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Instagram-Influenced Marketing: Trends and Future

Introduction

Social media continues to be one of the essential communication channels between businesses and consumers. More than one billion Instagram accounts are active every single month, according to the platform’s internal data (Business, 2018). Therefore, Instagram can be used as an immensely effective marketing tool that helps consumers understand the identity of a particular brand, its mission, and its values. Major companies, including Apple Inc., Amazon, and Uber, adapt advertising campaigns to a rapidly-changing demographic present on social media (Schomer, 2019). As brands evolve their strategies and try to utilize the availability of innovative marketing tools, more companies decide to partner with influencers that have a large presence on a platform like Instagram. Apart from celebrities, there are micro- and nano-influencers that aid businesses in establishing authentic connections with consumers (Schomer, 2019). This report is going to demonstrate the impact of influencer marketing, outline how businesses categorize creators, as well as explain how the industry overcomes key challenges of Instagram-influenced marketing, including keeping up with the latest trends and ensuring the credibility of content-makers.

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The Impact of Influencer Marketing

Instagram is one of the most impactful visual-based platforms that continues to generate numerous marketing opportunities for modern businesses. It established itself as an interactive social media platform that grew tremendously over the past years. The app was developed by Michel Krieger and Kevin Systrom in 2010, and then quickly sold to Facebook for one billion dollars in 2012 (Iqbal, 2020). Instagram combined photo-focused functionality and stories in order to create a highly interactive user-friendly platform (Iqbal, 2020). The growth of the site is not slowing down “with a 20% increase in users from June 18 to April 19” (Suciu, 2019). Instagram allows brands worldwide to reach millennials and generation Z as nearly two out of every three adults aged 18-29 use the service, according to Forbes (Suciu, 2019). With the abundance of content present in the site/app, companies try to find the most highly resonant ways to connect with consumers, which is why influencer marketing has gained so much attention from business executives and social media experts. Business Insider Intelligence estimates that the worth of influencer marketing is going to increase up to fifteen million dollars by 2022 compared to eight million in 2019 (Schomer, 2019). Influencer campaigns are crucial to attract the attention of target markets and differentiate the company’s products or services.

Influencer marketing is an example of persuasive communication similar to traditional advertising on TV and in newspapers. Consumers gather information online and make decisions depending on the advice of ‘online celebrities,’ influential online leaders (Lou & Yuan, 2019). Successful brands understand the value of relatable and engaging content that is both informative and authentic, which is why online personalities serve as an effective marketing tool for creating branded content, including video reviews, Instagram posts, and stories. Companies invest in influencer marketing to reach new target audiences and expand brand awareness (Lou & Yuan, 2019). Consumers who have the ability to distinguish the brand are more likely to consider it when making a purchase (Lou & Yuan, 2019). Therefore, it is clear that opinion leadership can affect potential customers’ behavioral patterns and intentions as a result of engaging in online interaction with influencer-generated content. Moreover, a platform like Instagram allows multinational businesses to expand their reach since only 11 percent of active users are from the United States (Suciu, 2019). Instagram continues to be a crucial marketing service that affects consumers worldwide.

The Human Aspect of Influencer Marketing

Companies often prefer influencer endorsements as they facilitate emotional bonding between two individuals rather than a business and a consumer. The attachment mechanism of influencer marketing is investigated in multiple major studies, including the one conducted by Chung-Wha et al. in 2020. The study demonstrates casual factors and long-term effects of influencer-curated content providing empirical evidence based on numerous consumers’ responses. Brands understand that digital marketing translates into huge profits because of its immediate results and global reach (Chung-Wha et al., 2020). Influencers generate inspiring and enjoyable content that satisfies consumers’ needs, including relatedness and competence (Chung-Wha et al., 2020). Modern audiences value authenticity and human interaction, which is why influencer-generated branded content is effective. The main advantage of influencer marketing is the ability to form a relationship with potential customers through an emotional, positive bond between creators and their followers.

Influencer Typology

The number of influencers and online opinion leaders keeps growing, which is why companies need to familiarize themselves with different types of content-creators in order to choose the right one to promote certain services or products. Market segmentation needs to be followed by influencer differentiation in the age of digital marketing (Gross & Wangenheim, 2018). A study conducted by Gross and Wangenheim in 2018 examines how businesses can establish effective communication channels by distinguishing influencers, who differ in activities, content, and motivation. The study concludes that there are four types of online personalities, including snoopers, informers, entertainers, and infotainers (a hybrid between informers and entertainers). Snoopers foster intense bonds with their audience through frequent communication and engaging interactions (Gross & Wangenheim, 2018). Their motivation for creating content is self-expression and experience-sharing, which makes them relatable and personable. Informers’ motivation is to provide educational insights and statistics that make them trustworthy and credible (Gross & Wangenheim, 2018). According to Gross and Wangenheim (2018), entertainers use narrative storytelling to amuse and relax their followers. Infotainers, on the other hand, combine informational and entertaining content (Gross & Wangenheim, 2018). Influencer typology strategies are crucial to identify the right creators that would reach the exact audience a company is targeting.

