Instagram: An influencer’s paradise?
The business of self-branding and influence.
The digital age has transformed the term influencer from a social media buzzword into a potentially viable occupation being pursued by numerous youths.
Although there are no hard and fast rules determining what makes an influencer influential, such persons are identified by their large following and active online presence.
Instagram is the latest social media platform that has enabled common people to grow their audiences and become influential in their area of choice; from fashion, to entrepreneurial, to travel, lifestyle or foodie accounts — the easily digestible bite-sized posts on Instagram have made it the platform of choice for aspiring influencers.
According to a study conducted by InfluencerDB, there were more than 500,000 active influencers on Instagram in 2018 — that’s 39% of all Instagram accounts with more than 15,000 followers. Out of this group, 81% have followings between 15,000 and 100,000 users (referred to as micro-influencers). The key findings of the report were:
- More than $5 billion was spent on influencer marketing on Instagram in 2018 worldwide, contributing to the rapid growth of the influencer marketing industry.
- The fashion industry made up 25% of all sponsored Instagram posts.
- Nearly one third of all Instagram channels were micro-influencers (having less than 100k followers). This group is also accountable for the majority of sponsored Instagram posts.
But what exactly is a social media influencer?
The Digital Marketing Institute provides the following definition:
“A social media influencer is a user who has established credibility in a specific industry, has access to a huge audience and can persuade others to act based on their recommendations.”
According to them, an influencer is an umbrella term that includes celebrities, bloggers, creatives and online entrepreneurs. What each of these persons has in common can be pinned down to three main qualities, as described by Forbes:
These three characteristics work hand-in-hand as brands look for people who have a large following to spread their message, as well as people who are knowledgeable in a given field and people who will be able to promote their product with confidence and clarity.
The first thing that aspiring influencers do can be called an exercise in self-branding.
Instagram users who decide to shift into influencer territory provide a clear description of who they are, what they do and why people should follow them. At a glance, an influencer profile typically consists of:
- A relevant handle and profile image
- A catchy description
- Links to other social media platforms and website
- Story highlights that give insight into their life
- Contact details provided by Instagram’s business profile tools
Instagram’s business tools were originally designed for brands who were looking to maximize their reach through the platform. The tools include call-to-action buttons, audience insights, post promotion within the app and even shopping. Naturally, aspiring influencers decided to make use of these features — labeling their profile as ‘Just for Fun’, ‘Personal Blog’ or ‘Digital Creator’ — so that they too could maximize their reach on the app.
Now, however, Instagram is gradually rolling out new tools for Creator Accounts. These tools will include a simplified inbox, growth insights, contact information and category labels.
The Creator Account on Instagram gives you a set of tools that makes it easier to control your online presence, understand your growth and manage your messages — Instagram
While some Instagram users may spend most of their time posting pictures about books for the ‘bookstagrammer’ community;
…Others might create an account for their dog to share the best dog–friendly cafes and restaurants;
Either way, both choices would give them a substantial community to grow an audience. But the most profitable niches are Health and Fitness, Beauty, Travel, Business and Fashion. (In my next blog post, I look at how aspiring influencers try to enter into these popular niches.)
Whichever niche is chosen — the more passionate the influencer appears to be, the more credibility they will transmit. At the end of the day, a ‘bookstagrammer’ may be more influential to someone who's looking for what book to read next than a Victoria’s Secret model who may or may not have picked up a book within the last decade.
In conclusion, the term influencer includes anybody who actively tries to engage with their audiences, resulting in their audiences looking at their content for advice and/or inspiration. Moreover, a huge following isn’t the most important factor in becoming influential in a niche market. Instead, I would argue that aspiring influencers in a large community such as the fashion influencer world, need to post original content and add value to their followers’ Instagram feeds in order out stand out. Since all aspiring influencers need to start from somewhere, people with fewer followers can be categorized as micro–influencers. According to InfluencerDB, micro-influencers have a greater impact on their followers than actual influencers due to issues of credibility.
My next blog post will look at how aspiring influencers represent themselves on Instagram.
This blog post is part of an online identity project submitted to the University of Malta.