Influencers on Instagram embraced Stories in 2018 as a way to let their creativity shine through, and brands soon followed suit, executives in the sector said in response to a new study by Klear. In an analysis of the more than 2.1 million sponsored posts on Instagram last year that contained the #paid hashtag, the influencer-marketing platform found that Stories represented one-third of them.
“Today, many posts by influencers on your Instagram feed are very polished,” said Guy Avigdor, Klear’s chief operating officer. “There’s a lot of work behind them, and they don’t look as authentic as they used to. Stories are the new way to create more interesting and engaging content. Influencers began using it first, and they were the ones pushing for it, but when brands learned more, this became a mutual effort.”
However, not everyone saw the benefits for brands. According to Michael Brito, executive vice president, digital and technology at integrated data-driven communications agency Zeno Group, “Many influencers have egos to protect and don’t want to be known for just ‘being paid’ to post.”
Instagram Stories, he said, is the perfect platform for them, since the Stories themselves only last 24 hours.
“This isn’t the preferred channel for brands, though, because the shelf life of a story is so short,” Brito added.
Influencers were likely drawn to the format by the variety of creative options it makes available to them, compared with Instagram feed posts containing images or videos.
“The ability to tell a story through multiple frames, as well as the swipe-up function to drive traffic, have made it a great format for marketers to utilize,” said Kamiu Lee, CEO of influencer marketing platform Activate. “For influencers, the ephemeral nature of Stories allows them more freedom.”
Instagram announced on the second birthday of Instagram Stories in August that 400 million people were using the feature every day.
Influencer marketing platform Mavrck also noted brands’ increased use of Stories when analyzing campaigns run via its platform during the fourth quarter of 2018, but its numbers were lower, as co-founder and CEO Lyle Stevens said Stories made up 11.55 percent of sponsored posts in its campaigns, double the percentage recorded in the second quarter of last year.
“We expect to continue to see an increase in Instagram story posts in 2019, especially among micro-influencers who aren’t always getting paid cash for their collaborations and instead receive products, promo codes, gift cards or experiences,” said Stevens. “Instagram Stories often require less creative effort and do not persist on influencers’ profiles unless they are saved as Highlights, so influencers are willing to create them for lower incentive amounts.”
Klear found that influencer marketing via the Instagram platform grew by 39 percent last year, compared with 2017. Specifically, 2.113 million feed posts contained the #ad hashtag in 2018, compared with 1.516 million the previous year.
Brito was not surprised by the growth, saying, “Twitter has been on the decline for years among millennial consumers, and many have flocked to Instagram and Snapchat. And Facebook isn’t an easy-to-use platform for influencer publishing. Plus, [Instagram Stories] usage among consumers is growing, so it makes sense that marketers are spending their money there.”
According to Klear, women (84.6 percent of sponsored feed posts) and micro-influencers (84 percent) dominated the action.
“We do find that women generally follow and engage with more influencers on Instagram as a channel,” said Lee, “while other social channels are more relevant for the male demographic, including Twitch, YouTube and Twitter.”
The company broke out micro-influencers by determining that 84 percent of sponsored feed posts in 2018 received 1,000 likes or fewer, while 12 percent tallied between 1,000 and 5,000, 2 percent between 5,000 and 10,000 and just 2 percent reaching more than 10,000 likes.
Of Klear’s unconventional approach of defining micro-influencers by likes on their posts rather than follower count, Avigdor had this to say: “Some of the studies we’ve done have shown how there is almost zero correlation between the number of followers and your influence on social. Eventually, we used multiple metrics when analyzing influencers.”
However, Stevens took issue with the method, saying that using engagements per post or follower counts as the thresholds for influencer persona definitions doesn’t take into account the authenticity of the engagements or followers. For example, someone with 500,000 fake followers may only get 1,000 likes from legitimate followers, and conversely, someone with 5,000 followers might be buying likes.
“We have determined that up to 25 percent of influencers with 100,000 to 500,000 followers have fraudulent followers,” Stevens said.
He added that Mavrck uses a combination of engagement rate, follower count, content aesthetic, brand safety and incentive cost to determine the micro-influencers that would be the best fit with its clients.
Millennials (between the ages of 25 and 34) were responsible for 54 percent of sponsored feed posts on Instagram, followed by: 18 through 24 (30 percent), 35 through 49 (12 percent), 12 through 17 (3 percent) and 50 through 64 (1 percent).
There were no real surprises in the leading categories for branded partnerships on Instagram in 2018, with lifestyle, fashion, beauty, travel and food coming in at the top.
Nearly 50 percent of sponsored Instagram feed posts last year originated in the U.S.; the U.K. was the only other country to reach double digits.
The countries that experienced the largest year-over-year growth in sponsored feed posts on Instagram—all exceeding 100 percent—were Brazil, Canada, Japan, Spain and Indonesia.