There are so many different ways for influencers and brands to use social media to connect with audiences. Some might say too many. Instagram alone offers a dizzying mix of platform extensions, from static posts to IG Stories to to IGTV to Guides and more. And since August, 2020, the company has added Reels to the mix in an attempt to compete with the meteoric rise of TikTok.
Bite-sized videos with useful how-tos, relatable memes and viral dances are clearly here to stay, so should you throw your weight behind the tried and true Instagram and invest time and resources into Reels, or should you stay hip and focus on the new kid on the block? Well, that depends on who you are.
Markerly, an influencer marketing agency, recently analyzed posts from 80 influencers and 10 brands on both TikTok and Instagram and found Reels is currently the best place for brands, whereas TikTok remains Queen of influencer and celebrity culture. According to the study, celebrities and influencers received almost double the likes and engagement on TikTok as compared to Reels. Meanwhile, brands such as the NBA demonstrated that the same post on TikTok received over 63K likes versus 425K on Reels.
“When looking at brands, Reels received higher engagements and we speculate that’s due to the presences they’ve established and cultivated for significantly longer than on TikTok,” said Justin Kline, co-founder of Markerly. “TikTok made its name on authentic, fun and creative content led by real people, so it’s no surprise that individual users still win out against brands on the app — TikTokers come to see dance challenges, songs and pranks, not overtly branded content.”
A Good Influence: How Influencers Are Pivoting To Social Good Campaigns
One could argue that users don’t go to any social media platform to see overtly branded content, but we’re much more accepting of it on Instagram. Aside from the audience sizes on each platform, the demographics of users count for something here. Most TikTok users are Gen Z, with the largest age bracket being 10 to 19-year-olds. This is a generation that’s grown up with influencer culture, so it makes sense that it would engage more with individuals rather than big brands. The largest age demographic of Instagram users, on the other hand, is 25 to 34 — Millennials who still remember the days of having to watch impersonal commercials in between episodes of Friends and Will and Grace.
It’s also far easier and more authentic for an individual influencer to jump on the viral dance and challenge trend than it is for a brand. For example, a Christmas-themed Justin Bieber post shared across both platforms garnered 8.9M likes on TikTok, while on Reels it received 4.8M.
So should influencers keep to TikTok and brands to Reels?
Absolutely not. Kline said almost all posts are worth cross-posting.
“If you want your message to really resonate and the content and format itself is suitable for another platform, you need to get it in front of a potential customer as many times as possible, and cross-posting is an easy way to do that if it’s done effectively,” said Kline.
Even though the design and format of Reels, which was basically just cloned from TikTok, is better for influencers, it provides anyone with the tools to make really creative, eye-catching content. And as Kline pointed out, now more than ever, audiences expect far more from brands than the standard ads and spon-con. We want them to entertain us and engage in the broader discourse.
“Not only will this improve your brand visibility over time and open up opportunities to receive honest feedback on your products and strategies, but a well-timed and witty customer response, meme or reaction can go viral, boosting your brand to the top of everyone’s minds,” said Kline.
Brands need to think strategically about how to use influencers
TikTok and Reels have similar algorithms and user interfaces, but TikTok’s community allows for more rapid and viral sharing. It’s still the ideal venue for making an effective impact with branded content and influencer campaigns, said Kline. So a brand that wants to build its presence on TikTok would do well to find celebrities and influencers to work with on the platform for promotion.
That said, Reels is still very important for brands because it has the advantage of being built on Instagram, which means a stronger presence from brand pages and a captive audience that’s perhaps more inclined to engage with Reels rather than download a new app.
“Whenever possible, brands should customize messaging and posts to best fit the platform, medium and audience found there,” said Kline. “Influencers who are experts on each platform are great resources to help with these efforts.”
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Instagram Live is one of the latest additions to one of the most popular social media networks today. Instagram already boasts hundreds of millions of users. The live format is one that several social media networks (including Instagram’s parent company, Facebook) have been exploring.
The Live space opens up the network to a different type of content—a combination of videos (which we already know have high engagement numbers) and the allure of getting a glimpse into someone’s personal life. While this feature tends to be more popular with individuals, brands can capitalize on it, too, with a bit of research and strategizing.
To help, these 12 members of Forbes Business Council discuss some of the creative ways they see businesses using Instagram Live to grow their brand presence and reach out to customers.
1. Schedule Q&As
People love reality TV and the use of live videos in business can provide instantaneous connection with customers. Integrating this tool in your business can maximize exposure and profits. Schedule Q&As to bring viewers online, update on new offerings and showcase team members’ personality and quirks. The more regular you do lives, the more connections you’ll be making and the more raving fans you’ll create. – Coraline Dufroux, Innova Services Group
One way businesses can increase their brand awareness using Instagram Live is through the collaboration feature. Companies can use it to partner up and cross-promote with other brands and influencers by going live on campaigns together. This way, both brands can engage with their respective viewers on Instagram Live and potentially gain new quality followers. – Amy Bourne, Brad’s Deals
4. Leverage Guest Appearances
With the shift to a remote work lifestyle, a lot of brands have started using Instagram Live for collaborations and guest appearances. This gives guests an opportunity to share their knowledge and speak about how the work they are doing relates to the brand’s audience. This kind of content helps brands grow because it attracts a new audience and is different from the content they usually produce. – Emma Rose Cohen, Final
5. Host Employee Interviews
One idea is to host an interview with one of your employees on Instagram Live. This is an opportunity to share your organization’s culture and add a human touch to your business, both of which can improve customers’ engagement with your brand. Let customers watching the Live ask questions as this will pique interest and add transparency. – Adam Harvey, Proofed
6. Create Interactive Live Demos
One creative way businesses can use Instagram Live to grow their online brand and presence is by providing live demonstrations that are interactive rather than only educational and content-based. During this time particularly, individuals want information that they can immediately benefit from, e.g., meditation, yoga, cooking and other wellness-related activities. – Dr. Jaquel Patterson, Fairfield Family Health
7. Engage In Bilateral Conversations
Studies indicate that millennials and Gen Zers want brands to engage them online. Consumers want experiential, not simply promotional videos. Instagram Live empowers brands to engage in bilateral conversations versus the standard one-way megaphone. Consumers also want to be heard, not told. Use Instagram Live not to broadcast, but to engage in a meaningful way to build customer loyalty and retention. – Scott Amyx, Astor Perkins
8. Use It As A Storytelling Platform
It’s a great storytelling platform as it has no time limitations and allows you to receive real-time feedback. Viewers can comment during the broadcast, so it’s a fantastic way to get a read on your audience. It’s also casual, so no need for fancy production. Just point and shoot! Consider using this option to expand your brand story, promote upcoming events and test new kinds of content. – Jessica First, Kilter
9. Enhance The Connection With Clients
Now is an excellent time to utilize Instagram Live more than ever before. Most companies are working remotely during this time, and creating human connection has become an essential daily need in all of our lives. Instagram Live is a great way to enhance the connection with clients and customers. Connecting with your customers through avenues like this organically grows your presence and brand. – Brittany Harrer Dolin, The Pocketbook Agency
10. Increase Engagement With Followers
When customers tune into a live video on Instagram, they are choosing to interact with the streamer. It’s important for companies to recognize this opportunity to engage by sparking discussions with the viewers. One way to do that is through rewarding valuable feedback communicated by fans with exclusive offers and coupon codes. Building communities and creating enthusiastic and loyal customers. – Ibrahim Ibrahim, iBoostReach
11. Share Your Journey
Being vulnerable and sharing your journey as a business owner makes your audience turn into loyal customers through the empathy they feel and the connection they have with your real business journey. For example, you could talk about manufacturing challenges or design decisions on social media marketing or about landing a huge contract and all the “feels” you’re going through. It’s priceless! – Silvia Mah, Ad Astra Ventures
12. Showcase Your Personal Life
Part of the brand is personality. We had a lot of success promoting an off-Broadway play with actors using Instagram Live to show fans their morning commute and work outside of the theater. You don’t need to be an actor with this approach. CEOs and other leaders can showcase their personal life with similar IG Live situations. Let your customers connect with your leaders via personal stories. – Mark Macias, MACIAS PR Check out my website.
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As TikTok and Oracle ORCL-0.7% work out an acquisition deal, the social media company is also thinking about who will be its next CEO after its last chief, Kevin Mayer, departed after only a few months.
One of the people in the running for the job is Instagram billionaire Kevin Systrom, who left Facebook in 2018, according to a New York Times NYT-1%story. The discussions between Systrom and Tiktok are only in the early stages, the Times reports. TikTok could not be reached to comment for this story. A spokesperson for Systrom declined to comment.
TikTok’s divestiture from its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance very much remains a work in progress. Bloomberg reported this afternoon that the U.S. Treasury department has tentatively approved a deal that would leave TikTok’s U.S. operations largely in the hands of American stakeholders, including Oracle. ByteDance still needs to get approval from President Trump by Sunday, the day when a Trump-issued executive order goes into effect that would effectively ban TikTok in the U.S.
Mayer was seen as a strong choice when his hiring was announced in May. He had spent years at Disney DIS-1.2% overseeing its M&A deals and working on the launch of its streaming service, Disney+. But Mayer unexpectedly departed last month, saying he had not expected to be caught up in tensions between the U.S. government and China. Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s general manager, has been serving as TikTok’s interim chief.
In Systrom, TikTok would get someone who has already created one social media giant—and someone immensely familiar with one of TikTok’s main rivals: Mark Zuckerberg. Systrom sold Instagram to Zuckerberg and Facebook in 2012 for almost $1 billion and then built it up to over a half-billion users before leaving.
Zuckerberg and Facebook clearly see TikTok as a threat already. Instagram has rolled out a number of new features that copy TikTok, including a short-form-video editing tool and changed its main feed to make it more like TikTok. In Washington, Zuckerberg reportedly stressed to politicians that TikTok was a threat to American users; Trump and other Republicans have expressed worry that TikTok may mishandle user data to satisfy the Chinese government.
Add Systrom to the mix, and the battle between TikTok and Facebook becomes one of the most intriguing rivalries in the corporate world.Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.
Abram Brown is a senior editor at Forbes, where he covers social media and internet culture. In the past, he directed Forbes.com’s features coverage and edited across Forbes magazine. As a writer, he has reported from three continents—from the mines of Nigeria to the mansions of Greenwich. He has worked on over a dozen Forbes lists; profiled the 63rd, 153rd, and 478th richest person in the world; and once spent a delightful evening discussing murder mysteries over 25-year-old scotch with (top-earning author) James Patterson. Both men drink Macallan, and both believe the butler really did do it.
Sixty-two percent of Americans were working from home as of late spring, according to a May 2020 Gallup survey, making ecommerce even more critical to any successful marketing campaign. Social channels are especially helpful in encouraging customer demand, which offsets risk amid a deep recession.
Instagram in particular is one of the most profitable sites for promoting goods and services, especially if you operate in a niche — think fashion and beauty, travel, health and fitness, food, consumer goods, home and decor and digital services — that makes heavy use of multimedia content. In fact, ecommerce makes up 15.8 percent of total interactions on Instagram, according to a January 2020 report by Socialbakers.
Here’s how marketers, independent contractors, freelancers and small-business owners can expand their reach and acquire new customers on Instagram.
Create a business account to draw inbound interest
Instagram has 120 million U.S. users, according to analytics firm NapoleonCat. More than 200 million global users visit at least one business profile daily, according to Instagram, and 60 percent of people say they discover new products on the platform.
“Create a business account so the Instagram marketplace knows that you exist,” advises Tony Noskov, founder of Snoopreport, a firm that developed Instagram Activity Tracker for individuals and businesses. “An Instagram business account lets you see real-time metrics on engagement so you can adjust strategy, interaction and content to attract inbound interest on goods and services. A business profile enables brands to publish location, store hours, website and phone number. Put a call-to-action button that moves consumers along the sales funnel to possible conversion.”
Thirty-seven percent of U.S. adults are Instagrammers, and 63 percent of them visit the site daily, according to Pew Research. Noskov’s Instagram Activity Tracker lets anyone monitor a public user’s likes, comments, follows and other activities.
For businesses, the tool is helpful for building a list of influencers and for benchmarking competitor strategies. Instagram also comes equipped with native tools that allow users to optimize photos and videos without having to pay for additional software or services.
