Published On: 29/07/20192.7 min read

By Lucy Hancock, Senior Account Director at Storm Communications


Using influential people to market products and services is nothing new. From Humphrey Bogart advertising Whitman’s chocolates in the 1950s to Rhianna as the face of Vita Coco, the same logic applies. However in the fast-paced world of social media, and specifically Instagram influencer marketing, the landscape is shifting incredibly quickly.

Since Zoella hit the big time in 2015 with over 540 million visits to her blog, social media stars have continued to reign from the likes of Deliciously Ella through to Mrs Hinch becoming household names. Meanwhile, in the last few years, the new kid on the block has been micro-influencers, today seen by marketeers as a real sweet spot due to their higher engagement rates of around 3-5%, versus 1-2% for those with over 100k followers. With both of these developments, we’ve seen the influx of agents, agencies, aggregator platforms and in-depth insight tools, adding much needed structure to the industry.

The number of sponsored posts created from 2018 to 2017 grew 42% year on year, with 2,621,741 last year and 1,516,349 in 2017. In 2018, 2.6 million #ad posts were published by 586.9k Instagram creators and their content had 2.9 billion engagements, with a combined follower base of 10.2 billion.

Some of the biggest factors around this monumental uplift have been the increased use of mobile phones, the way gen Y and gen Z digest and engage with influencer content, but also the growing popularity of Instagram. This last factor highlights how much sway sits in Instagram’s latest move which has seen it starting to hide ‘likes’. The platform started trialling this update in Canada back in May this year and last week extended it to Japan, Italy, Ireland, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia. The shift is hoped to minimise the social and psychological pressures of social media while experts have also predicted it could cause brands to spend more on ads and less on influencers. The other impact this is likely to have is a shift back to brands and businesses focusing on their number of followers, a metric that is still visible.

While influencers have no doubt played a huge part in Instagram’s recipe for success, there’s long been talk about the network’s internal strategy around this element. From a fiscal perspective, the platform will no doubt be looking to increase how many of its 25 million business profiles put spend towards advertising support. Currently, only 2 million of them advertise on a monthly basis and one might assume that, while Instagram recognises the importance of influencers, they wouldn’t want brands to prioritise influencer budgets above and beyond social media advertising spend.

As a parting note, it’s interesting to consider the current state of play in the US where influencers don’t just demand payment for content creation but now also build in an allowance for advertising spend as well. This is partially driven by the country’s vast geography and the need to target specific localities, however with the influencer sphere over the pond being more developed than it currently is in the UK this may well be something we start seeing over here in the near future. Watch this space.