How It Started And Where It’s Going: The Rise Of Instagram Influencer Marketing

Instagram is just shy of celebrating its 11th birthday, but in a little over a decade, so much has changed for what was once simply a photo-sharing app.

Not only did the app look different in 2010, but it lacked so many of the features (e.g., Stories, Reels, Live streams, and IGTV) that today’s users value. 

Instagram didn’t even make business profiles available until 2014. Still, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saw the value of Instagram only two years after its launch and purchased the app in 2012 for $1 billion.

Shortly after the purchase, Instagram moved aggressively to capture a large share of the social media user base and lured brands into its space with a number of marketing opportunities. But the idea that non-celebrity influencers would act as surrogates for brands likely began when social media users increasingly turned to their friends to get advice on which products and services to buy.

Seeing the genuine connection and engagement between everyday people on social channels like Facebook and Instagram encouraged brands to take a chance on influencer marketing sponsored posts to drive business. So, in the second decade of the 21st century, influencer marketing began its trajectory as one of digital marketing’s most effective strategies.

Instagram Is The Favored Platform For Influencer Marketing

Almost 80% of marketers consider Instagram to be an important part of their influencer marketing strategy,[1] making it the most important social media channel for influencer marketing.

Here’s why Instagram comes out on top.

Instagram Offers High Reach Among Desirable Target Audiences

Instagram reaches more than 1 billion active users every month.[2] And of the users who visit the platform, nearly 80% are in the lucrative 18-34 target demographic.[3]

Along with its broad reach, Instagram is able to deliver content across many diverse categories. Although it performs best with Lifestyle content, other popular categories include Music, Photography, and Beauty. And the category that showed the most growth between 2019 and 2020 was Humor-Fun-Happiness.[3]

Instagram Demonstrates A High Engagement Rate

What’s better than a social media platform that has a large number of users? A social media platform that has a high engagement rate among its large number of users. A post shared, liked, or commented on by social media users is one that clearly resonates with them.

Social media analytics firm Social Insider compared engagement on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter between January 2019 and October 2020. Per post in 2020, Instagram’s engagement rate was 1.16%, while engagement for Facebook and Twitter was 0.27% and 0.07%, respectively.[4]

Instagram Provides Opportunities To Post A Variety Of Organic Content

Instagram offers influencers many ways to post on the platform, which gives them the creative freedom to showcase brands in the way that feels most natural and authentic to them. And authenticity is what makes influencer marketing so effective.

Also, if a social media influencer excels at crafting engaging content across several types of posts (Stories, Reels, Live Streams, etc.), their followers will have more opportunities to be entertained, informed, or inspired.

Instagram Provides A Platform For Discovering Products And Services

Whether your objective is to increase brand awareness, improve sign-ups, or drive sales, Instagram is a solid choice for influencer marketing:

  • 70% of Instagram users have discovered a product or service on the channel.[5]
  • 87% say that an Instagram influencer was the inspiration for a purchase.[5]
  • Each month 130 million Instagram users click on a shopping post to get information to make purchasing decisions.[5]

As shopping becomes more popular on the platform, Instagram continues to add ecommerce features to make it easier to purchase from the app.

Instagram Trends To Watch

Instagram continues to evolve, and these are the content trends to pay attention to in 2021 and beyond:

More Instagram Stories And Reels

Instagram Stories and Reels continue to captivate and entertain users:

  • Each day, there are 500 million users who post an Instagram Story.[6]
  • Stories are especially persuasive for Millennials and members of Gen Z, who view Stories about the products and services that interest them.[6]
  • Up to one-quarter of Instagram users swipe up on the links in Stories, and a third of the most viewed stories are branded content.[6]
  • While there’s little data on Reels overall, the NFL saw 67% more engagement compared to its regular videos.[7] Reels allow access to more video editing effects than Stories, and they can be seen by anyone on Instagram – not just those who follow an account.

More Live Streaming Video Ads

There’s powerful evidence that people spend more time watching a live video versus a pre-recorded one [6], so as video marketing continues to grow, expect to see more live streaming on Instagram. Live streams are especially popular among Millennials, as 63% of this age demographic views live streams regularly.[8]

Grow Your Business With Instagram Influencer Marketing

There’s no denying that Instagram has evolved since its early days as a photo-sharing app. With its massive global reach, high engagement, and multiple content formats, Instagram continues to dominate as a platform for influencer marketing. Brands that haven’t yet explored Instagram influencer marketing as an avenue for growth should now have plenty of evidence to support using it as part of their digital strategy.