Instagram is the most popular platform in many, but not all, markets. EMarketer reported this week that its “rising popularity for influencer campaigns goes hand in hand with the platform’s strong user growth, as marketers tend to go where their customers are,” but in some countries/areas, other platforms are as or more popular.
Instagram’s popularity has also lead to some crazy and unsavory behaviors — from people getting killed or injured for the sake of a photograph (just recently a woman was bit by a shark just to get a photo) and more than a few people have fallen to their deaths from buildings, mountains and waterfalls for the sake of a selfie, to fraud — bought followers, fake followers, buying engagement to boost the numbers.
We tried to get some perspective in our conversation.
Truth — Platform should always follow purpose. Just because Instagram is growing in popularity, doesn’t mean it is the ONLY platform for influencer engagement. In some countries, it lags behind other platforms and tools, and even in the US, it may not be the best place for your program, depending on your goals and content.
When making platform decisions, understand where YOUR customers are, where they are actually engaging with content. This also means:
- doing your due diligence about the influencers you are working with, and evaluating whether they truly have influence on the topic, whether they have the right audience for your offer or product.
- developing tasks and storytelling opportunities optimized for the platform. Don’t just use Instagram Stories — think about how to use them effectively, natively. And honestly, don’t use things like Stories (that disappear) without some other more permanent social storytelling to supplement it.
Truth — Reach is a delivery metric, NOT a performance metric. In order to understand the performance of Instagram influencers, we need to look at engagement with content, not just reach. Our metrics tools of choice — whether platforms like Hootsuite, Sprinklr et al, influencer platforms or simply spreadsheets into which we record data from our influencers — can’t be satisfied with just reporting and rewarding reach. We need to look at impressions and at a minimum engagement rates — what percentage of the followers engaged with the content.
Metrics are complicated by the way Facebook and Instagram are set up — personal profiles have relatively little in the way of metrics, whereas business ones are relatively rich. This is less of an issue for businesses’ owned social accounts, since they were likely set up as business accounts, but influencers — especially ones that have been around for a while or who don’t want to use Facebook Pages (for whatever reason) run into complications with this.
As an example, if you want to convert your Instagram to a business profile, you need to link to a Facebook business page. If you don’t have one, you need to make one. This is a personal bête noire since I have a personal profile on Facebook, and never really bothered with a page, even for the business, because I largely use LinkedIn for professional posting. I’ve now got a “stub” page for my business, solely for the purpose of converting my Instagram to a business profile to take advantage of the richer native metrics.
Your takeaway from all this? Make sure your Instagram influencers are using business profiles so you can get the rich data available on the platform. You should already have limited your Facebook programs to influencers with verified pages using Facebook’s branded content tools to post. Expect that whither goest Facebook so too shall Instagram.
Also – do not compensate based on reach. Start moving toward results oriented compensation models.
Myth: “Organic” social content is better than influencer marketing because the person sharing it wasn’t compensated for his/her work. It truly comes from the heart. We wouldn’t have all this fraud and problems in Instagram if it we weren’t paying people to post.
That is a load of organic material. Because advertisers WOULD — in the pursuit of scale — pay people to post. They just wouldn’t disclose it. Which is why we have the FTC Guidelines for Advertisers in the first place. Think about the Lord & Taylor dress debacle of a few years ago.
The truth is, there are very few brands that can incite excitement at scale without priming the pump in some fashion. Apple. Harley Davidson. Star Wars. Marvel. And THOSE brands invested deeply in the development of their communities from GO in order to have the natural fanbases that they do.
The rest of us have to kick things off if we want any sort of scale, versus just the occasional naturally occurring spontaneous mentions (that hopefully are positive!)
- Pay your influencers for the work they do;
- Mine your social feeds for organic mentions to find new content, new influencers;
- Boost the best performing content.
We ended with some personal advice: You don’t want to be the Darwin Award winner in the Instagram category. Always exercise caution when creating your masterpieces. You matter more than a like or share.
POSTSCRIPT: IMO a well-rounded strategy uses at least 2 types of content or platforms to reach the intended audience. Don’t JUST do Instagram, no matter how hot it is. Diversify into at least one other avenue to reach your consumer on social. I also think it’s critical to set a baseline, especially for awareness oriented programs, using a pre-campaign / post-campaign survey or brand lift study.