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How To Be An Instagram Influencer

Many of us have bought something because an influencer told us to, but will consumer trust fade as influencer advertisements grow?
Many of us have bought something because an influencer told us to, but will consumer trust fade as influencer advertisements grow?
  • Meaningful content is key to increasing engagement
  • Posting too frequently makes you seem less trustworthy
  • Featuring people, and not just products, helps to make you more personable and likeable

The rise of the social media influencer has changed the advertising game. Whether it’s a new fitness gadget, make-up or, unfortunately, a weight loss product, many people feel the need to buy the things that have been recommended by the high-profile people they follow online. Nowhere is this more prominent than on Instagram.

As we scroll through our feeds, we’re bombarded with perfectly composed, expertly edited images of influencers praising a “must have” product. As a result, many of us often fallen for the trap of buying something just because an influencer told us to.

It’s no surprise that Instagram influencer marketing has skyrocketed in popularity over recent years, and can turn a huge profit both for the influencer and product owner alike. The perfect example of an Instagram influencer is Kylie Jenner. At the age of just 21, she is the world’s youngest “self-made” billionaire. With over 200 million followers across her social media platforms, she is also the highest paid Instagram Influencer ever, securing an average of 1.2 million dollars for a single promotional post.

Instagram influencer marketing uses two highly persuasive tactics; word-of-mouth and social proof, because customers trust their peers and people they admire far more than the companies that sell the products or services they’re interested in. This is why some brands are willing to pay an extortionate price for someone like Kylie to promote their product.

But is there a point where consumers’ trust might run out, when increasing numbers of influencers are advocating for more and more products?

This prompted researchers, Professor Karine Raies from emlyon business school and her colleagues Mariem El Euch Maalej and Marielle Salvador, to look into how individuals can effectively increase their follower and engagement rates on Instagram.

They found that regularly spamming peoples’ Instagram feeds with lots of post is not the best way to increase engagement on the platform, and that taking such an intensive approach actually leads to people not trusting them.

Instead, their research revealed that using a social media strategy which takes a more emotional approach by linking yourself to your brand is much more effective, because consumers see who you are as a person and can get to know you. Therefore, they are more likely to trust you.

The researchers explored casual configurations of factors that led to a high level of engagement on 18 French Michelin-starred chef Instagram accounts. The reason for focusing on chefs, the researchers say, is because once chefs becomes starred they face the challenge of building highly recognisable brands. Social media enables them to showcase their histories and personalities to their audience, helping to curate an identity before customers taste their cuisine.

Professor Raies and her co-authors looked into the number of pictures uploaded to each of the chef’s Instagram profiles, the average number of hashtags, the number of pictures containing people and, finally, the average number of commercial links.

From this investigation, the researchers have been able to make a number of practical recommendations for those trying to build and enhance their Instagram following.

They advise individuals to take a less intensive strategy, featuring people and not just products in photos, as this makes the account appear more personal. They also suggest that people use fewer hashtags for each post and, for those they do use, to make them as relevant to the content as possible.

“Social media, particularly Instagram, enabled chefs to get closer to their customers, extend their media coverage, and direct traffic to the starred establishment,” says Professor Raies. “Our research shows a strategy that can lead individuals to maximise their social media marketing activities to influence a follower’s engagement behaviours, and to successfully manage their accounts without adopting an intensive publication strategy.”

And doing this successfully can turn a potentially huge profit. Kylie Jenner aside, even if you’re a micro-influencer with 10 to 50 thousand followers, you can still earn enough through paid promotion to quit your day job. For those accounts that have more than one million followers, their owners can make anything from $100 thousand all the way up to $250 thousand USD a year – so it is worth adopting this strategy to increase your follower count.

Similar to an individual’s brand, if businesses uses a less-intensive, more human focused social media strategy, it allows people to get to know them and figure out if they are credible. In short, consumers will be more likely to trust them.

But only if they refrain from spamming!

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