Buckle Up, Instagram Adds New Influencer Engagement Tools
Instagram is arguably the it social platform for both consumers and brands. The lightweight content and formats makes it approachable for almost anyone to participate while the incredible user breadth and relationships makes participation rewarding. Brands and influencers have been working closely, though awkwardly, on the platform for years.
Yesterday, Instagram announced a new set of tools designed to help influencers and brands work more harmoniously together and, more importantly, above board. As they note:
With over 80% of people following a business, brands are an important part of the Instagram community. Businesses and creators thrive on our platform because they’re able to build relationships by tapping into their audience’s interests and passions. One way we’ve seen businesses make meaningful connections is by partnering with creators (influencers and publishers) to launch branded content campaigns (also referred to as Influencer Marketing).
Welcome to the party.
Instagram’s Influencer Tools solve many of the problems that have plagued all parties: brands, influencers, and end-users.
Brands have become a critical part of the Instagram ecosystem, but they have had more than their share of challenges.
While identifying influencers is a problem unto itself, the act of managing those influencers as a collective or campaign drives brands to third party tools constantly. The new tools bring a solidified view of the influencers that a brand is working with.
Influencer campaigns can have a mind of their own. Creators craft a response in a hopefully authentic, audience-aware tone and style. Their audience then engages and the conversation can go in any number of unpredictable directions. Brands have been frustrated that they can’t control this, naturally, but not being able to disassociate was also problematic — and now partially solved.
Metrics & Reporting
ROI evades most influencer campaigns, though we continue to gain deeper insights as more connections are drawn between our efforts and the results. For most, they have to rely on the public data or first-person accounts as opposed to being able to access the data directly. Instagram’s new sharing model for analytics goes a long way to simplifying the process.
Influencers and creators have long anticipated that more support would be available from Instagram, but it was not clear in what form. There are many benefits to influencers as part of this release.
Influencers, especially micro-influencers, often have to reach out to brands to try and foster new relationships — either organic or paid. With the tagging capability, influencers can now toss their hat into the ring with content they’ve created that is relevant to a brand or a specific campaign.
Great influencers are responsible and make clear to their audience when a piece of content is produced for or in collaboration with a brand, most do something other than that. By making the tagging process available, Instagram has made it easier than ever for an influencer to alert their audience that the work is sponsored.
All of these changes are great for consumers with minimal intrusion for the others.
While influencers gained compliance with their legal requirements, consumers are the real winners. While most influencers will alert their customers of sponsored posts within the content, it requires consumption first — fine for photos, more difficult for video. The new identification pattern in the app now makes it abundantly clear that posts are sponsored so consumers can decide if they want to consume it.
Influencers mention lots of brands and products in their posts. By making it easy to tag the specific companies now, Instagram has simplified linking off to the brands directly. It’s a simple benefit, but a great one.
While these are all great changes, it’s still not quite enough for Instagram to unlock all of its potential for influencers. Just some of the problems that need solving.
While there is better data on how specific programs and campaigns may be working, that still leaves the formidable task of identifying the best people to work with. Fortunately, this is covered by an ecosystem of companies servicing this specific problem.
Unless Instagram wants every post to be sponsored, we still have an environment where influencers discuss brands organically. Many different topic areas will cover multiple products and brands in a specific post and this hasn’t gotten easier for in the current environment.
Instagram still lacks links in their organic posts which continues to limit the power of influencer campaigns. Granted, there is a strong preference for ad-based options, but that is not the optimal path for consumers. Better content can’t be created without the ability to measure it from top to bottom.
Instagram still keeps a great deal of the data it does have within its walls. This “Invisible API” design pattern is common but also holding back brands from truly understanding the value and impact of their investment in the platform. APIs that can’t be leveraged by partners continue to hold up the ecosystem.
Still likely the biggest gripe for any and all social media and brand managers, of course, is that Instagram is still a mobile-first, app-only platform. As a result, teams must manage devices, apps, and time to complete their work as needed.
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Gregarious Narain is a serial entrepreneur and product strategist. A reformed designer and developer, he writes on his experiences as a founder, strategist, and father on the regular. Work with him at Before Alpha, connect on LinkedIn, follow on Facebook, or say hi on Twitter.