Between March 1 and July 10, 132,580 businesses closed around the country, according to Yelp’s Economic Impact Report. Social marketing can mitigate economic risks by unforeseen forces. It’s prudent to seek deep-pocketed clients or customers who refresh the work pipeline so you can better sleep at night. Allocate one day per week to be actively engaged on social channels or with online promotion.
If you’re busy with current projects, you should still commit at least 10 percent of your workweek to marketing. You may find higher-paying gigs that come with less headache. Delegate by hiring a low-cost intern who won’t mind earning money and class credits to use Instagram for business.
An effective approach when using Instagram is to first define your target buyers. Businesses can define market segments in several waysm including demographics, values and lifestyle, consumer behavior, disposable income and geography. By identifying their ideal buyers, marketers can customize messages and offers, as well as concentrate on a smaller group of consumers who benefit the most from a product or service.
Companies are in a better position to optimize marketing efforts, pricing, product design, shipping and other aspects of their businesses when they better understand their customers. This can lead to improved key performance indicators (KPIs) like click-throughs, conversion rates, profit margins, customer satisfaction and other important business metrics.
Who is your ideal client or customer, and how do they interact with your Instagram content? What keywords, hashtags, photos and videos do they respond to? What communication styles best resonate with them? One helpful approach is to create a buyer persona — a fictional representation of a few ideal customers based both on experience and data. By knowing who specifically you’re targeting, you can improve content, sales and marketing, product design, delivery and other aspects of customer acquisition.
An Instagram strategy shouldn’t be set in stone; it should be liquid. You must continually optimize methods based on new preferences and trends, but once you’ve gained actionable insights from top accounts, you can begin to create aesthetic visuals for your brand.
The key is to capture amazing photos and videos and to tell stories that spark lively discussions from people who will like, comment and push your brand. Write compelling captions that convey the essence of your craft, i.e. what makes you tick and why you’re the right person (or product) for the job. Display client stories or give audiences a behind-the-scenes look at how things operate at your place of business.
The end strategy you settle on will depend heavily on your industry and target buyers. That’s why it’s important to observe and understand why top performers are converting the way they are. Something in your approach resonates with them and aligns with how they consume and engage with your Instagram content.
Once you’ve found a good fit, keep your foot on the proverbial gas pedal.
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One of the most significant milestones an online business can achieve is reaching one million followers. It comes with myriad benefits: The most obvious is the more people that pay attention to you, the more potential you have to influence your field. Having a large online following is an important measure of success for businesses — not just influencers.
Instagram is now one of the key platforms for engaging with your audience, whether you’re marketing a product, a business or your own online persona. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook still dominate, while Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok cater to more niche audiences.
It took me just under three years to reach one million followers across YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok. Having worked with many well known influencers, public figures and major brands, I realized early on the seven-figure count will put you on the virtual map and give you a well-sized platform on which to continue growing your presence and authority.
But how do you reach that first, magical million? Luckily enough, with the right strategy, mindset and consistent work ethic, a million followers is achievable for just about anyone.
1. Use the right hashtags
This is by far the most important element to get right if you want to start building a serious online following. Be it on Instagram, Twitter, or another platform, hashtags are the primary way in which potential new followers can find your content. But what’s meant by the right hashtags?
The hashtags need to meet two requirements: First, be relevant to your content and second, belong in the “trending,” or popular category. Creating regular topical posts is one way to get this right – commenting on current hot topics or posting images in line with current trends. By looking at up-to-date online analytics, you can find out what the trending hashtags are at the moment and try to get your content to match those topics.
However, one behavior to avoid is using irrelevant hashtags just because they’re trending. Hashtags need to match your content. Otherwise, you’ll end up disappointing and confusing your audience and missing out on potential follows.
2. Follow and engage with other users in your niche
Even as you’re working on building your own follower base, you should also follow other people with similar interests, content and target audiences. This makes you a part of a community and makes it easier for your target audience to find you.
If you’re serious about getting a large following on social media, you’re bound to have done your research on your direct competitors – or at least profiles and pages most similar to yours, if competition is not a factor. Engage with the community as much as possible to get your name out there and generate interest around your account. Commenting on your direct competitors’ posts and images is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your own profile. Eventually, new visitors will come to you, and if your content is engaging enough, at least some of them will turn into followers.
