In Part 1 we looked at the origins of Instagram and discussed a few of the major network updates that interested us agency folk. In Part 2 we move on to look at Instagram business tools, what influenced the direction of change and what these changes mean for advertisers.
To briefly recap what we covered in Part 1; Instagram began as a simple photo sharing platform for small friendship groups. As time passed and users of the platform increased, we began to see popular Instagrammers emerge. Essentially, these users had made their account public, amassed a following and perfected the art of the selfie. With followers in the thousands, hundreds of thousands or more and posts attracting significant engagement, these power users became the go-to place for the all the latest trends and attracted a low-key fanbase of followers keen to know what they were wearing, where they got their nails done and what clubs, bars, and restaurants they were eating at. This captive audience attracted brand attention.
Instagrammers began crediting businesses through tags or captions, which became a fantastic and exciting way of sharing. People were inspired by real content, presented by real people and their real interests. These popular Instagrammers and the content they shared was organic, natural and convincing in stark contrast to ads that featured global superstars; actors or actresses who have been paid through the nose to endorse particular products or brands. This inspired a revolution in branding and advertising but for how long was this going to be impactful?
It wasn’t before long that businesses caught on to this new advertising medium, and now most brands are on the Instagram bandwagon in some form – often maintaining and growing their own Instagram accounts, supplementing their organic reach with paid ads and through building even greater awareness through endorsement deals with Instagrammers. And why not? The results and revenues speak for themselves: Instagram ad revenues are expected to reach $10 billion this year (Source: The Drum). Businesses on Instagram have transformed the way they connect with their customers and increased brand awareness as a result. Instagram have only encouraged these developments too, having introduced Instagram business tools geared towards making advertising more accessible. Changes include the introduction of profile links that allow a user to easily access business contact details and their website, the ability to promote posts and the ability to create ads more easily.
The evolution of ‘famous Instagrammers’ went hand in hand with the growth of Instagram business accounts – they helped each other grow. Essentially, Instagram has helped create a new and different kind of celebrity and the ‘influencer’ was born. The majority of influencers are now paid by businesses for product placement in their posts – a method of advertising that has existed for some time but that has evolved further still through Instagram. Whilst there is no denying its current impact, my question is: how long will Instagram influencers be effective? Are they successful for brands in isolation? Or should they feature as part of a wider media activation?
Influencer became ‘a thing’ and gained popularity on the basis that the product credited was one of genuine interest. Can the same be said for product placement now? I would imagine that it would be hard to turn down significant sums of money for a single post and so perhaps legitimacy is now more questionable… there’s nothing necessarily wrong with paid endorsements, business is business but there has to be balance. Followers will no doubt start to question whether the belief Influencers truly believe in featured products. Followers will only remain loyal to influencers and brands when the balance between content and advertising is right. The platform then needs to curate the perfect balance of organic and paid content. So what will be next for the Instagram app? How will it remain relevant? We will discuss all of this and more in Part 3 coming soon!