“The Secret To Building A Loyal Instagram Following”

By Eric Ridenour

Instagram marketing can be a source of frustration for many people. After a week of working full time on Instagram, what do we have? 8 followers. And 3 of them are not even in the same country as you. Great. You have the passion, you have the brand, you have the desire, but you can’t get anywhere if you do not know how. Instagram works, you just gotta know how to use it.

Copy other brands
Taking things that inspire you from other peoples accounts you admire makes sense. What does not make sense is copying people, reusing the same jokes, repurposing a meme and photoshopping your logo over someone else’s, those do not work. When people see it, they know it is not yours. Be original.

Hashtag abuse
Random hashtags get you shadowbanned and frustrate users. If you just keep using random top hashtags that are not relevant to your post, then people will report the photo, and that can drop your views to absolute zero. You do not want that. Using a couple of top hashtags is fine when relevant, but you want your hashtags to clearly compliment the image. Tagging other large business names can also get you in trouble. Kim Kardashian is suing a company for tagging her too often and she may win,

Quality Above Quantity
Stop Instagramming everything. Too many brands think the more you post the more you are seen. While this is true, if you are not posting content people want to see, they will unfollow you so you end up doing more harm than good.

Being Negative
No negativity. People do not wish to be frustrated or annoyed. You can get away with negative emotions when played right, people do not want to be sad. Sad posts perform worse than happy posts. Positive posts get shared more often than negative posts.

Use Stories
Stories are the future. After a bit of a slow start, Instagram stories are now wildly popular with users, businesses and influencers alike. What started as a little known Snapchat feature has now become one of the most popular features of Facebook and Instagram alike.


One of the overall easiest and best things you can do is simply comment on other posts and respond to those who comment on yours. Even a couple of fire emojis is better than nothing. Engaging with others will get people to look at your page and follow you if they like what they see. Engaging with your fans gets them excited to converse with you and gets people talking about you and sharing.

Optimize Everything
Make sure your profile is completely filled out. Use a professional profile photo and caption, a link in the bio and keep pushing to get that blue verified badge. Everything about your page needs to be professional, don’t save anything for later.

Remember your goal, your goal is to get your fans interested. They do not owe you a following, you owe them entertainment. What you need most is to have your Instagram fans become your biggest cheerleaders off of Instagram. If people tell their friends, you are the ultimate prize of engagement, people promoting you off of social media.

Using VALS To Find Your Audience

VALS is a marketing tool used to predict consumer behavior based on their philosophical beliefs, mechanical and intellectual curiosity, among other things. VALS stands for ‘Values and Lifestyles and is a series of questions to help define target audiences. The audiences are divided into nine lifestyle types: innovators, thinkers, achievers, emulators, achievers, strivers, experiencers, makers, and survivors. Each type is thought to behave and consume differently.

To any business who is seeking to find more details about their audience, there are several ways you can apply the VALS methodology of which we will explain here.

Using VALS methods in customer surveys

One method of using the VALS methodology to determine the direction a business should take is to survey your market and customers. If you can convince enough of your target market to complete a VALS survey, you can then use the data to determine how strong your customers lean toward their wants and spending behaviors. If your customers are primarily innovators or thinkers, they will consume quite differently than someone who is maker or survivor. With this data, you can then determine if your brand should take a new direction. A brand like Nike likely applied a similar strategy when determining their buying audience was more in line with a younger, more socially conscious customer base than the survivor, for example.

Using VALS to create a product


Another method of applying VALS methodology to a marketing strategy is in product creation. If you seek to attract a certain audience, you can use VALS as the basis for brand and product creation. You then can reverse engineer the results. If you want to attract an innovator or thinker and are in the tech industry, you would want to create products and market them like how Apple runs its company. However, if you are wanting to attract a maker or survivor, you would want to go more along the lines of practicality and functionality rather than design and high-end features.

Personally, I find VALS to be fairly limiting, as most people do not fit into clearly defined categories and are more likely complex beings that make a variety of statistically irrational decisions. So, while VALS may be an excellent tool for a broad market, people should be careful to not assume these results fully define the consumer audience, again, as the Nike Kaepernick ad also did.

I took the test and it said I am primarily a maker and second an experiencer. While this is true, the results seem to be almost like a sort of astrology for marketers. Just vague enough to apply no matter what. Because while these apply to me, I can also say pretty much all the types apply to me to some extent and generalizing a mass market in this way can be misleading. In conclusion, I would say that while VALS is a good source for brand identity and for targeting audiences, it is far from a universal perfect targeting system that you can blanketly expect any audience to believe in.