The Biggest Challenge for Businesses

Credibility is a crucial factor for businesses to ensure the influencer’s message is persuasive and effective. Therefore, opinion leaders have to be sincere and honest to meet two main credibility requirements: trustworthiness and expertise (Lou & Yuan, 2019). Consumers’ trust in product reviews and branded content is based on argument quality and background similarity between an influencer and their followers (Lou & Yuan, 2019). Studies have demonstrated influencers’ knowledge relating to products/services as well as the perceived relatedness of users to people they follow affect the level of persuasion these online personalities have on their audience (Lou & Yuan, 2019; Stubb et al., 2019). Attractiveness, enjoyability, and similarity also factor in the attachment between an influencer and their following as all these components fulfill consumer needs for ideality and relatedness (Fig. 1). In the light of influencer marketing practice, consumers are concerned with the quality of information they receive from online opinion leaders as they grow accustomed to the advertising strategies of major brands.

 Pictorial representation of consumer needs. Reprinted from ‘Influencer marketing: Social media influencers as human brands attaching to followers and yielding positive marketing results by fulfilling needs,’ by Chung-Wha et al., 2020, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 55, p. 7.
Figure 1. Pictorial representation of consumer needs. Reprinted from ‘Influencer marketing: Social media influencers as human brands attaching to followers and yielding positive marketing results by fulfilling needs,’ by Chung-Wha et al., 2020, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 55, p. 7.

Businesses can ensure the influencers they are working with are perceived as credible and trustworthy using multiple different strategies. A recent study conducted by Stubb et al. (2019) argues that “sponsorship compensation justification disclosure” should be used by companies that want to justify the existence of sponsored content to their consumers (p. 109). Brands can engage in influencer collaborations without any loss in their integrity or credibility by requiring opinion leaders to use sponsorship disclaimers. Industry insights and some scientific findings demonstrate that sponsorship justification generates positive attitudes in consumers as well as improves the credibility of the influencer’s message (Stubb et al., 2019). Companies often employ experts who design sponsorship disclosures to reach an optimal consumer response. Lou and Yuan (2019) argue that influencers’ content affects consumers’ trust. Branded posts and Instagram stories generate a more positive response from the followers if they have informativeness and entertainment value (Lou &Yuan, 2019). In order to reach a high level of trust and credibility, brands have to regulate the content influencers create as well as the way sponsored reviews are perceived.

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Latest Trends and Future Projections

Digital marketing experts are in high demand as they come up with new innovative advertising strategies using social media. Instagram continues to grow while the number of potential customers with ‘disposable income’ increases (Suciu, 2019). Brands are taking advantage of IGTV, customized AR filters, and shoppable influencer posts to generate higher profits and interact with consumers in different ways. Even with Instagram’s organic reach in decline, the platform keeps attracting the attention of potential customers, who make decisions based on peer recommendations (Suciu, 2019). The rise of messengers and apps like TikTok can have a negative effect on Instagram engagement, but influencer marketing remains a crucial part of brand communication in the digital era (Schomer, 2019). It is clear that authenticity and relatedness provided by online opinion leaders will be in high demand in the near future, even if some transformations are going to affect communication channels.

References

  1. Chung-Wha, K., Cuevas, L. M., Ching S. M., & Lim, H. (2020). Influencer marketing: Social media influencers as human brands attaching to followers and yielding positive marketing results by fulfilling needs. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 55, 1-11, doi:10.1016/j.jretconser.2020.102133
  2. Gross, J., & Wangenheim, F. V. (2018). The big four of influencer marketing. A typology of influencers. Marketing Review St. Gallen, 2, 30-38. Web.
  3. Business. (2018). Instagram.com. Web.
  4. Iqbal, M. (2020). Instagram revenue and usage statistics. Business of Apps. Web.
  5. Lou, C., & Yuan, S. (2019). Influencer marketing: How message value and credibility affect consumer trust of branded content on social media. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 19(1), 58-73, doi:10.1080/15252019.2018.1533501
  6. Stubb, C., Nystrom, A., & Colliander, G. (2019). Influencer marketing: The impact of disclosing sponsorship compensation justification on sponsored content effectiveness. Journal of Communication Management, 23(2), 109-122, doi:10.1108/JCOM-11-2018-0119

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