3. Post regular, high-quality content
As long as you’re not spamming your own timeline or others’ comment sections, you should be as active as possible. To show your potential followers that you have a lot of original, high-quality content to share, your posts should be regular and consistently engaging.
Sure, there’s an element of hit-and-miss in the early stages of experimenting with what works for you and your target audience, but once you have this worked out, try to keep a consistent style and format.
4. Post your content at the right time
There’s general information available online on the overall “best” times for posting, and these guides can certainly be helpful when starting out. However, once you start generating followers and engagement, it’s better to look at the data from your own posts and profiles. Your target audience might have slightly different habits and preferences than a typical account.
Analytics tools such as Instagram Analytics for Business, which you can find on Instagram under the Followers section, can give you insights into engagement with your posts. One of the most helpful is a timeline that tells you when your followers engage most on Instagram. From there, you can work out when is the best time to post your content, both in terms of time of day and day of the week.
5. Follow your competitors’ followers
Let’s say you’re in the Instagram niche of artsy, black and white urban photography. If you haven’t done so already, find profiles most similar to yours with lots of followers – their followers are clearly interested in black and white urban photography, or they wouldn’t be following a profile in that niche. Now, follow those followers.
By doing so, you’re directly reaching out to your prospective target audience and indirectly inviting them to check out your profile. Chances are at least some of these accounts will follow you back.
6. Drive traffic from other platforms
This isn’t an innovative technique, but people often forget to take advantage of it. Even if you’re primarily active on one platform, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use other outlets to drive traffic to your main profile.
Let’s say your primary platform is Instagram. Links to your Instagram page need to be everywhere possible. This includes your other social media – like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and even LinkedIn if that’s how you roll – as well as your website, if you have one (and you should have one).
Then, although you’re spending most of your time and effort on marketing yourself on Instagram, you should still carve out some time for some other social media promotion. Pinterest, which is visually driven like Instagram, is particularly useful for marketing images and videos.
7. Market your hashtag
Hopefully, you’ve done the hard work of creating a unique, relevant, and interesting personal hashtag. Now, make it into a brand! Of course, you should be sharing it on your other social media (see above), but remember you can also take your hashtag marketing offline. This is particularly useful if you’re running a small business. Include your hashtag on all promotional materials – from posters to business cards.
If you’re an aspiring influencer without an existing business, you can still make this work, though, with a bit of creativity. For example, get some well-designed, intriguing business cards or leaflets printed – featuring your hashtag, of course – and make sure they’re accessible to people who might take an interest in your content. For instance, if your niche is exercise and healthy living, ask whether you can leave your materials at a few local gyms and sports stores.
8. Use pro insights and analytics tools to your advantage
One of the key elements of a successful social media strategy is taking the guesswork out of the process. Luckily, there are useful tools and resources that can help you get reliable insights on your target audience, competition and the performance of your posts and engagements. Most of these platforms require a paid subscription for pro users, but getting the right data analysis can do wonders for boosting your follower count. Take advantage of free trials to experiment with different platforms before committing to a subscription.
The biggest vulnerability when building an audience is worrying about what’s in it for yourself. The reason I always win when I enter a new space is because I’m obsessed with what I can deliver for you … No matter whether you have 11 million followers or 47 followers or zero. Super important concept that a lot of entrepreneurs and influencers don’t understand … I expand on it more in this keynote. — If you haven’t joined my #FirstInLine community, you need to jump on it ASAP! By joining #FirstInLine, my messaging program, you get details on exclusive giveaways that I’m doing, updates regarding my keynotes/conferences, and more 😉 You can join here: https://garyvee.com/JoinFIL
The stories creator is breathtaking. It creates professional storieswithout having to think of ideas or design or manual work, and simply shares them for you on your account, getting you traffic VERY Fast. Moving on to the most groundbreaking IG tech for years..Every viewer who views your story gets added to your lead list inside the software, where you can remarket to them again and again & again and have the list grow passively making you more money overtime.
This is PURE Gold, and while there are some restrictions on how you can collect & treat the leads (to prevent from abusing the system and spamming leads) there is no confirmation, meaning every viewer automatically becomes your subscriber!This is where it becomes mega sexy. Facebook chatbots like Manychat are quite popular and hold an extensive amount of features that turn every business on FB into a powerhouse.
Well…Instagram never had it. Until now. This chatbot allows you to sell and remarket and stay in touch with your subscribers 24/7/365. It has two modes essentially, passive and active.. Passive sells for you after initial simple setup, it’s activated as soon as someone view your story, while active gives you more control and allows you to send the message you want, when you want!
An easy to use Story Builder Editor to give you instant Instagram Recommended Story Styling with connected quote bank and stock image bank, stickers and frames to design just whatever you can imagine.This is the core problem fixer, that intelligently grab all leads from those viewing your published stories.
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Interestingly you can also grab details of other Instagram users that are not your followers. Export your story viewers along with their name, email and phone number. You can reach out to them via email, contact them via phone later. Until today it was never possible to leverage Instagram leads and traffic like this.
Anyonecan do this and get fantastic results. Instagram and Instagram stories in particular are not only hot, they’re also a massive cash generating goldmine that will EXPLODE your business to levels you never thought possible. $0 budget, no ads, no manual work, no domains, no websites. All you need is this and an Instagram account.
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Instagram is currently testing a new feature that would hide “Like” counts on your page. Rumors have spread around for a while since a tester leaked screenshots of the news update, but it was officially announced at the Facebook F8 Developers Conference and will be rolled out in Canada as early as next week.
A few weeks ago, screenshots were acquired by Jane Manchun Wong, who uncovered the app was currently testing a prototype of the feature.
“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get,” Instagram says in one of the screenshots from Wong. “During this test, only the person who shares a post will see the total number of likes it gets.”
With the test, Instagram plans to remove the total number of likes from photos and videos on that show up on the main feed, profiles and permalink pages. Only the account user will be able to see the number of likes a post receives. It will show a couple profile photos next to a call out of a few names who have liked the photo, as it does now, but will no longer show the exact count of people who liked the post.
Instagram says the reason for this update test is to have users concentrate on their posts and interacting with the app rather than likes. Many users will delete photos that do not get “enough” likes. Many studies have been conducted on the culture surrounding social media and the unhealthy obsession with “likes” and comparison to others online. A recent report from UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement looked at the impact of different social media platforms on mental health. While there were some positives about accessing health information, the opportunity for self-expression and a feeling of community, the negative factors were heavy. Things like anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep quality and negative impact on body image were all reported.
The hope is by getting rid of the liking part of the app it could reduce some of these negative effects about getting enough likes on a post and eliminate the competition to have the most “likable post.” This could increase authenticity across posting and could be a benefit for many.
While a benefit for many, some influencers have expressed concern about their feed rankings in the algorithm and their source of income. There are currently no plans to hide follower counts on profiles, which are the main source for sponsorships for influencers. Developers will most likely need to update the algorithm to reflect the inability to publically see likes and find a new way to curate content feeds based on the popularity of a post, such as engagement through comments.
There are other updates that were found in Wong’s test such as chat thread stickers for Direct messages, augmented reality filters for Direct Video calls, simultaneous co-watching of recommended videos through Direct, karaoke-style lyrics that appear synced to soundtracks in Stories, emoji reactions to feed posts and a shopping bag for commerce.
While it is starting in Canada, it is not certain if they will begin to test in other places. Like many tests, they will have to see an increase in positive interactions and user engagement to expand. If it is successful on Instagram, it could spread to other platforms like Facebook in the hope to create a healthier social media environment for all.
Nicole Martin is the owner of NR Digital Consulting and host of Talk Digital To Me Podcast. She has worked in many different industries on customer journeys, website management, social media, and content strategy. Starting out as a journalist, Nicole has a BA in Print Journalism from Penn State University and an MA in Journalism & Mass Communication from Point Park University. After working with multiple publications, she saw the industry rapidly changing to digital and decided to change career directions to focus on digital marketing in the new market. She taught English 420: Writing for the Web at Penn State University as an Adjunct Professor and is also an avid public speaker and presenter. Nicole recently did a TEDx Talk on Personalization and the Privacy Paradox and currently works as the Digital Marketing Manager at Sonic Healthcare USA in Austin, Texas. She is now using her knowledge in the field combined with her writing background to share information about technology, digital marketing, data, and innovation.