If you’re getting serious about Instagram, either as a brand or an influencer, these are the trends you need to focus on and become part of this year. Awareness of what’s going on in the Instagram world ensures you are better able to craft a strategy for growth and engagement.
1. It’s all about micro-influencers.
If you’re just starting out on Instagram, there’s no need to worry about growing your audience to huge numbers before you can start benefiting from influencer status. If you have less than 100,000 followers, you fall into the micro-influencer category, and many brands prefer to work with influencers at this level.
But now, everyone has a chance to become an influencer. Nano-influencers, or those with as little as 1,000 followers are increasing because brands want to work with average users on brand campaigns and sponsored posts.
Studies by Markerly and HelloSociety have shown that influencers with smaller followings have higher engagement rates than the top-tier influencers. Both studies show that as audience size increases, engagement rate decreases.
Beyond the rise of micro-influencers, we’re seeing an increase in micro-brands. Small businesses that are competing with big retailers and able to do so well because of low customer acquisition costs thanks to social media.
It’s often more cost effective for brands, particularly those that are strapped for cash, to work with nano and micro influencers because they see a clear ROI.
2. Instagram Stories.
The majority of Instagram users use the Stories feature. According to the Preview App, 86.6% of users surveyed use the feature. But, the same source reveals only 36.6% of people watch Insta Stories, while 63.4% watch posts.
This means you should keep the main focus on your posts, but it doesn’t mean you should give up on Instagram Stories. In fact, if you include them in your strategy and factor them into your overall feed aesthetic, you can really make them work for you to increase engagement and build solid relationships.
3. Influencers double down on authenticity.
Social media is all about authenticity. In the early days of Instagram, we saw a lot of posed photos that were over processed with filters. These days are over, as people are flocking to Instagram for more authentic relationships and genuine experiences. In 2018, a new breed of Instagram influencers came to light, those particularly focused on authenticity. Take for instance, Jenna Kutcher, a body-positive Instagrammer who gained more than 500,000 followers in a year, growing to over 800,000 without paying for any of them.
Influencer marketing has grown significantly thanks to Instagram, with global ad spend on influencers expected to reach over $5 billion by 2020.
In 2017, major fashion and beauty brands, such as Revolve, Chloe, and Benefit Cosmetics invested in influencers by sending them on outlandish vacations, all with the focus on selling their products. Though brands are excited about the potential Instagram influencers bring for their brands, users have started to see through the “perfection” and #sponsored posts.
In an effort to keep brand deals without losing followers, we can expect Instagram influencers to become more authentic and personal, even down to discussing their sponsored posts.
4. Dark social hits Instagram.
Dark social may sound scary, but it’s just the term used to describe social media activity that cannot be tracked because it’s private. When someone shares links or posts in direct messages, we see the traffic, but cannot tell where it’s coming from.
Instagram Direct has improved greatly because we can now use GIFs and video chat. It has moved from one-on-one texting to a group chat platform, with many people using it instead of WhatsApp and Messenger.
Because of the tagging, sharing, and reply features on Instagram Stories, it’s easier than ever to start private conversations on Instagram.
This year and beyond, Instagram will continue building features for Direct, and we may see DMs go away from Instagram altogether. It’s possible they’ll spin into a separate app like Facebook did with Messenger.
5. Planning your feed in advance.
Data from the Preview App also shows ⅔ of Instagram users plan their feed in advance. Of those people, 63.5% plan their posts less than a week in advance, and 36.5% plan a week or more in advance.
This is particularly useful for brands who want to ensure their content is ready for various launches and promotions. And it’s useful for influencers who want to make sure they’re following along with a certain visual aesthetic, and continually producing content. Planning in advance also keeps you on track and prevents you from having lulls where there is no new content available to engage your audience.
That said, while many people plan their Instagram feeds, they do not plan their Instagram Stories. Only 21% of people surveyed indicate that they plan their Stories, meaning 79% of people create their stories on the fly. This could be why many people don’t watch Stories. Try planing yours in advance then see how it affects viewership.
No matter what the trends are for 2019 and beyond, one thing is certain. People love Instagram! Preview App data shows that most people spend between one and three hours a day there. If your brand isn’t part of the network yet, you are really missing out. Even if you don’t have a shoppable feed, you can still cultivate relationships to turn casual social media followers into loyal customers.