How To Get Your Emails Opened

How often has this happened to you? You send out email after email, waiting to see the requests coming in. You send out a sale. Nothing. You send out a coupon. Nothing. You start to try tricks to get them to open the email with a catchy subject. Nothing.

Your emails are going straight to junk mail. Do you know why? If this is your problem, it is because you are pitching to people you don’t even know. People don’t waste time reading pitches. If they need your service, they will look for your service. You are offering them nothing of value.
Promotional sales emails rarely get read or even opened. In fact, most go straight to the junk mail filter.

Do you want to get your emails read?

The first thing to remember is it is not all about you. You are asking people to read your email, you have to give them a reason. You can’t expect people to want to spend their limited time every day reading your sales pitch along with the other 180 per day they get. I checked my email inbox, it is 5:21 pm, and I have received 177 emails since I went to bed last night, no doubt at least 150 of them are sales pitches. You have to give them a reason to open your email. Of my 177 emails(plus about 10 I did not delete or read from yesterday) I will read about ¼ of them. I will read my actual real email, and I will open about 10-20 sales pitches knowing they are sales pitches.

Which sales pitches, you ask?

The ones who offer me something of value bundled in with the pitch. Give me a tip on how to boost my engagement, and I will read your sales pitch along with your advice.

Now your customer may not care about engagement. Say you are a car dealer. You would then show me ways to save money on fuel efficiency, then pitch a better MPG car. I will read that. You may make me realize it is time for a new vehicle while trying to get better mileage. Or a doctors office. Will your child not eat veggies? Wow, here is an email about how to get kids to eat vegetables! And now that you mention it, it may be time to schedule a checkup.

Next, get rid of the flashy space wasters. You do not need all that high graphics eye-catching attraction inside an email. It is annoying and bulky. You are not trying to attract attention, the email is already open. But, you may get flagged as being potentially unsafe if there is too much code in the email.

Go easy on the pitch, Soft sell here. Offer some value, throw in a special offer of the month. But, in general, you want your effective email copy to let the reader decide they may want to contact you without you asking for it. Go easy on the links. One per page is fine unless you are linking some helpful news articles or something similar.


Test test test. Take these tips, try them out, mix and match and look for what works best. There is no one size fits all, you want to continually try out new ideas and see what works and what doesn’t. The goal is to keep what works, discard what doesn’t. In a few months, you will have a lean, mean, email marketing machine.

The Same Ol’ Digital Marketing Trends? Not So Much…

Image result for 2019

It is that time of year when everyone is repeating the same blog post about 2019 trends. Yes, Stories and video will grow, AI and bots will increase, blah blah blah, as we continue with a slight rewording of 1000 other December blog posts. The end.

That was easy enough. Now to fill the space with something interesting we will be doing for 2019 that we see as important.


Image result for zuckerberg

In early 2018, Mark Zuckerberg made a series of posts about community and Facebook. Facebooks announcement caused the businesses of the internet to collectively get upset because Facebook was going to take away their audience! Oh man, I heard it all, “Facebook hates making money!”  “Facebook is personally out to get me and wants to put my Shopify store out of business!” “It is all a plot to make us buy more ads!” While the last may partially be true, I thought it was entertaining seeing people making grand claims of Mark Zuckerberg waking up in the morning and setting off on his life’s goal of destroying that one Shopify store with $30,000 a year in revenue for no reason at all other than being evil. The fact that this store sold weapons, pornography and drug paraphernalia had nothing to do with it, of course.

Facebook is going back to its roots, the dorm room goal of Facebook of connecting the world. Of relationships, not sales and news. People are abandoning Facebook and Twitter for other platforms more personal, with more friends and family and not an endless stream of ads both paid and organic. And I couldn’t be happier.

The 2019 trends for Zilker is to embrace and join this mission with Zuck. If there is one thing social media has done in society is increase depression, sadness, and even anger and violence! As a marketer and as decent human beings, this concerns us at Zilker. So a trend you will see from us in 2019, in addition to common sense following the industry, we are on a mission to deliver more positive, family-friendly and helpful relevant content to our client’s audiences every day.

Your happiness matters to your customers and us matter to us. At Zilker, our goal is not to merely sell and make your customers buy. Our job and responsibility as human beings are to help create happiness with your customers. Families and friends are important to us, they are essential to you, and they are critical to your clients.  

When you use Zilker Marketing, this is our promise to you. That we will not only care about money, we care about you and your relationships. We care about your customers’ connections. Now, in this season of families and relationships, but also depression and materialism, we are affirming our commitment to you. You matter to us. Your customers matter to us. We hope you all know this and want to make sure you have a fantastic holiday season this year. Call your mother, bury a grudge, do something to make yourself happy and do something to make someone close to you happy. Most of all, please take care of yourself and enjoy this holiday season because you are amazing and you deserve it.



You need SEO

In today’s world, marketing is the future. Gone are the days when you could just put a commercial on television or an ad in the newspaper and watch the customers pour in. Customers are bombarded with ads everywhere they go. They have lost their effectiveness. Even worse, companies and ads have lost trust.

To get the attention of companies these days, you need to prove your trust, it is no longer implied. You do this by offering to help people in minor ways, like explaining to them why SEO is important. While a billboard or radio commercial may work in a smaller Texas town, in a place like Austin, you need more. That is where SEO comes in. People have many concerns about SEO, and we are here to dispell the concerns.


It still works

Most importantly, many people seem to think SEO no longer works. We are regularly surprised at people who think SEO no longer works because the ten-year-old tricks like keyword stuffing and clear fonts no longer work. The fact is, SEO is just more specialized. The early days of web searching there were all sorts of dirty tricks people used to rank higher in search engine results. As time went on, Google got rid of these tricks to make rankings deliver based on the best quality pages. Some people like JC Penny never changed and were even delisted from search results. The bottom line is, if you build your page offering genuine value and benefit to your customer, Google will list you higher in the search results. It is simple. It is also not going anywhere. Google will keep updating and changing, SEO will always change, but it will always exist, just the methods change. This is why a dedicated professional like Zilker is what you need to stay on top.


SEO Increases Market Access

The numbers don’t lie. The most business goes to the top three results. Over 60% of people use one of the top three links in a search, in fact. And almost all business goes to the first page of results. If you are not at least on the first two pages, you are not benefiting from search results at all. If you are not investing to get your name on the first page of some search terms, you are losing money and customers.


It is cost-effective

Organic marketing is both cheaper and more effective than paid ads. Most people skip past the paid results on a search and choose the top organic results of their search. Paying a professional to put you there is cheaper per click than paying for an ad, especially when you usually have to hire a person to place your ads for you as well. Investing in SEO, when done right is also the more trusted brand option over any paid source.


SEO Can Boost the Effectiveness of Your Other Marketing Efforts

All of your other marketing, from print ads to social media to word of mouth benefits when your SEO is performed well. A well-done blog post gets shared with others who then benefit. People will share your page and blog posts on social media, they will come to your page for helpful advice you always give. The bottom line is a well done and informative page is a benefit to your community, and it improves the value and trust of all of your other marketing efforts.

Your competitors are doing it

Remember, every time people search for your type of business and go to a competitor, that is because they invested more into SEO than you did. If you are not constantly moving forward in your branding, you are not standing still, you are falling behind everyone who is moving forward.

If you feel you need to improve your digital presence, feel free to call us today, and we can discuss your SEO strategy and put you above other Austin businesses.

Customer Service Graphic

Customer Service Will Always Be The King Of Your Marketing Plan

What is the best marketing trick you know? Ads? Community service? Commercials? How about social media? Is that Instagram account what drives more sales and customers to your store? Or is it something else? Some businesses have gimmicks. The Speakeasy Bar inside a hot dog restaurant in New York gets by on word of mouth alone because it is a fun gimmick that gets people talking. Out of everything in your marketing toolbelt, which one works better than the rest, hands down across all industries?

I will give you a hint, it is also one of the cheapest methods of marketing around. It is not even a new technology that gives you the ability to do what you never were able to do before, You will not find it online or in your mailbox or anywhere else outside your store. In fact, the public at large would never even see it. You may be asking yourself, what could you possibly do to market yourself if the public never gets to see it?

Customer Service Is Key

Customer service. Word of mouth is still and always be the king of marketing. Over 100 million people watch the Super Bowl every year, and brands spend millions to produce a 30-second commercial to pay millions more to have it shown. This does less for marketing than a single viral act of selflessness or selfishness by a brand. A single response in anger can ruin a business forever, United Airlines still has not recovered from the removal of one customer one time by force. This has happened to every airline countless times in the past, but this time the internet caught wind of it. A single act of goodwill can cause an increase in sales that no commercial could ever give. Staying in the airline industry, Southwest outperforms every other airline in history. They are not the most comfortable or accommodating, in fact, their reputation is quite the opposite. However, they have this. Great customer service whenever possible and these are the things people remember.
Across the board and even locally, Austin businesses such as Luxury Auto Works and Capital Pediatric Group have gone out of their way to accommodate customers needs, and in a way that genuinely assures their customers’ health and happiness, even if it may hurt the bottom line. Many local Austin businesses learned this in the recession. When families needed to cut back on expenses, those businesses that maintained a stellar level of service stayed in business despite cuts to other areas of operation.


