Influencer marketing is a powerful tool for aesthetically focused lifestyle, retail and travel brands in particular – as well as marketers who want to reach engaged audiences through the power of visual media.
Driven by connected consumers and a growing trust in technology, 58% of Millennials say they prefer ads from their favorite online personality over generic, branded content – so, whether or not influencer marketing appeals to you, there’s certainly merit to exploring the idea for many businesses.
How do we determine influence?
The idea of harnessing influence as a currency isn’t new, but in the same breath, a lot of marketers don’t intricately understand how it all works. In fact, both influencers and brand-owners alike take a myopic view to decide what influence actually looks like. Until now, it’s been determined by a handful of key metrics that show perceived interest and engagement: followers, likes, comments, shares, increased online traffic, etc. help build credibility for online celebrities and demonstrate value for brand custodians that need budget approval.
The dawn of like-less Instagram
Because of this, many were left surprised at the May F8 conference when Facebook announced their plans to test a ‘like-less’ Instagram, where users and brands alike would no longer be able to get their dopamine hit off the sometimes hundreds and thousands, sometimes millions of clear-to-see interactions. And, of course, mild panic ensued.
How are we supposed to know who’s popular now? How do we work out our return on investment? What do we put in the reports?! – a sentiment that echoed through the social and PR industry through to the influencers themselves, understandably. After all, a like-less Instagram could very well affect their revenue.
If the trials were successful, Instagram users would only see how many likes their own posts received but couldn’t see the same for other users. Seems like a minor change, right? It is a minor change, a minor change that will cause a major change in the way influencers and brands use Instagram. This update opens the doors for an Instagram focused on community, personalisation and sharing. Concealing the number of likes, creates a less competitive environment between followers – an issue known to negatively impact users.
But the future is not necessarily as daunting as it may seem post the Facebook announcement.
Brands should now turn to more meaningful metrics
Brands will now turn to influencer marketing tools to monitor more meaningful metrics and understand the specific reach of creatives. For example, the Meltwater Influencer tool, within the platform Klear, offers brands audience reporting features that allow users to view an influencer’s community demographic. This tool allows brands to have a clear vision of who is being influenced, ultimately finding brands the perfect fit for their campaign.
What influenced the like-less Instagram update?
- Social media well-being – The decision to trial posts without the number of likes was driven by the desire to provide a “less pressurised environment” for users. Chief Executive, Adam Mosseri, has stated since the conference that the like-less instagram is a step towards providing users with a platform they can “feel comfortable expressing themselves [on]”. This was incentivised by the current online issue of ‘‘catfishing‘. Whereby influencers and regular users will buy additional followers/likes to appear more ‘popular’ online. By concealing the amount of likes a user receives, the Instagram team are aiming to create a space for creativity and not competition.
- Instagram stories – In January 2019, the Instagram story feature had 500 million daily users – over twice as many as Snapchat (203 million). The rising popularity of theInstagram ‘story’ feature then became a catalyst for the like-less instagram idea, aiming to encourage users to post ‘stories’ rather than a static feed of posts. The shift in popularity of the story feature is reflected by the rising popularity of video marketing. Projected to show an annual growth rate of +10.6%, the use of video will reach an ad spend of over £40 million by 2023 – altering the way brands communicate with their consumers, as well as how influencers will do this on a brand’s behalf.
How will influencers be affected?
Some influencers have expressed their concern, with many worried it may impact their engagement rates, when, in fact, it’s a thought that this will give this widely adopted marketing technique a stronger level of authenticity.
Transparency obsessed demographic, Generation Z, have fuelled the need for influencers to state if a post is an ad and how they received the product, for example were they paid to promote it or was it ‘gifted’? In doing so, the sense of familiarity that we associate with influencers has changed as we know instantly if they are posting to promote.
Removing the like count will aim to bring back this familiarity to influencers, not setting them apart by the amount of likes. Instead, they will be encouraged to create highly engaging content that fuels creativity rather than that which focus purely on sales. A like-less Instagram means that Influencer talent will be based on the referral traffic they drive, minimising the worth of bought engagement. In turn, influencers will be producing high-quality content that attracts long-term consumers.
Quality content, quality consumers
Should this first run of a like-less Instagram prove successful, brands would become less dependent on likes to identify the best influencer for their campaign. Instead, creatives would be rated on their click-through rates and the performance of their content in terms of how it drives sales.
The types of changes we can expect in influencer campaigns
- Better quality content: Now, content needs to do more than receive likes. In order to keep consumers engaged, feeds must need to be more creative, dynamic and consistent. Brands will lean towards collaborations on a smaller scale using micro influencers with 10K-15K followers. These creatives have higher engagement rates, with a more niche style, therefore providing a worthwhile ROI for brands through highly focused targeting.
- More engaged consumers: There could be an increase in consumers actively following businesses. Followers will find hitting ‘like’ a lot more personal, taking this action based on their own opinions and rather than what is trending. Due to this, those with a genuine interest in your brand can engage with your content, helping you create quality consumer relationships.
- More dynamic brand image: Instagram ‘story’ views will become a key metric to monitor. Rising marketing trends such as voice activated searches and the use of vertical video, will increase and branding will become heavily dependent on innovative campaigns.
What is the official plan?
Currently, the testing phase is still underway and the update is now active in 6 countries;Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. Instagram’s two major markets are the UK and the US, so after analysing the response from the trials, Instagram will decide whether it progresses into these major markets. The future of influencers will be exciting not endangered. The like-less Instagram will introduce a new style of influencer marketing, one that is closer to the original intention – giving honest reviews and building communities.
A new kind of Instagram strategy to match these changes
What can we expect to see and how should we adapt our strategies to fit future iterations of how users can interact with Instagram?
- More interactive content appearing on Instagram stories/IGTV
- Creating a more niche brand image
- Using ecommerce/tagging to sell products in their static image posts
- Filtering followers to remove inactive and disengaged accounts
- Using targets to reach click-through rate goals
- Increase in sophisticated and quality content
It’s not all doom and gloom
A change as small as hiding the number of likes on Instagram presents several opportunities for the platform. Improved online well-being and increased focus in story-based content are but a few. Instagram is making innovative movements set to change the advertising landscape and still set to surpass Snapchat in daily engagement rates, creating yet more opportunities for influencer marketing to grow.
For brands, choosing the best influencers for campaigns will have an increasing focus on personality, energy and engaged authentic audiences. Influencer marketing in 2019 and beyond will not be to simply find customers, but to build a community. Are you ready to build yours?