Instagram unveils its ‘Close Friend’ feature: How this could benefit the social media marketing strategies of 2019

By: Ellan Dineen

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On November 30, Instagram launched its “Close Friends” feature, which allows users to share their stories with a select group of people, instead of having to share them with the entirety of their followers. “With Close Friends,” Instagram says, “you have the flexibility to share more personal moments with a smaller group that you choose.” Instagram’s director of product, Robby Stein, says the new option will give you and your close friends “your own place,” where you can “really be yourself and connect and be connected to your best friends” without having to worry about “curating for the largest possible distribution.”

For the average user, this new option sounds like a fantastic way to keep your best friends in the loop—but how can it be used to benefit your business? At first glance, the answer may seem difficult to imagine. However, there are plenty of ways to leverage the Close Friends feature to your brand’s advantage. Close Friends will allow you to segment your followers so that you can create the most effective strategy for each audience. The following article provides some specific examples of how marketers can incorporate Close Friends into their strategies for the year ahead.

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1. Use Close Friends to reach your general customers

Want to reach the people that matter most to your business? Creating a positive customer experience is one of the best things you can do to increase profits. In fact, “65% of buyers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.” Furthermore, it’s predicted that customer experience will overtake both product and price as the key brand differentiator by 2020. Creating a personalized experience is one important way to improve customer experience. Use the Close Friends feature to keep in touch with your customers and engage them on a more personalized level. Keep them updated on promotions, build excitement over launches or events, share things like company news, behind the scene footage, logistical information, new appointments, and anything else that might be of interest to them. 

2. Use Close Friends to reach a VIP group or paid subscribers

Does your brand have a VIP group for valued customers? Perhaps you offer a paid subscription service? Use Close Friends to communicate with these customers, keeping them updated on special offers, or providing them with exclusive news and content. This is also a great outlet to start a referral program and encourage your VIP members to recommend your products to their friends, giving them incentive to do so.  A 2015 study by Nielsen found that recommendations from friends is the most credible form of advertising.

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3. Use Close Friends to reach your retailers or other B2B’s

With Close Friends, your business can easily communicate with retailers or other B2B clients. Keep these groups informed, and reach them instantly and in real-time regarding positive and potentially problematic events. For example, use the feature to advertise new products they might be interested in, wholesale deals, and company announcements, and to relay information about any production delays, shipping issues, or other events that may affect them. 

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4. Use Close Friends to reach your employees

Forget those boring office email chains! Take your business into the digital age by using the Close Friends feature to communicate with your employees in a much more engaging and interesting way. Studies have shown that companies with engaged employees make 2.5 times more revenue than their competitors with disengaged workers. Additionally, 87% of employees are less likely to leave their companies if they’re highly engaged. Let those that work for you know about company news, policy updates, and other relevant information. You can also use this feature to provide training, send reminders to your employees, or help boost their morale with positive feedback and encouragement. 

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5. Use Close Friends to reach event attendees

If you’re hosting an event, chances are that at some stage, you’ll have to communicate with your attendees. Use Close Friends to give them practical information on the venue, location, and itinerary. This will also be a helpful tool for getting guests excited about your event and generating a “buzz” in the lead up to it. Perhaps you can offer some insight into the exciting things they can expect during the event, and leave them eagerly anticipating the day. 

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6. Use Close Friends to reach local businesses

This is a great way to connect with local businesses around you. Being in close proximity means you’re likely to share some of the same concerns as these other businesses. Use Close Friends to communicate those concerns, ask for assistance, relay information, or voice your opinions on happenings in the area. Maybe there’s been a string of break-ins that you want to ensure nearby businesses are aware of, or maybe you’re hosting an event together and you want to keep them updated on the progress. Perhaps you’re undergoing renovations and want to thank those around you for their patience during the noisy time, or maybe you’re new to the neighborhood and would just like to introduce your business and say hello. 

7. Use Close Friends to reach your influencers

It’s the age of social media, and if your brand is one that works with influencers to promote your products, Close Friends is a great way to communicate with them. You’ll be using a platform your influencers are comfortable with and already use on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Let them know what products you want them to push, the promo codes they can offer your followers, the types of messages you want to send, the bonuses you may be offering to help motivate them, or your list of do’s and don’ts. If you want influencers to market your brand effectively, they first need to understand your brand and the people behind it. Close Friends will help your influencers get to know you, and the heart of your business. 

The newly-launched Close Friends feature is already a win for marketers, but it will be interesting to see how it develops over the months to come. How else will marketers use this to their advantage? Which brands will utilize Close Friends most efficiently? What other features may Instagram add or improve? In this highly digital, fast-paced world of business, it’s great to have another tool to add to your marketing arsenal.

To start 2019 off with the best possible marketing strategy for your business, get in touch with the Clever Mouse Marketing team today!


About the Author

profile picture ellan (1)Ellan Dineen is the Marketing Associate at Design Wizard. When she’s not hard at work in the Marketing Department, Ellan can be found en route to foreign lands with a book in her hand and a podcast in her ear. With a Master’s in English and Diploma in Social Media Marketing, she knows the importance of staying up-to-date with the industry’s latest trends and insights and is keen to pass these tips on to her readers.


What Makes Your Business Unique?


What is your company’s unique selling proposition (USP)? What makes you different from the competition? You need to offer something to customers that no one else can. Are you the fastest? Most customization? Most cost effective?

You can’t be all things to all people, but you can be one very important thing to your customers. Chances are that when you think of your favorite brands, you can summarize them in one word. For me, it’s simple. Disney = exceptional customer service, Starbucks = custom made, Nike = cutting-edge. They’ve all effectively marketed their USP and consistently delivered.

Clever Mouse strives to provide customers with the best value; the most beautiful website at the most affordable price. We won’t be a fit for everyone. Some companies have a big budget and need something on a scale much larger than we can provide. There are plenty of web design companies that cater to those customers. We want to help the start-ups, the single person LLC’s, and the mom and pop shops that are transitioning into the age of technology. Not everyone can afford a “super fancy” site and not everyone has the knowledge, skill, or time to try and create their own. That’s where Clever Mouse steps in. If you are a small business that wants an effective, affordable website that looks good, we can help.

So again, what is your company’s unique selling proposition and is it being marketed effectively? If you need help developing a USP or marketing plan, contact me. Perhaps you already have a plan in place, but aren’t seeing the results you expected. Contact me. Maybe you just have a few basic marketing questions. Contact me. I’m happy to help.


Top 5 Web Design Tips

Web Photo

Web design, like most digital marketing, is really more of an art than an exact science. You can look at the metrics and analyze the data, but it requires some trial and error, minor adjustments, and a few practice drafts. However, there are techniques you can utilize that have proven effective to create your website plan and outline. Here are some tried and true tips to help you begin the process.

1. Make it user-friendly – In a world that is driven by technology, it’s only natural to assume that the majority of the population is tech-savvy. This is surprisingly untrue. Some consumers are not familiar with typical website layouts (menu bar is typically in the top right corner, contact information is typically in the footer) and tend to panic when they don’t immediately find the information they need. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, consumers will leave your website within 10 to 20 seconds if they don’t find what they are looking for or if you don’t capture their attention. Create a clear and concise navigation process that leads viewers effortlessly through your site. Keep navigation buttons clearly identifiable and obvious, while using appropriate links that allow them to quickly “read more” when they find information that interests them.

2. Write with your target market in mind – When writing any type of communication, you must consider your audience. It may be tempting to showcase your knowledge by using lots of technical jargon, but unless you are targeting other industry professionals, your readers will be lost. Use language that is clear, concise, and provides your audience with pertinent information.

