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May 2016

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Pros and Cons of Instagram’s New Algorithm Update

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Algorithmic or chronological filtering, that is the question. And for today’s legions of Instagram users it represents an existential crisis as potent as Hamlet’s. That’s because the popular photo-sharing platform recently announced plans to sort posts according to user behavior as opposed to the established chronological order. Not surprisingly, upon learning this news many fans of the site got their pitchforks out. The move will also have very real implications for those marketers and businesses that have learned to leverage Instagram’s popularity the old way.                                                                         

 

But, as in life, there are positives and negatives to change. So in the interests of finishing on an upbeat note we’ll list the cons followed by the pros, and hopefully shed some light on Instagram’s latest “Instaupdate”.

 

Cons

 

Content will be missed

 

It’s inevitable. By definition curated content means selected content. And if a robot algorithm is in charge of that selection it’s bound to miss some posts that Instagram users genuinely want to see. With the old chronological system, users could at least count on receiving all posts from those friends and businesses they followed—even it resulted in untold amounts of digital clutter.

 

Businesses could experience a (short-term) loss of engagement

 

This new update will hit some businesses hard, particularly the smaller operations. Those without huge marketing budgets who relied on constant updates to keep eyeballs on their profile can and likely will feel some negative impact by switching to an algorithm model. The silver lining in this dark cloud is that the switch will create a level playing field allowing small businesses to compete directly on Instagram with the giant brands: whoever has the most engaging content will win the game.

 

To succeed, analytics will be required

 

In order to ensure that their posts show up in a newsfeed, businesses are going to need to think in terms of optimization. The problem with this new reality is that Instagram doesn’t have its own native analytics tool. Therefore folks are going to have to go searching for third-party solutions to measure engagement. Luckily there are some good Instagram analytics tools out there, and many of them are free.

 

Pros

 

It’s nothing new

 

Scroll through the newsfeed on your Facebook account and you’ll see sponsored and curated content. Posts on these platforms are algorithmically sorted by relevance and have been for some time. Regardless of whether Facebook users think this is a perfect system or not, one thing is clear: the world hasn’t stopped spinning on its axis. By and large people have accepted the change, and the smart money (as well as the history of social media) says Instagram users will as well.

 

A smaller target means higher engagement

 

Until recently, businesses with a foothold in social media could craft a generalized marketing campaign in the hopes it reached the largest possible audience, buyer segments be damned. And while it may be painful for marketers to tear down the old and start from scratch, they might just find benefits they didn’t know existed. For example, Instagram’s entire reason for adopting this change is their finding that users miss, on average, 70% of all content on their feed. To offset this shortfall they want to ensure the posts that do pop up are relevant to the user.

 

And this cuts right to the heart of marketing in 2016. Businesses will now be forced to deliver relevant, high-quality content to a targeted demographic. In turn this will help cultivate the relationship between brand and consumer, fostering awareness, engagement and loyalty.

 

There’s an easy compromise

 

Even the most obstinate Instagram user has recourse to maintain the status quo and see posts in chronological order—and they barely have to lift a finger to do it. All that’s required is to turn on post notifications. Users won’t soon forget about this feature, either, since everyone from celebrities to global brands are now prodding their followers to turn on post notifications in a bid to stay relevant in the face of this sea change. It’s a simple solution—even if the trade-off is receiving an irritating alert every time someone you follow posts something.

 

To recap, it’s not difficult to see that Instagram traditionalists are going to hate this algorithm rollout if and when it occurs. What history tells us, though, is that they will likely learn to accept it. And by focusing on the pros on this list, folks can keep their chin up and stay positive in the face of the inevitable march of progress.  

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The Most Popular Influencer Marketing Platforms Reviewed

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Out of all the stats that illustrate the virtues of influencer marketing, this one from Expertcity speaks volumes: Influencer recommendations carry 22 times more weight than those from average customers. That’s a stark finding. And when you consider that popular social-media personalities now wield even more influence than the Kardashians and Taylor Swifts of the world, you have a trend that speaks directly to today’s authenticity-craving Millennial generation.

It’s no wonder, then, that marketing pros are going all in on this tactic. So in the interest of uncovering the brand-influencer conduit right for you, here are 14 of the most popular influencer marketing platforms in existence today, sorted alphabetically.

1. BrandBacker

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Paid media, earned media

 

This is one of the more established influencer-marketing platforms around, as it was founded in 2001. In that time BrandBacker has amassed a reported network of 10,000 influencers in multiple countries producing content in various languages. The website is streamlined, which makes signup a simple process of selecting whether you’re a brand or influencer and then requesting a video tutorial that includes pricing plans. Regarding compensation, BrandBacker influencers receive payment, discounts, or free samples, depending on the campaign.

 

One feature unique to BrandBacker is their Content Showcase. Businesses who utilize this tool can collect all brand-relevant content from across the web via a search algorithm. It then curates and organizes the content so clients can see exactly who is talking about them and when. The Showcase then allows brands to publish this curated content straight to their website.

 

Platforms supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram

 

Pros

 

  • Team Manager feature helps businesses to build a team of influencers around their brand and monitor progress and efficacy
  • Features like the Content Showcase are a welcome bit of marketing ingenuity

 

Cons

 

  • Despite offering influencer incentives other than monetary compensation, little of what BrandBacker offers meets the definition of “earned media”

2. Content BLVD

CB

 

 

Earned media

 

Content BLVD is a marketing and review platform that adheres to the fundamentals. Their leadership believes that true influence cannot be bought, so in the spirit of authenticity they offer good ol’ fashioned product reviews free of monetary influence. Those targeted influencers who do receive free products in exchange for YouTube vlog opinions are obligated to disclose it. Regarding service, companies pay Content BLVD a monthly subscription fee based on the number of authentic earned mentions they want each month. Content BLVD handles influencer targeting, outreach, shipping, and reporting.

 

Content BLVD caters to businesses with physical consumer products rather than, say, software or general services. This strategy has allowed them to carve out a niche of over 6,000 YouTube product experts and 3,000 product companies. Content BLVD’s influencer program has driven more than 40 million views for their customers since its beta launch in the spring of 2015.

 

Platforms supported: YouTube

 

Pros

 

  • The focus on consumer product companies enables streamlined fulfillment of ongoing campaigns.
  • Simple “Set it and forget it” model is a huge time-saver for product companies.

 

  • The elimination of sponsorship fees brings brand awareness campaigns within reach of smaller product companies. Plans start at just $200 per month.

 

Cons

 

  • Only YouTube influencers at the moment.

3. FameBit

famebit

 

Paid media

 

If FameBit’s goal was ease of use, then their platform is a runaway success. Businesses new to the site will find a simple homepage with two tabs: one for content creators and one for brands. Then it’s a straightforward sign-up process and on to the creation of a branded or sponsored campaign. Brands choose from a variety of social media platforms, the type of content they’d like to create, and finally the campaign details. This includes a drop-down menu listing price-range options starting at $100 all the way up to $10,000+.

 

After clicking the tab to create the campaign, the advertisement goes live and is open for bidding from FameBit’s network of freelance content creators. Brands can see profiles of interested creators as well as featured influencers segmented by category. FameBit earns a service fee of 20% per transaction for accepted bids.

 

Platforms supported: YouTube, Instagram

 

Pros

 

  • Easy sign-up process for both brands and creators
  • Straightforward user interface
  • Self-service client dashboard allows businesses to create an entire influencer campaign in four steps

 

Cons

 

  • Impersonal despite a strong messaging system; it’s a fast-food method to creating an influencer campaign
  • The strict “business transaction” nature of FameBit’s platform robs influencer marketing of its authenticity
  • The hefty sponsorship fees price most small companies out of the market.
  • Many influencers complain about the time it takes to repeatedly “pitch” brands, and the low acceptance rate from companies.

4. Revfluence

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Paid media

 

Like FameBit, Revfluence has a straightforward homepage with sign-up options for brands and creators. Where Revfluence diverges from its competitor is in its expansive network and highly detailed analytics dashboard. It offers an ability to connect with some 200,000 influencers filtered by industry, location, demographics, content quality and niche keywords. They also tout a customized CRM collaboration tool that puts brands in direct contact with dozens or even hundreds of influencers at once. Businesses can then track each individual campaign’s performance and measure ROI via the same dashboard.

 

And for those brands who still have cold feet about influencer marketing, the website offers case studies highlighting specific examples of Revfluence’s success.

 

Platforms Supported: YouTube, Instagram

 

Pros

 

  • Large database of influencers from which to choose
  • Detailed analytics dashboard tracks all relevant metrics

 

Cons

 

  • Not great for first timers; brands need to be well versed in the finer points of influencer marketing before signing up

5. Influenster

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Earned media

 

Around since 2010, Influenster is a marketing and review platform that aims for earned-media credibility with product opinions offered in vlog, blog or simple review form. They also operate under the same disclosure rules as Content BLVD. On the surface Influenster appears to be doing something right, as the platform has a user base of some 1.5 million “influensters” who share their likes and dislikes across social media.

 

To further enhance the user experience, Influenster supplements their reviews and recommendations with coupons, giveaways and rewards programs.

 

Platforms supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+

 

Pros

 

  • Rates “Influensters” by hundreds of data points, including social connections
  • Mobile app allows Influensters to post reviews in real time and reach audiences at the moment of purchase.

 

Cons

 

  • Brands have no control over messaging
  • Some product “reviews” can be light on substance. This is a result of members increasing their social media activity in order to earn “badges,” which in turn help them receive free products.
  • Reports of some members being disgruntled after not receiving free product packages

6. Izea

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Paid media

 

In Izea’s world, bigger most definitely means better. In their quest to become the largest marketplace platform around they’ve absorbed other content websites, such as Ebyline. These tactics have allowed them to amass a database of over 250,000 influencers operating across multiple social platforms and filtered by reach, quality and other metrics. That’s more than enough content producers to satisfy the needs of the some 50,000 businesses and brands already signed up with Izea.

 

Those who create an account have the option of three payment plans ranging from $0 to $299, all of which offer various services such as ShareMonitor URLs and SocialSearch Groups. These are analytics tools that keep track of, among other things, URL shares and hashtag popularity.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat

 

Pros

 

  • No shortage of content producers
  • Comprehensive website features everything from marketing research reports to investor information

 

Cons

 

  • Has so many affiliates and subsidiary companies that some brands Izea lists as their clients don’t even know they’re doing business with them
  • Since its inception in 2006, Izea has embraced pay-per-post marketing, effectively eliminating any and all earned media credibility

7. TapInfluence

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Paid media

 

TapInfluence’s mantra is “Content created by consumers for consumers.” With a database of 30,000 opt-in influencers, they seem primed to deliver on that promise. But what sets them apart from many of the marketplace options is that they focus primarily on the software, touting speedy workflow automation, precise influencer identification, audience targeting and multi-channel analytics tracking. They offer three pricing plans: standard, enterprise, and agency. The plans for enterprise and agency offer unique features such as onboarding, account managers, influencer strategists, pitch meetings and partnerships. TapInfluence’s website also features successful case studies.

 

Platforms supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine

 

Pros

 

  • Comprehensive software featuring a number of resources and tools
  • Tap Library offers eBooks, videos and webinars

 

Cons

 

  • TapInfluence’s standard price plan starts at $1,999 per month, which makes it cost-prohibitive for many smaller businesses.
  • Boasts of a “200% ROI” are difficult (if not impossible) to verify

8. Traackr

Screenshot 2016-05-19 21.55.54

 

Paid media, earned media

 

Traackr operates primarily as a marketing campaign manager with a focus on brand-influencer communication. The site facilitates dialogue, so businesses can glean insight directly from influencers and sculpt their social-media campaigns accordingly. This is a good thing, since Traackr works with influencers on all major social-media platforms as well as a number of blogging sites. Besides offering robust influencer profiles, Traackr has an equally detailed analytics engine that automatically keeps tabs on brand mentions, daily post updates and trending content.

 

In keeping with the communication theme, the site allows businesses to track conversations in real-time with multiple contacts. This also applies to email and Twitter feeds between influencers and brands. Traackr also provides supplementary marketing reports and data services.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+

 

Pros

 

  • Built-in communication tools facilitate communication between influencers and brands
  • Detailed online profiles of Traacker’s influencers

 

Cons

 

  • