Instagram is working hard to maintain its position as a favourite among both creators and brands engaging in influencer marketing. The social platform has recently announced several developments, including allowing brands to promote paid partnership creator content via branded content ads, opening up promoted posts to more creators, and creator accounts with new tools and insights. These developments are of huge benefit to creators, making the process of content creation, community management and influencer marketing far more streamlined. Subsequently, I predict that we will see an increase in the quality of content produced, a benefit for brands, Instagram users and the wider influencer marketing industry.

Branded content ads

Last month, Instagram announced its new branded content ads format, which will allow brands to put paid spend behind posts that have been created in paid partnership with them. Currently, brands can work with creators on influencer marketing campaigns, which will then be marked by the creator as a paid partnership and posted out to their followers. This update would mean that brands can boost content out beyond just the creator’s followers, but also to the brand’s wider target audience. This move can only be seen as a positive for content creators. In recent years, we’ve seen a huge and misplaced focus on creators’ follower numbers, with the higher the follower number equating to the better the content creator. The introduction of branded content ads will allow focus to move away from follower numbers and instead towards content creation ability. Brands will be able to work with those creators with the strongest content creation skills, without worrying about the post’s reach as they can amplify content using the branded content ads tool. The next move by the Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform is to extend the promoted posts feature out to more creators with smaller followings. Contrary to my previous point, while I am hopeful that the branded content ads feature will mean a move away from a focus on follower numbers, it will also benefit smaller creators by helping them to grow their followings. As brands boost paid partnership content, creator content will inevitably be seen by more and more people with a similar audience to theirs. Both developments should lead to a reduction in influencer fraud; the buying of fake followers or using automated services to gain followers. As the focus shifts away from follower numbers and towards content creation ability, I am hopeful that creators will no longer feel the need to engage in fraudulent activities to build their following. Moreover, these moves show an increased effort by Instagram to increase transparency around influencer marketing. Recently, there have been many calls for a greater effort to stamp out influencer fraud and increase transparency by social media platforms. By marking content as an ad as easy as possible, and adding the benefit of a potential paid boost, Instagram is encouraging creators to do so and thereby allowing consumers to make more informed choices.

Creator accounts

Up until now, there have been two options on Instagram; either you’re a ‘business’ or you aren’t. Instagram defined business accounts as a place to ‘give people more information about your products, service or business.’ Business accounts would allow users to get insights on stories, posts, and followers, such as real-time metrics on how stories and posts perform throughout the day and insights into how followers interact with posts and stories. These are metrics that are extremely valuable to creators, providing a deeper insight into how their community is responding to and interacting with their content. However, there has been a demand for more clarity between businesses and creators. Business profiles require the inputting of contact details like emails and addresses, where creators have demanded to be able to hide their contact information. Instagram’s new profile options will allow creators an increased level of privacy, hiding contact information and buttons from their profile. It will also provide them with a new inbox to give them a more seamless way of connecting and interacting with their community and the brands they are working with. Creators will be able to organise their inbox depending on relevance and time to ensure that they don’t miss out on opportunities and to filter their messages by read, unread and flagged messages. Finally, creators are also being offered more tools and analytics, which will give them daily and weekly data about their follower count, feed, Stories, and IGTV. For example, creators will now be able to see how their follower count increased or decreased, based on the content they posted at that time.

A focus on quality

As the rumour mill would have it, posts marked as paid partnerships on Instagram receive less engagement than those that are not, leading some commentators arguing that Instagram is destroying organic reach and that some of these updates are only going to contribute to that. In fact, it can be the opposite; paid partnerships often receive a higher level of engagement as the creator has a larger budget to put into their content, meaning content is more creative and their community engages with it more. When partnered with the data and analytics that Instagram will now be providing, I believe that the changes recently announced by Instagram will lead to a focus on a higher quality of content, as brands will be able to focus on a creator’s content creation ability, as opposed to follower numbers. Creators will be provided with the data that they need to evaluate how their community engages with their content. In turn, as advertisers focus on content creation ability, we are likely to see a huge decrease in the number of creators engaging in fraudulent activity as using metrics like follower numbers to measure a creator’s suitability becomes a thing of the past.
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