By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.
You don’t follow Ariana Grande on Instagram, but suddenly her image is serenading you on the social-media platform. What’s up with that?
It’s Instagram’s attempt to seize upon the social-influencer market with a new revenue strategy — “branded content” ads, from which advertisers can promote branded content from influencers as ads in Instagram’s feed and in its Stories.
This means you may start scrolling down your Instagram feed when a photo of, say, Grande, might appear, even though you don’t follow her. Upon further investigation, perhaps you’ll see it’s actually a promoted ad from Luxe Brands, which produces the pop star’s hot-selling perfumes.
It’s not like Instagram and Luxe Brands would be trying to fool you, because there is transparency in the new branded-content ads. Like other ads that already have been appearing randomly on Instagram feeds, you’ll see “Sponsored” atop the posts, along with a “paid partnership with” message from the brand — Luxe Brands, in our hypothetical example here — above the captions.
The feature is rolling out to regular Instagram feeds now, and it’s expected to start appearing in the platform’s Stories in the next few months.
Old Navy is one brand jumping on the feature early.
“We’ve long seen that customers want to discover fashion through trusted sources who have credibility, but organic reach on that content has become increasingly limited,” Liat Weingarten, vice president of brand communications for Old Navy, said.
“So we’re consistently looking for more sophisticated ways like Branded Content ads to serve partner content to the right shoppers, instead of just throwing it into the social ether. Promoting content directly from an influencer’s handle inherently gives the post more authenticity than coming from a brand handle, and we’re seeing significantly higher engagement rates using this strategy.”
Social influencers bring brands millions of followers, and marketing companies already are targeting advertisers about Instagram’s new feature.
In a listing of the Top 25 influencers for 2019 from Influencer Marketing Hub, for example, Grande, as a multi-platinum and Grammy-winning singer, comes in third overall with 150 million followers and tops a long line of other musicians and Kardashians in the rest of that Top 25.
First on Influencer Marketing Hub’s Top 25 list? It is the Instagram platform itself with 290 million followers.
“It probably isn’t an influencer account, as such, but nonetheless, it is still the most popular account on the social network,” Influencer Marketing Hub admits, adding “it is most unlikely to be interested in any influencer marketing deal.”
Second in the Top 25 comes from the world of sports, Cristiano Ronaldo, who captains the Portugal national team and is considered the greatest soccer player in the world. He has booted his way to the top of social-media influencing by gathering 160 million followers.
Following third-place Grande and her 150 million followers in the world of music are these 10 performers: Selena Gomez, fourth with 148 million followers; Beyoncé, eighth,126 million; Taylor Swift, ninth at 115 million; Justin Bieber, 13th at 107 million; Nicki Minaj,15th with 101 million; Jennifer Lopez,17th, 90.7 million; Miley Cyrus, 18th, also 90.7 million; Katy Perry, 20th; Demi Lovato, 23rd, and Rihanna, 25th.
Which sports icons are behind Ronaldo in the Top 25? They include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — actually an actor now whose familiar nickname comes from his professional wrestling days — who’s fifth in the number of Instagram followers with 137 million. Two more soccer stars, Leo Messi, of Argentina, and Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (aka “Neymar Junior”), of Brazil, rank 10th and 11th, respectively, on the list with 113 million Instagram fans apiece.
Then there are The Kardashians, led by Kim (West), who’s sixth on the 2019 list with 133 million followers. Keeping up with her, as the family’s wont to do, are half-sister Kylie Jenner at seventh with 130 million Instagram fans; Kendall Jenner, 12th; Khloé, 16th, and, Kourtney, 21st.
The Kardashians may have an even tougher time keeping up with Grande on the 2019 list later this fall: That’s when the latest movie rendition of “Charlie’s Angels” will be released, with the soundtrack and its lead single, “Don’t Call Me Angel,” both being co-produced by Grande.