The Rise of Instagram and Influencer Marketing

There is no doubt social media has changed the marketing game. The power of digital referrals to drive audience engagement with brands is so well documented now, it’s become a mainstream tactic for most companies. But merely having a social media presence isn’t enough, and many businesses have been stung – either by getting ahead of themselves and assuming likes and shares will translate directly to profits at their bottom line, or through poorly implemented social media marketing campaigns.

But amongst all the targeted Twitter advertising, and company Facebook pages, one social media platform started to do marketing differently – Instagram.

On the surface, an image sharing site doesn’t seem like an ideal platform for every type of business. But the value of Instagram as a tool for social media marketing is much more than skin deep. To really get a grip on just how powerful Instagram can be for a brand, you need to understand the concept of influencer marketing.

It isn’t that influencer marketing is anything new, celebrities have been used to hawk products to us for years in movies, on television and from the pages of magazines. But, Instagram has changed influencer marketing by using the reach of internet and social media personalities to organically connect brands to consumers.

The idea behind the strategy is that it introduces advertising to potential buyers natively, rather than pulling them out of their current experience with a pop up or video advertisement. It also provides a more effective method for generating engagement with millennial audiences, who would rather receive recommendations from a figure they trust, than directly from a business. What a brand can use influencers for varies widely, an influencer can promote anything to their audience, from a new range of products, to a promotional coupon for discounts or exclusive offers.

So why does Instagram stand out against the rest? There are several reasons.

Thanks to the platforms sleek design, sponsored ads blend in easily, and can easily be mistaken in your feed as a post by someone you follow. Furthermore, at least 70% of Instagram users follow a business, allowing direct and deep engagement with brands.

According to 2016’s State of Influencer Marketing survey, Facebook and Instagram were considered the two most important social media platforms, with 87% of respondents indicating that they used Instagram for influencer marketing.

Globally Instagram still has the largest number of new signups, it reaches 700 million users worldwide, and it does it faster than any other platform. It’s userbase is also more diverse, with consumers from older demographics represented amongst audiences, meaning it provides a way for brands to reach millennials and gen x users with higher earning and spending power.

But there’s something else which Instagram has done better from the beginning as well, and that’s collaboration. Instagram was one of the first social media platforms to provide an avenue for engagement between brands and influencers, and as a result it’s allowed massive brands to collaborate with influencers and audiences in innovative ways that provide deep engagement for customers. Makeup brand Covergirl tried this strategy in August when they launched their influencer marketing campaign featuring nine Instagram personalities. The company collaborated with the influencers to create new looks, and then used the Instagrammers as models for the in-store marketing campaign. Bringing the engagement full circle from user’s phone screens to the shop front.

You don’t have to be a massive company to reap the benefits of influencer marketing on Instagram. Nashville Artist Shane Miller currently uses Instagram to generate 40% of his fine art sales. Thanks to the massive number of users and the variety of interests represented on Instagram, influencers don’t even have to be a person. In Japan, the most influential Instagrammer is a dog, who promotes products for one of the country’s major pet food retailers.

Statistical models have shown that for every $1 a company spends on influencer marketing on Instagram, can generate a return of over $7 in earned media value. Proving that above all else, marketing on Instagram provides companies and brands with the results they’re looking for.

In 2017, seventeen years after the social media explosion, influencer marketing has found a new home on Instagram, and it’s here to stay.

Of course, as with any marketing strategy, there are risks, and governments in a number of countries have cracked down on unethical influencer marketing in which influencers were not making their audiences aware that what they were viewing was an advertisement.

But unscrupulous advertising aside, when it’s used as a marketing tool, Instagram outshines other similar platforms, translating influencer engagement into profits for the brands and businesses operating on it.

One thing is for certain, if you haven’t explored the idea of marketing on Instagram yet, the time to do so has never been more lucrative.

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