One of the hottest topics in advertising in recent years has been the rise in influencer marketing — hardly a surprise considering the growing array of internet stars who have the power to promote a brand with a single post that’s seen by millions, their legions of fans, and the proven effectiveness of social media as a marketing medium.
In particular, we have witnessed uplift on social channels where brands employ user-generated content versus those that post content created by brands, and Instagram has proved to be an especially powerful platform when it comes to content creators making real connections with consumers, especially younger consumers.
According to Instagram, 68% of its regular users visit the platform specifically to interact with creators, while the platform boasts a reported engagement rate of 2.2%, trumping other platforms like Facebook. Influencer-based campaigns have a record of delivering measurable results for marketers, across all verticals, not only the ones traditionally associated with influencer marketing. For example, GroupM’s influencer content and amplification solution INCA, partnered with financial services client Nationwide as part of an award-winning campaign ‘Together against Hate’. INCA partnered with 50 relevant influencers with a combined followership of 3.4 million, targeting 80,000 engagements. The campaign ended up delivering over 170,000 engagements. That's over two times above the initial target. It’s little wonder, then, that 65% percent of brands said they planned to increase their influencer marketing budgets this year compared to 39% last year.
How can brands use Instagram most effectively?
Here are six tips for getting the most out of the platform and the influencers who call it home.
1) First, consider what you want to achieve from an Instagram partnership, doing the necessary research and taking the time and care to develop the brief. Influencer marketing can be used for a range of goals along the customer journey. If you’re looking to grow followers, for example, then click-throughs are less important. Or, perhaps you hope to build brand awareness, boost consumer engagement with your brand by way of shares and likes, increase app installs, boost lead generation, or grow your conversion rate? Determine from the beginning what your goals are and whether your campaign supports them. This will inform the metrics to measure your campaign’s effectiveness and determine the platform’s ultimate role in your marketing strategy.
2) Take into account how your influencer campaign will be priced and measured. According to one estimate, a brand will pay somewhere between 20 cents and $2 per click for a post on Instagram. On a CPM basis, the cost would average about $5 per 1,000 visitors. With the pricing and your budget in mind, you will want to consider variables such as the reach you anticipate, outcomes according to a range of metrics including viewability and engagement, the type of content you want to create, and how an Instagram campaign compares to other platforms.
3) Find an Instagram marketing expert to advise you on the best strategic approach to take in influencer and content marketing, someone who is intimate with the process and can guide you through the creation and management of a campaign and who has access to the creators who will ultimately represent your brand. Find a partner who can get you up to speed on the ever-changing technology that enables maximum opportunity for marketers that use Instagram, who is well-versed in the tools that will help you drive sales, for example, or boost traffic to your e-commerce site. Crucially, partner with someone who has brand safety top of mind, who is familiar with the creative output of influencers and who can review and sign off on any content promoting your brand before it goes live.
4. Consider the creative beyond the post. Determine your amplification strategy and whether you might be using content from the initial campaign across other channels, and how it will be used. The lifespan of Instagram posts has taken on a whole new dimension thanks to the Paid Partnership tool introduced by Instagram earlier this year, enabling brands to repurpose influencer posts as ads in a consumer’s feed — regardless of whether the consumer follows the influencer. The result is that the reach and influence of those original posts have grown exponentially. When considering an investment in a creator, value both the anticipated distribution, the relevance captured with their audience, as well as the creative itself. There are more ways to extend the distribution of creator developed content within programmatic buys, in digital out of home, on your own website, just be mindful of usage rights.
5. Naturally, creative matters whatever the marketing platform — and Instagram is certainly no exception. While you will want to design a campaign that will meet your business expectations and goals, you don’t want to stifle creativity, particularly on Instagram, where creators and brands alike have taken experimentation and expression to a whole new level. Consider the inventive, boundary-pushing post this year by popular singer Billie Eilish for Calvin Klein, which was viewed nearly 25 million times in its first three months. (Likewise, brands such as Lego, Vans and Sephora have produced famously creative ads for their own Instagram accounts, earning millions of followers in the process.) Insofar as influencers, remember that when you’re investing in Instagram, you are investing in your partner’s persona, voice, and his or her ability to front content that’s engaging, effective and one-of-a-kind. It is also worth understanding if an influencer has represented a category competitor previously. Look also to understand if the level of interaction with their handle content materially falls when they’re doing sponsored content. Given regulatory oversight be sure to work with an influencer who prominently discloses when they are being compensated.
6. On that point, it is crucial to identify and partner with the right influencer, and to determine whether the type of content he or she creates makes sense for your brand. Selena Gomez and Christiano Ronaldo may reach millions of people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best partners for you. What factors should a marketer consider when selecting the right influencers for an Instagram push, including not only the sort of content they’re known for but also the audiences they serve? What led these influencers to amass a social media following in the first place? Given reports of “fan” buying, using third party verification sources like Sylo are recommended to make sure you’re truly getting what you pay for. Do the consumers who flock to them align with a brand’s own audience targets? Which verticals does an influencer align with? Where is the influencer based, and where are his or her fans? All internet celebrities are not created equal — nor is every Instagram influencer the right pick for your brand.