Building Trust

The number one reason people try out a new business is that someone they trust recommended them. This is why influencer marketing is growing. People trust someones personal recommendations, even if that person is a celebrity. Brands are just not trusted with their own message these days, the consumer is far savvier than in the past. One friend telling another that a certain detergent did not remove a stain holds more weight than 100 commercials on television no matter what the brand says.
So, if you want to really increase your brand’s reputation, do what nobody else but you can do. You have to offer a superior service. You have to care. Survey after survey shows time and again that a customer is willing to pay a premium for service. If your customer service is not stellar, prices or quality will not save you no matter how good it is.

Facebook Live for marketing

Facebook Live To Boost Your Visability

Tl, DR. If you are not using Facebook Live in your business, you are wasting time and money. Start now.

Facebook Live has a purpose no matter what your industry is. Whether it is charity, retail, food, anything you can imagine, Facebook Live can benefit your business. Besides, it is free. Facebook is giving you a free ad to place to all your followers. In a time when Facebook is becoming pay to play, this is the one exemption to get you guaranteed eyeballs onto your page. With most content, Facebook will bury it on a business page. With Facebook Live, not only does it not bury the post, it sends out notifications telling people you are live. to the followers that are not online now, they get a notification that you were live! This is in many ways better than paying for an ad. Every single one of your followers get a notification that you did something and are inviting them to watch. Not even a boosted post can guarantee every follower will see it.


Ways to go live

How to Facebook Live

You may be thinking to yourself right now, but Eric, I am shy and awkward! I get stage fright, I don’t like cameras, insert excuse here. None of that matters. The great thing about Facebook live is it can be you and the camera. Nobody else, like double-secret-talking-to-yourself-in-the-mirror secret. And, what is even better is you have many options for going live. You don’t even have to be on the camera! You can walk around talking to other people. You can host a Q and A with another person to take the attention off yourself. And if you like the attention and being in front of a camera, it is even better. You can do anything you want, and it will not bother you. You can even consider doing a weekly show! trade retail is great for this. You can give art or clothing tips.  Sephora does makeup and hair demos live. What Martha Stewart does many other businesses can do with their products. All industries can learn from Martha Stewart live videos! The opportunities are endless!

No matter what you do, Facebook live can help your business. Bars can feature bartenders, restaurants can walk through kitchens. Even a regular old marketing company can give an office tour. Plumbers can go live in a home while doing a simple repair. Show people how to do it, the car dealership can go live at a deal closing to show a happy customer taking delivery. Even a doctor’s office can go live with their patients telling how wonderful their experience is. No matter what your business is Facebook Live can benefit your business. If you do not think Facebook Live is a fit for you, give Zilker Marketing a call. We can help guide you in how to use social media to earn loyal customers, followers of the brand and of course, money.


Cell phone tripod

Cell phone tripod

The great thing about Facebook live is it is cheap, and you are only limited to your creativity. At its most basic, you only need your cell phone camera. Yet, you can get lighting and a microphone for a better-quality production for well under $50. Then there are people who go all out and spend hundreds, even thousands on their Facebook live


As you can see, Facebook live has unlimited potential. With how Facebook is promoting the live feature, not making use of it is like turning down free advertising. It should be used by everyone. If you do not take advantage now, a few years down the road, you will be regretting missing your chance at a free foothold into an advertising avenue. If you need help coming up with a Facebook live strategy, feel free to contact our offices to plan today or head to Hubspot for their very handy ultimate guide.

What is an influencer?

Kris Jenner with a makeup box

Influencers are the latest big thing in marketing.


Social Media Influencer:


A Social Media Influencer is a user of social media who have established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience. They can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.”

(Definition courtesy of Pixelee)

While the days of organic reach are declining (Some ad ‘gurus’ will even try to tell you organic reach is dead), this is not always the case. if you post quality content, your scope is not dead. Zilker Marketing takes great pains to provide quality content over spam in our work. When spreading the word about your product or service, you have several avenues of distribution. Social media being one, there are also several methods within social media. You can post your original content, place ads and hire influencers are among the top means.

An influencer is often an excellent choice for business. A regional influencer is known in a city, especially a large city such as Austin, Texas, Chicago, Ill or Los Angeles. Even many smaller towns have influencers. Local influencers promote sports teams, restaurants hotels, salons and retail outlets to a regional audience. Austin, Texas has several influencers marketing people should get to know

Then there are national and international influencers. Most countries have their own local national influencers who are usually models. It is possible one can claim ET was one of the first brand influencers for M&M’s!

