The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Social Media Mobile Ecommerce

How Instagram is creating a virtuous circle between creators and platforms


By Chris Sutcliffe, Senior reporter

June 24, 2021 | 7 min read

The stars of social media now exercise considerable power within the platforms, leading to a flurry of initiatives designed to tempt them to pick a single berth. As part of our deep dive into everything Mobile, we look at Instagram‘s latest plan to make itself the definitive home for creators.


Instagram’s 21 under 21 campaign is the vanguard of its new creator-focused ecosystem

Individual creators have more cachet on social media than ever before. With the pendulum swinging back towards payments for user-generated content and a race between platforms to sign up exclusive stars, the largest creators are more influential than ever. The shift has happened in parallel with a lurch towards features that place the individual at the heart of social platforms. Snapchat‘s Stories format has been endlessly replicated, while TikTok‘s rise has provoked a new focus on short-form video.

For their part, creators want to know how best to maximize their own returns – leading platforms to ponder how they can cater to the desires of stars and enjoy the audiences they bring, while also delivering value back to their advertisers and partners.

Creative control

One potential channel by which social networks can appeal to creators is to feature them in a prominent campaign or space within the platform. Instagram, for instance, recently launched its ‘21 under 21‘ campaign, which aims to foster younger influencers under the tutelage of five ‘lead creators’.

For those young ‘undiscovered‘ creators, the campaign allows them to get in front of audiences across five main topics identified as the most popular on Instagram – music, sport, art, fashion and makeup.

For Instagram, the aim is to deepen the relationship between itself and those communities – which account for a majority of its e-commerce revenue – while also promoting its short-form video format Reels.

Georgia Kelly, strategic partner manager at Instagram, says: “We hope that the next generation of creators can see themselves within one of our showcased 21 and feel a connection, big or small, and are inspired to celebrate themselves, whether it’s through online content creation or being their true self in a physical sense.”

The 21 under 21 campaign will also see the creators featured off-platform, in a one-off digital zine from the youth-led creative platform GUAP. The idea behind the mixed-medium piece of content was to showcase the creative outputs and profiles of the selected 21 creators.

It’s a laudable aim, and one that also delivers value back to Instagram. The social network currently has over 500 million daily active users, second only to Facebook in terms of daily activity across the platform. Its Reels format seeks to capitalize on the growing consumption of short-form video – particularly on mobile – by offering users the ability to create 15-second clips which can be shared in users’ feeds or its Explore tag. The format is also set to include sponsored content in the near future.

Creative commercial

Kelly explains that the promotion of the young creators on Reels creates a virtuous circle for platform, advertisers and creators: “We are always working on new ways for creators to not only tell their story and create engaging content, but also to make a living while doing so.

“Currently, creators can use Instagram to partner with brands, earn revenue from ads that run against their video content and sell products through Shops. However, we know that we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to monetization and will continue to progress in this area to discover new ways to help creators make a living as they build their personal brands across Instagram.

“In the coming months, we will begin testing two new tools in the US to further the opportunities for monetization for creators; the native affiliate tool which will allow creators to earn commission for the purchases they drive – all within the Instagram app – and new Shops features, which will allow creators who sell their own merchandise to link their shop on their Instagram profile.”

She cites Facebook‘s own research, which found 92% of Instagram users have taken action while viewing content, from an immediate product purchase to following the user or just engaging with the post, which in turn creates monetization opportunities for the user and broadens their audience.

For those creators, for whom optimizing content and distribution strategy is key, the platform is also ungating access to its analytics tools. Insight for Reels, which launched at the end of May, includes plays, accounts reached, and Saves and Shares. It will be added to Account Insights so that creators get a better view of how successful their Reels are in comparison to other content.

Kelly says: “We launched Insights for Reels at the end of May this year, which means professional and creator accounts can better understand how their content is performing, alongside Stories and Post Insights.

“We know Insights are a critical resource for creators and businesses looking to grow and will be continually updating the tools this year and beyond to make sure they continue to be relevant and valuable to people.”

As the influencer economy continues to expand, the priority for platforms is to ensure that they are the go-to space for creators. That means catering to creators both in terms of monetary returns and the ability to let them control their own creative output on mobile platforms.

Social Media Mobile Ecommerce

Content created with:


Instagram is a mobile, desktop, and Internet-based photo-sharing application and service that allows users to share pictures and videos either publicly, or privately...

Find out more

More from Social Media

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +