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Doing Business the ‘Insta’ Way

Doing Business the ‘Insta’ Way

Eight years ago, the once upon a time humdrum photo sharing application Instagram paved the way for a future generation of commercial potential in what is now called the ‘Insta-economy’. The Instagram economy is defined by the earning potential of brands and users who have ‘influence’, as both individuals and brands are realising the earning potential can be significantly increased when promoting commercial content. Dr Mariann Hardey, Assistant Professor in Marketing and Acting Director of the University’s Advanced Research in Computing (ARC) Institute, is the School’s social media professional and is actively engaged in research concerned with a rich comprehension around digital communications. Dr Hardey has led research projects on the emergence of social media and how particular social networking sites have created new opportunities for businesses and individual users alike.

Instagram currently has 500 million daily active users, spending an average of 21 minutes per day using the application on their mobile devices. The commercial potential for the UK is continuously growing, with the UK share of the Instagram population quickly rising, and users and brands have learnt how to exploit the influential competences of the popular platform.

The social media platform – Instagram is at the forefront of some of Dr Hardey’s research. In a recent article for the BBC, Dr Hardey talks about branded content and whether or not the Instagram community minds a little ‘sponsored influence’. The changing nature of promotion and sponsorship have made brands target high-profile users as ‘Influencers’, linked to the growing fluid commercial choices and also the demands of a highly digital society.

Both individuals and brands have learnt how to exploit an influential profile on Instagram. Some users are now earning six-figure incomes and are able to sell their influence for, sometimes, thousands of pounds. Furthermore, the social platform’s monetisation strategy is focused on selling advertisements and cross-referencing this with consumer data from Facebook. The potential to leverage responsive and new methods of effective and innovated endorsement is one of the benefits of the Instagram Influencer.

The result of the Instagram economy is that there is now more support for Influencers at the top half of the UK user distribution, compared to other countries, tilting the balance towards business strategies that are based on high personal involvement and high levels of potential revenue from a single post. Commercial brands and agencies are beginning to sponsor and endorse these pioneers, and recognise that new methods of interactive advertising offer immersive experiences and significantly add to the UK economy. Currently, the use of Instagram is a complement rather than a substitute for other methods of business but is nevertheless tied to substantial revenue changes, such as the new and emerging economy in promoting the use as a ‘brand’ and other perceived benefits of product endorsement.

Brand influence is starting to plateau and the Instagram Influencers are turning what has been good growth into even stronger growth. Without Influencer endorsement, even with a good cross-platform brand presence, brand reputation and profiles will stagnate.

Instagram users will have to keep up with the competition for ‘real’ income potential and will have to survive platform modifications and stiff competition from brands and emerging digital agencies pushing out paid posts.

However, this landscape is incredibly competitive, which makes it difficult to transition posts across different formats and retain similar audience capture. Very few UK Instagram users sustain profit and commercial versatility through a one-channel promotion such as Instagram.

This article was first published in IMPACT Magazine in January 2018

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