Top Influencers

Kylie Jenner is in the top /001% top influencers

Top influencers in social media today are names you know- Celebrities. The Kardashian family have pretty much mastered the influencer game. Kevin Hart has lends his profiles out to companies. With a campaign with a celebrity, you are sure to reach an audience of millions all around the world.

PewDiePie art sketch

Kiwiebird – DeviantArt

But, the real influencers are people known on their channels. The benefit to an influencer is they have built an audience in social media. A celebrity has their audience elsewhere and they use social media to promote what they know. When you use an influencer, you can hire a fashion blogger such as Chiara Ferragni to develop your clothing line. Lindsay and Morgan can help you with your restaurant. Charles Reagan is your go-to guy for music and entertainment. PewDiePie has a YouTube audience larger than most celebrities with 62 million. If he promotes a gaming product, you can be sure it will sell. With an influencer, you reach a smaller audience, but often the audience is a much more targeted audience tailored to your needs. The celebrity is a shotgun blast to the influencers sniper precision.


How To Get One

tacos in front of an Austin sign

Lyndsay and Morgan Instagram @eatingATX

Making use of influencers is quite easy. If you are looking for a local influencer, you may want to start with some good old-fashioned hashtag research for Austin, Texas. Next, narrow it down to your niche, food, fashion, makeup, etc.  Once you choose a few people you would like to promote your brand, look at their profiles. Do they post lazy photos of the brand, or do they provide helpful information as well? Is their brand trusted? If all they do is promote brands with no original content, you may want to shy away. You want to choose an influencer who is trusted for their content who recommends products they believe in. You do not want anyone willing to just throw money at them.

Finally, you will want to look at their engagement. Do they have an engaged audience of fans, or are they nothing but paid bot followers?

Once you have selected a few possible matches, send them a message on their social media profile asking for necessary information. If they seem to meet your needs, you will want to move the conversation over to email to finalize details and close the deal.

Influencers are a tremendous and fast-growing addition to the social media marketing mix. We at Zilker Marketing believe they will be a continued presence in the future.

How Facebook groups can boost your business!

With all the new changes to Facebook, including many that are burying content, some companies are looking to Facebook groups as a way of gaining engagement for their content. Facebook has stated they are going to put more focus on groups and community. Therefore a logical step is to consider starting a group. There are many changes, and it is not wise to consider starting a group with the intention of skirting the new rules. The rules are similar to what Google implemented three years ago, as this is the content users want. It means content has to be useful and thoughtful, not just ‘clickbait.’ You can be sure if you employ the same tactics in a group, you may be looking at group engagement being banned. In fact, we are anticipating this being part of the next set of changes in a year or two.

How to run a facebook group for effectiveness.

The first thing to remember is a group is a community. If you wish to start a group with the intention of hard selling the members, you will quickly find yourself in an empty group. The purpose of a group is the soft sell, to lead by example. For example, if you run an auto repair shop and you want to start a group on automotive repair, you should focus on many do it yourself posts, offer advice for those who are trying to fix things themselves and offer simple car care tips. If the administrators of the group are pushing helpfulness, you build trust. When they run into problems they cannot fix themselves, you will be who they call. A well-tuned community can almost manage itself, and after getting the initial members, the group will practically maintain itself, and it becomes only your job to remind the community of your services occasionally get rid of the abrasive members of the group.

Groups have a curve to follow when growing them. Some examples to follow of proper ways to build a group is shown here. Unfortunately, to see how they are employing growth methods, you have to join, but you will be able to get the impression without joining if you choose. The first is a new group called Build, Scale, and Entrepreneur up, which is a new community that offers incentives to members to stay engaged. New people entering a small group and seeing even a couple engaged members adds to a willingness to stay. This group is doing an excellent job of that, and the members are offering helpful information for the page owner, so he has time to focus on his career. Even a small group such as this already polices itself in the realm of growing a business.


Another is Arne Giske and his Millennial Entrepreneur Community. At this point, I feel I should mention we are not paid to promote these groups, but I am suggesting them because I do believe they provide a legitimate value. Arne Giske runs a professional service and group built on growing groups. To watch how he runs his group, you can pick up a lot of tips without paying for the service. He also has a fan page that offers regular tips on growing groups which I follow religiously. I will leave it to you to decide whether or not paying for his services are worth it or not as I am not here to promote paying for outside services.

Whether you decide to start a group or not to help grow your business traffic, know the team at Zilker is here to assist you in a plan to grow and engage your group.