3. Have a clear message – What do you want viewers to remember about your business? What is your unique selling point? As I mentioned, you only have 10-20 seconds to capture them, so what will you highlight? Are you the largest, fastest, or most cost-effective in your industry? Focus on what it is that you do best and keep the message consistent.

4. Implement Calls To Action – Now that your visitors know who you are and what you offer, what is it that you want them to do? Call to action buttons will provide them with information about next steps. Some example call-to-actions are: click for more information, download our resources, sign up for our webinar, watch the video, see pricing, call us and email us.

5. Focus on Mobile Optimization – All too often I encounter websites that look amazing on my laptop, but look terrible on my phone. So many businesses forget how important mobile optimization has become. With 95% of smart phone users searching for products and services on their phones, having a site that is fully-responsive is an absolute must. The mobile experience should greatly influence your overall design.

If you need help building a website, contact me! I am happy to provide you with advice or answer any questions. If you are not the DIY-type, I would love to assist you with your site. I offer a complimentary consultation and website preview, so you can try it before you buy it!



Industry Spotlight: Food & Beverage


Recently, I’ve seen a surprising number of restaurants close in my area.  I know the statistics – roughly 60% of restaurants fail within the first year and 90% fail within the first five years. It’s a tough industry with an enormous amount of competition. However, in this string of recent closures, it’s most surprising that these establishments seem to have nothing in common. Some were chains, others were new concepts. Some started within the last two years and others had been in business for 15+. Some served pizza, others burgers and wings, and others frozen yogurt. Even one of my favorite restaurants fell victim.

I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. The place was always empty – any time of day, any day of the week. For me, this was a plus. We always sat at our favorite table, right next to the few arcade games that would keep my three-year-old entertained while I drank my 32-oz. mug of beer for $3.50. The food was delicious! It was fresh and there was a wide variety from which to choose. Even my 11-year-old loved it and she is somewhat particular. She only provides her stamp of approval to a select, lucky few. With all that being said, I always wondered why it was never busy. I didn’t understand. Good food? Check. Wide variety? Check. Good service? Check. Good atmosphere? Check. It was a sports bar, so they had lots of TV’s and entertaining decor. Also, did I mention 32-oz. beers for $3.50!?

So, what went wrong? I still don’t have that answer, but it led me to assume that in an industry with lots of competition, maybe having good food at good prices just isn’t enough. I’ve scoured the web researching and gathering information from a variety of sources and other than having terrible food or terrible customer service, I think I’ve narrowed it down to a top five list of reasons restaurants fail.

  1. Owner Inexperience – According to Celebrity chef, Robert Irvine, “Potential restaurateurs do not realize or appreciate the specific set of demands that come along with owning and running a restaurant. Once realized, it is often way too late.” Running a restaurant requires managing a diverse group of people with varying skill sets, talents, and personalities. There are so many moving parts. For this reason, an inexperienced owner might start to become too focused on the small picture, which can ruin a restaurant’s chances of staying open. Experienced owners know how to delegate daily tasks and can focus on managing operations and processes for long-term success.
  2. Inadequate Accounting Systems – New restaurant owners often fail to educate themselves on the basics of restaurant accounting and have no idea how to properly manage finances. They don’t know the specifics regarding food costs, labor costs, and don’t closely review their P&Ls (income statements). If you don’t know how much money you are spending, you can’t properly price your menu, staff the correct number of employees, or create a marketing budget within your means.
  3. Location – Having a “bad location” can mean one or more of the following, little to no through traffic, limited visibility or accessibility, limited parking, or neighborhood residents/visitors that are not interested in your offerings or concept.
  4. Overspending Prior To Opening – When opening a new restaurant, the urge to splurge for the best of everything, can outweigh common sense. Most restaurants don’t start making money right away and they rely on cash reserves to cover bills and employee salaries for the first few months. If you’ve already overspent on equipment, upgraded finishes, or decorating, these costs might create debt that is extremely difficult or impossible to eliminate.
  5. Inconsistency – Providing delicious food and impeccable customer service once or twice is not enough. You must create an exceptional, customer experience, every-single-time. Every time a customer walks through the door of your restaurant, they are planning to spend their hard-earned money and are choosing your establishment over the competition. In return, they are expecting a memorable experience. If you are unable to consistently, meet or exceed their expectations, they will find another restaurant that is prepared to do so.

There it is. The top five reasons restaurants fail, according to my research. But I want to hear from you. Are there others you feel should have made the list? What have you seen or experienced?

International Marketing: Avoid Blunders By Understanding Differences Around The Globe


When I was in college, one of my absolute favorite classes was International Marketing. It’s a big world out there and when marketing a product globally, companies must consider differences in culture, social structure, language and education. These differences have important implications for marketing strategy.

Unfortunately, marketing mistakes happen more often than you might think. Most brands can overcome their mistakes with a bit of damage control and good PR, however it can take time to rebuild your image. Let’s look at some international marketing blunders by companies that had to learn the hard way.


When Pepsi entered the Chinese Market, they launched their campaign with the slogan, “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life”. Unfortunately, they had a BIG language issue. They didn’t realize this translated to “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”. The bright side is that it certainly got people’s attention!

That wasn’t Pepsi’s only blunder. They lost a lot of market share to Coke in Southeast Asia when they changed their vending machine colors from dark blue to light blue. If they would have done their research, they would have discovered light blue was associated with death and mourning in that region.


When Gerber started selling their baby food in Africa, they continued to market with the same packaging used in the U.S. You know, the one with the cute baby on the front? What they didn’t know is that it’s frequent practice for companies in Africa to put pictures on the label of what is actually inside the packages, due to a large population of illiterate consumers.  Yikes! Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “So cute, I could eat you up”.

Proctor & Gamble

The company used a popular European commercial in Japan and it was not well-received. The commercial featured a woman bathing, when her husband enters the bathroom and touches/hugs her. Japanese consumers thought the commercial was an invasion of privacy and quite inappropriate.


When Coors entered the market in Spain, they saw no issue with using their slogan, “Turn it Loose”. Consumers however, were not thrilled that in Spanish the advertisement read, “Suffer from Diarrhea”. Perhaps they could have re-marketed as a competitor to Ex-lax?

Kentucky Fried Chicken

When their famous tagline “Finger-lickin Good” was translated into Chinese, it read, “Eat Your Fingers Off”. Needless to say, this wasn’t a hit. Further, KFC used chickens that were raised in China for their local stores. Since it’s customary to raise chickens on a diet of fish in China, the taste was much different than the chicken served in the U.S. KFC actually exited the market and did not return for about a decade.


When Pampers entered the market in Japan, they didn’t bother to research Japanese folklore. When trying to discover why sales were so low, they found that Japanese parents were very confused by the stork on their packaging. It turns out their version of the story includes babies being delivered by giant, floating peaches. Sounds comfortable and delicious!


When Pepsodent tried to sell their toothpaste, that promised white teeth, in Southeast Asia, they were surprised to learn that consumers weren’t remotely interested. It was quite the opposite, in fact. People in this part of the world actually chew betel nuts to attempt to blacken their teeth. This habit is viewed as a high-status symbol.

American Motors

When the company launched a new car named “The Matador”, they were confident it would be a success. Research showed the word means virility and excitement to English-speaking consumers. However, they ran into a bit of trouble when they introduced the car to Puerto Rico. They quickly learned that “Matador” was translated to “killer” in Spanish. Apparently, no one wanted to drive a car named “The Killer”. Who knew?

Sadly, these are just a handful of blunders from some of our favorite brands. It illustrates the importance of research, research, research! Consider all aspects of marketing your product or service, such as packaging, colors, logo, translation, and benefits to local consumers. It will be time-consuming on the front end, but will save countless dollars, unspeakable humiliation, and possible damage to brand reputation.

Any other famous, marketing mistakes come to mind? Please share below!