns with something that resonates with their target audience at the time.
   
  • Follow-able Profiles – Your profiles need to be engaging with excellent, quality content that’s preferably original and not just a thin veil for your marketing. Since this generation likes to engage so much, promotions and contests go a long way. Keeping ‘in trend’, as in speaking to the prevalent trend, is also super important. Use the filters they’re using and make full use of visual tools such as Instagram stories. Real-time marketing can play a huge role here.
   
  • Mobile First – Gen Z are inseparable from their phones. This generation is most likely to access social media using a mobile device, most probably their phone. So marketers need to adopt a mobile first approach and ensure that all content can be easily consumed on a smartphone screen. Attention spans are also dwindling with Gen Z at 8 seconds compared to millennials at 12. So get to the point, quickly and with flare.
   
  • Spending – Gen Z is more frugal than Millennials, not just in terms of money but also convenience and value. Things like free shipping and stuff tend to play well to Gen Z.
   
  • Collaboration – Unlike Millennials, Gen Z usually doesn’t take well to collaborative exercises, preferring instead to work independently; they’re highly competitive.
   
  • Expectations – Gen Z has higher expectations than previous generations. Millennials remember having to dial up to connect to the internet and other such ‘difficulties’ but Gen Z has had everything handed to them at high speed and with high tech. If you can’t deliver fast, they will think something is wrong.
   
  • Tolerance – You’ll find that the new generation is less tolerant than the previous one. If they experience a technical hitch on a website, for example, they may never revisit that site.
    As long as marketers are aware of the shifting fundamentals as the generational change goes into full swing, there is plenty of opportunity. In fact, it could be said that with Gen Z being the most connected generation, they could also become the most accessible generation ever for marketers. Only thing is that markets will have to change tunes and tactics to play to the likes and dislikes of this new and emerging generation. Have you had experiences marketing to Gen Z? Are you Gen Z? Tell us in the comments section below.