How Instagram's recent updates means brands can boost influencer posts with paid media

Remember when Instagram was just about pretty pictures – like a Facebook for the aesthetically blessed? You’d have been hard pressed to find a marketer or PR professional back then raving about its business potential.

Fast forward to 2019 and – with one billion monthly users and the highest engagement of all social media platforms (Forrester) – the benefits are now being universally accepted. And, hence, there are currently an estimated 25 million business accounts.

But it’s not just about user numbers. And Instagram’s business adoption has not simply happened by accident.

As with all things digital, Instagram has continually evolved and recent updates clearly highlight the importance it is placing on enhanced returns for business users.

Business updates
The two major business-relevant updates over recent months include the introduction of the ominous checkout button and, most recently, the decision to enable brands to boost organic influencer posts by treating them as paid ads.

Though the first of these two updates perhaps represents the most revolutionary shift – turning Instagram into an ecommerce platform in its own right – many marketers will be giving more attention to the latter.

After all, influencer marketing was highlighted as a key strategic priority by 69% of respondents to our recent Global State of Influencer Marketing Survey.

Porganic reach
First of all, I know – ‘porganic’ is one of the worst examples of portmanteau going.

Secondly, of course there should always be synergy between your paid and organic marketing efforts – there would be little point in not using one to amplify the other.

What Instagram’s new branded content ads represent, however, is something quite different. And it has many concerned that it could well be the beginning of the end for the platform’s organic reach – and recent algorithm updates have done little to appease these concerns.

Influencer quality
By enabling brands to treat their influencer posts as paid ads, the reach of such campaigns can now go far beyond the influencer’s own network. That is to say that you may start seeing posts from influencers you are not following – or, beyond that, are not at all familiar with.

Though initially this might seem like it could only have a detrimental impact on influencer marketing, it does also mean that fabricated followers may be a thing of the past. Brands will no longer target influencers based purely on the follower metric, but will be keeping a closer eye on reputation and content quality.

There will also need to be some organic quality to such posts, with trust such a gigantic bottleneck in the influencer marketing sector. And, even if appearing as a paid ad, such posts will need to appear sincere.

What’s next?
The only real concrete conclusion that can be drawn at this stage is that businesses must continue to pay attention to Instagram’s updates, if they are to continue to reap the ample rewards on offer.

Could it represent an end to the incredible organic engagement the platform currently offers? I think we may be a little way off that just at this moment.

One thing’s for sure, however – the recent updates should provide some urgency for brands looking to take advantage of Instagram’s business potential. And, they do provide me with an opportunity to update my Ultimate Instagram Marketing Strategy Checklist.

Written by Matt Sarson, marketing manager, UK and Nordics, at software firm Talkwalker