People are visual creatures. While there’s no denying the value of written content as well, many purchase decisions are made based on what people see rather than what they read. This is most often the case among consumers, especially when it comes to highly visual industries, such as travel, fashion and food. That’s why Instagram has become one of the world’s most popular social platforms, as well as one of the most valuable resources for influencer marketers, creating a new breed of “instagram influencers”.
Surpassing 1 billion global monthly users this year, Instagram’s reach has doubled in less than two years. Although parent company Facebook boasts well over twice that number, the visually-oriented nature of its image- and video-sharing cousin place it at the very top of its field. It’s this focus that has made Instagram the go-to resource for companies seeking to connect with some of the biggest names in their industries and, in doing so, boost their authority, credibility and visibility exponentially.
In today’s post, we’ll be exploring the role of Instagram in influencer marketing and what sort of businesses can profit from it. We’ll also teach you how to find influencers and how to collaborate with some of the most respected names in your industry.
Should Your Business Reach Out to Influencers on Instagram?
- With a global Alexa rank of 13, Instagram has 1 billion active users
- The top 50 Instagram influencers have a total of 3.1 billion followers
- 72% of users base their purchase decisions on content posted on Instagram
- Influencer marketing has an ROI of 11 times more than traditional advertising
The past few years have seen Instagram grow from a relatively obscure niche photo-sharing site to one of the biggest social networks on the Web. Compared to other platforms, Instagram sees significantly higher engagement rates, which is especially thanks to the popularity of the Instagram Stories platform. This lets users post photos or videos that automatically disappear after 24 hours, much like the similar feature introduced in the Snapchat multimedia messaging application.
Instagram is an enormously effective marketing platform not just because of its high engagement rates, but also because of the fact that people are more likely to react to visual cues. That’s precisely why high-street stores aren’t dead yet, particularly when things like fashion and food are concerned – people prefer to look at what they want to wear or what they want to eat. It’s the visual nature of such industries that make Instagram the most obvious place to advertise.
That being said, Instagram isn’t only useful for fashion, food and travel. In fact, many entirely non-visual brands are also making a killing on the platform. It’s not all about having the most attractive-looking product on the planet to show off – it’s also about having a deep understanding of your target audience and what makes them tick. For example, service industries might use it for sharing behind-the-scenes information or adding personality to their brands through clever, abstract use of visual content.
Although Instagram primarily caters to consumer audiences, things are changing and diversifying fast as B2B companies leverage its potential, as well as that of leading influencers on the platform, to increase their reach. For example, leading marketing automation platform MailChimp uses Instagram to engage audiences with whimsical memes and other visuals. In another, IBM uses Instagram for showcasing company history with photographs of computers from the 80s and 90s.
In short, Instagram is the number-one digital venue for any company hoping to ramp up its influencer marketing. Not only does it provide a range of features for social advertisers, such as hashtags, sponsored posts and built-in analytics – it’s also the ultimate influencer platform. Given that 70% of millennials now base their purchase decisions on recommendations from their peers, including famous influencers, that’s reason enough for any business to get a move on with marketing on Instagram.
How Do Instagrammers Become Leading Influencers?
Influencers aren’t businesses, and rarely are they even entrepreneurs. Instead, they are people who are widely respected as authorities in a certain niche. As such, they have large follower bases, and their profiles attract a great deal of engagement in the form of likes, comments and shares. One influencer might position themselves as an expert on interior design, for example, while another might specialize in showcasing the latest high-street fashion accessories.
Given the sheer size of the platform, there are influencers for almost every industry you could imagine, though by far the most followed profiles are those with a focus on visual sectors, the largest of which include fashion and lifestyle, fitness, photography, adventure travel, beauty and food. On top of that are celebrity influencers who, due to having a celebrity status already, become big hits on Instagram without having to make much effort. Examples include Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian.
People become influencers on Instagram by picking a niche that they’re very familiar with and have a great deal of passion for. Sometimes, they don’t even think about the potential monetary rewards until their content starts to build up a large audience of engaged followers. Successful influencers make their money through affiliate programs, sponsored posts or even by selling their own products or services, such as merchandise or photography skills.
While the top-ten Instagram influencers are all celebrities, many others have reached the Instagram Rich List, published by Hopper HQ this year. Pure influencers, who’ve risen to fame thanks almost entirely to social media, include YouTubers, amateur travel journalists, fitness gurus and video tutorial publishers. The top influencers earn tens of thousands of dollars for a single sponsored post, while celebrities sometimes charge up to a million per post.
A Blueprint for Influencer Marketing on Instagram
Although influencer demographic data on Instagram is hard to come by, studies have shown much higher engagement rates among smaller influencers or, so-called micro influencers. In other words, those with a smaller number of followers receive a higher percentage of shares, likes and comments on their posts than influencers who have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers. As far as most influencer marketers are concerned, the best things come in small packages.
As we’ve seen, celebrity influencers charge enormous amounts for sponsored posts, with the top ten all charging upwards of half a million for a single post, which is far more than what most smaller organizations can reasonably afford. Fortunately, that’s not the whole story, since the most influential names on Instagram aren’t necessarily celebrities with over a hundred million followers each. In fact, engagement rates drop drastically the more followers someone has, which implies that micro-influencers are in fact the best people to connect with.
No longer are celebrities the be-all and end-all of launching high-visibility marketing campaigns. In fact, celebrity endorsement no longer holds nearly the weight it once did now that there are influencers that consumers and business customers alike can relate to as equals. These are the people who are most likely to influence purchase decisions, simply because they’re usually more closely related to what they’re trying to sell. For example, a lot of Instagram influencers also review products and publish video guides and walkthroughs.
What Types of Influencers Can You Find on Instagram?
Every industry has its influencers, and they come with varying reaches. At the top of the chain, you have your celebrities with their vast audiences, professional managers and excellent product positioning. On the other hand, they can be unaffordable for all but the largest of businesses. Kylie Jenner, with 110 million followers, for example, charges up to $1 million per post!
Next down the chain are macro influencers with their large communities (sometimes numbering in the tens of millions of followers) and respected positions as authorities in their niches. Oftentimes, these are hobbyists turned entrepreneurs; people whose popularity online led them to become internet personalities that are, in some cases, even more influential than traditional celebrities. On Instagram, macro influencers charge far less than celebrities, with few demanding more than $500 per post.
Finally, we have micro influencers, who are often categorized as such by having less than a thousand followers. When marketers think about social media influencers, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a picture of millions of followers and flawless, professional-quality aesthetics. However, and particularly in the case of Instagram, smaller names are often among the most valuable, especially for small businesses, thanks to their tight-knit communities, higher engagement rates and lower costs. In fact, 84% of Instagram influencers cost less than $250 for a post, and some charge nothing at all.
Aside from the obvious factor of choosing influencers within your niche, deciding on whether to approach small, large or celebrity influencers is another big decision. The optimal choice depends on various things, such as your target demographic, budget and industry. Smaller influencers are usually much cheaper and more approachable, there are many more to choose from, and they often cater towards niche audiences, whereas larger influencers and celebrities often have broader and less-focused audiences. What it comes down to is understanding your target audience, knowing where they hang out and what makes them tick. Depending on your business, they might be the sort of people who prefer smaller, more intimate communities over the vast celebrity-driven ones.
How to Find Instagram Influencers Who Are Authentic
Another extremely important consideration when you search for influencers on Instagram, and one that’s often overlooked by less experienced marketers, is authenticity. Since influencers make a great deal of cash depending largely on the numbers of followers and likes they receive, there are a lot of less honest individuals who attempt to thrive by artificially boosting their follower counts. It’s a problem that affects almost every social network – Instagram’s parent company Facebook took down a staggering 1.3 billion fake accounts in the first half of this year alone. Tens of millions still remain both there and on Instagram, in spite of the platform’s best efforts to remove them. As such, you need to be able to identify fake followers, which you’ll find in great numbers on spam accounts. Here are some red flags to look out for:
- Likes and follower counts that look so uniform that they’re likely automated
- Poor and/or inconsistent quality of photo and video content
- A lack of engagement, particularly among micro influencers
- Large amounts of spam comments, which are often irrelevant or nonsensical
- ‘People’ or, more accurately, bots, who follow thousands of profiles
- Indiscriminate and blatant advertising
With some astute research and extensive vetting, you’ll be able to narrow down a list of influencers who routinely publish high-quality content that’s relevant to your brand and industry. What you should be looking for are influencers with genuine, engaged audiences and active communities. They’re the ones with a loyal fan base consisting of your ideal target customers. Once you’re ready to get in contact with them, check out our guide on how to reach out to influencers on Instagram.
Learning from the Best Examples
As is always the case with any form of marketing, it pays to see what the best among your competitors are doing. A little competitive research will help you identify and learn from the best examples of all. Here are few well-known organizations that are doing it right:
Instagram is a great influencer marketing platform for luxury brands, which often thrive on stunning photography and graphics. Partnering with Loki the Wolfdog (yes, not all influencers even need be humans), the car manufacturer used Instagram to showcase 360° videos featuring the lovable wolfdog running alongside their latest models on a background of stunning sceneries.
Microsoft: Contrary to popular belief, influencer marketing, or even Instagram for that matter, isn’t just for B2C companies. With a little creativity, Microsoft partnered with National Geographic for their International Women’s Day campaign to inspire and encourage young women to work in science and technology. Each photo published featured a female scientist alongside a brief overview of her story.
Any business involved in travel has an innate predisposition towards eye-catching visual content, as this US-based international hotel chain demonstrated when it partnered with influencers including mothers and business travelers to offer first-hand experiences with their properties. In total, the campaign generated at least 250 pieces of content with a total reach of 40 million users.
There are few things that get online audiences excited faster than pictures of cute puppies, which is why pet food manufacturer Pedigree partnered with leading Instagrammers to humanize their brand while also furthering their charitable efforts to support animals in need. In doing so, they generated over 43 million impressions and increased their media value by a factor of 1.3.
Out of all the industries represented on Instagram, fashion and clothing are among the biggest of all. When the Swedish international clothing retailer partnered with fashion influencers Julie Sariñana and model Ela Velden for their autumn 2017 catalog, they reached millions of followers and elevated themselves to become one of the most active fashion brands in social media.
There’s no denying that influencers have become the driving force in marketing for consumer-facing industries, but that’s rapidly expanding to include B2B enterprises as well. In times when authenticity is everything and advertising banner blindness is more widespread than ever, the only truly effective way to drive purchase decisions is to have someone who your target audience actually trusts. In an age when brand reputations are in the hands of their customers more than ever before, there’s simply no better way to boost credibility, inspire trust and expand your reach.
Instagram presents the perfect influencer marketing platform for any visual brand, but that’s not even the whole story. With a little creativity, and knowing how to approach Instagram influencers, businesses of almost any type can achieve great things with influencer marketing.