Influencers recently started including ad breaks in their content pipeline—most notably on Instagram, largely resembling traditional linear TV ads. It’s a massive change to the role and responsibility of the modern-day influencer and adds another layer of complexity to how brands can leverage influencers to meet their marketing goals.

There are several questions that a move like this brings along with it. How will influencers balance other sponsored content with ad breaks? How will audiences react to having influencer ad breaks in their social feeds? How will brands be able to leverage this new format, and how will this impact brands’ influencer partnership decisions at a macro level?

In short, this is a welcome addition for influencers and brands alike and will not negatively impact the relationships that influencers have with consumers if done correctly.

Transparency remains key

Influencers are so successful because of their ability to build authentic relationships with consumers on a much more personal level than brands can achieve on their own. Audiences follow influencers who have similar passions and interests, and they often look up to these influencers in many ways. But all of that authenticity and engagement can be lost at a moment’s notice if audiences feel the influencer isn’t being transparent or projecting their true selves.

As influencers look to incorporate ad breaks into their content streams, being transparent with ads in the upfront is critical to maintaining a positive relationship with followers. Consumers don’t want to be sold to, and if influencers adopt more traditional scripted ad content they will need to disclose why this new content is appearing on their followers’ feeds. Those that try to incorporate ad breaks without full transparency will risk losing the power of authenticity that comes with their other regularly scheduled content.

Frequency and placement

Influencers will need to think about when and how often they want to post scripted ad breaks as well. If a beauty influencer is unboxing a new skincare product, they should be careful not to post an ad break directly after that sponsored post. Oversaturating consumers with sponsored content is another way to quickly lose authenticity and the trust of an influencer’s audience.

Instead, ad breaks should be placed strategically next to non-branded content and shouldn’t be overused. They should be used to support brand relationships and keep key products top of mind. If an influencer’s Instagram story is full of ad breaks consumers are going to quickly lose interest and unsubscribe. But if the ads enhance the content by reminding the consumer of content that they enjoyed and inspire action then it’s a win-win. It’s a great way of giving content messaging a longer life.

When should brands invest?

On the other end, brands are tasked with whether or not investing in ad breaks will help or hurt their influencer marketing investments. When considering getting involved a brand should ask itself a few key questions—what are my influencer marketing objectives? Will this investment help me meet those objectives? What influencers should I work with? And how will this impact the existing relationships I have with influencer partners?

If a brand has built an influencer marketing programme around performance and sales, an investment in influencer ad breaks isn’t going to be a priority. It wouldn’t make sense for a brand to dial back spend on things like affiliate links and nano influencers in favor of a strategy that is going to be largely successful at the top of the funnel.

Instead, a brand should be thinking about ad breaks as an extension of their brand awareness initiatives. It shouldn’t really be thought of as an influencer marketing strategy—and more of a media play. When strategically paired together, ads can support the influencer content, give the key messaging a longer lifespan, and help achieve the marketing rule of seven. The biggest difference is that traditional media spend reaches a mass audience while these ad breaks will be more targeted to a brand’s demographic.

If a brand decides it wants to invest in ad breaks as an upper-funnel driver, it should look first to influencers that already have a brand alignment and reach. These ads likely aren’t going to drive sales directly, but they can provide higher-level brand awareness among consumers who are most likely going to be receptive to the brand message.

Merging media and influence

Influencers and content creators are becoming more popular than ever before. With that popularity comes opportunity and evolution. We’ve seen some of the most influential individuals on platforms like Spotify, YouTube, Twitch, and more all become media entities in their own unique ways. We’re now seeing traditional influencers make that same jump, and the introduction of the Instagram ad break is evidence of that.

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