To all of you aspiring social media influencers out there: you might not want to quit your day job yet.
As of late last month, a platform test that originally began Canada, has now expanded to six additional countries. In spring of this year, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, started testing hiding likes as a way to take the social pressure off of popularity, and put more focus on creating content to be shared.
Given Instagram’s wildly popular ‘Stories’ feature, which does not display numbers of views, or who has viewed a story, as well as their increased focus on mental health, this comes as no surprise.
During Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri shared official news that, although followers would still be able to like and comment on a profile’s photos or videos, the like count would no longer be publicly available.
While this ‘like ban’ is technically in an exploratory phase in certain countries, the internet has been shaken up by the news, with everyone from brands to influencers to companies that sell likes now unsure how this will impact their business.
Of course, the other likely reason that Instagram would consider hiding ads is because they’ve realized that being an influencer is now a real-and lucrative-business. By hiding likes, the visual popularity of a post will be less obvious, and both influencers and brands may choose to start spending more on Instagram ads to gain more visibility. With business and brand visibility being limited on Facebook’s platform, compared to consumer accounts, this comes as no shock. Most businesses see a benefit from being on the social network, and a small ad spend can help them target potential customers more effectively.
Our team at FK saw the rise of the influencer and social media almost a decade ago. It was for that reason that we began curating a targeted, niche network of influencers that not only understood the value of influence, but also how to create valuable content for businesses and brands. Many of our influencers have worked with us for years, and we’ve helped them grow and grow and refine their own personal brands, creating mutually valuable relationships that can then be shared with our own brand clients.
More importantly, with a specialty in the wine and spirits trade, we also know the specific content types that help raise awareness for brands in this industry, and our familiarity with advertising regulations for alcohol marketing can help steer them from serious missteps that could affect their ability to sell in the United States market.
What does this change, however, mean for influencers and brands?
Influencers just getting started on social media will have a tougher time growing their audiences, compared to established influencers. Some nominal ad spend may be necessary, but it will also be important to test what content works best to reach their specific audience and generate engagement. Getting targeted with your content, creating real value, as well as showcasing posts, videos, and stories that let passerby brands know what you can do for them will become critical as metrics and platforms continue to change.
Instead of marketing vanity metrics, influencers will also likely have to convert to business accounts, so as to more easily share statistics and engagement data with brand partners. With a focus on higher quality content that truly influences business metrics, influencers will be more equipped to measure the real value of their communities.
As costs are likely to go up with influencers, it is reasonable to expect a slight uptick in pass-through costs per engagement. The good news is this. With a shift away from vanity metrics, and toward higher quality content, brand recall should improve for socially active brands, and top-of-mind awareness should increase with the customers they’re seeking to reach.
The challenge will become greater, however, for brands that have been slow to adapt to social media, and those that underestimate the power of online communities.
Social media is where conversations are happening, and products are being recommended real time. If wine and spirit brands want to create real ROI, they will have to exist when and where their customers are, and get their products into the hands of those they follow and look to for recommendations. Smart brands are investing now, instead of waiting to for the next ‘free’ opportunity that might come along.
Additionally, brands will have to acknowledge that not everyone over the age of 21 is their customer. They are specific and unique, and as audiences must be treated as such.
As conversations and social media evolve, there will always platforms that are necessary or more valuable to wine and spirit brands. Instagram can be very effective at visual storytelling, and creating visibility for new products-that is critical, for example, in the wine business. Platforms like Instagram, however, are only a piece of the puzzle. The key is to pay keen attention to where conversations are happening, listen to sentiment and competitor brand affinity, and also take note of how the consumer’s lifestyle is changing.
The longevity of content also must be factored in, as an Instagram story alone will have less impact than one combined with posts, or even product reviews on community driven websites and blogs.
WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
For every brand ‘success’ needs to be measured-that could mean raising brand awareness, more tasting room visits, increased wine club members, or expanded social following. A brand that sells DTC will have very different goals from one that’s an import brand, as well. To quantify that success measurement, goals also have to be in place. At FK, many of our campaigns have revolved around getting exposure for new products to a particular demographic.
One of our most successful campaigns we managed was held on Twitter. For an international wine portfolio, we organized a ‘live’ social media event for select influencers within the hospitality and wine community that generated over 41 million brand impressions. The brand received over a 1000% increase in followers-comprised of the specific demographic they were looking to connect with at the time. Shortly thereafter, they were bought by an international supplier.
A similar concept with a live social event was also developed for a large global wine and spirits supplier. They needed additional reach and consumer engagement that their current agency was unable to provide, and for less than the cost to run television advertisements during the ‘big game’. The results were over 80 million brand impressions, including organic consumer content that showed pull through at the shelf. The supplier said it was the most successful campaign they had ever run.
Another successful campaign spearheaded by our team at FK Interactive was a geo-targeted Facebook promotion to raise brand awareness for a new, high end spirit brand in a major tourism market. Through our partnerships and strategic content, we were able to convert a one-night feature into a best selling cocktail for over a year.
We’ve also had tremendous success creating strategic partnerships, and leveraging the power of symbiotic brands with similar customers but different products. This month, we are partnering a wine portfolio from 11 different countries with an experiential, travel-focused accessory company that touches hundreds of thousands of consumers each week via both Instagram and Facebook. The connection between the two brands was clear, and both will bring an element of value to each other’s audiences as we work with their team on this campaign.
SOCIAL MEDIA IN A MODERN AGE
If your brand has been hesitant to begin using social media, or has not created a content strategy to actively engage with customers, don’t wait. Start building your brand’s social channels, including Instagram, so that you’re not solely reliant on the channels of others to be seen. As digital marketers like Gary Vaynerchuk have been stating for years, it is only a matter of time before these platforms become much costly to advertise on. Investing in your brand’s communication strategy early, often, and with the right content strategy is what’s going keep your brand ahead of the competition, and on the lips of your consumers when they’re ready to buy.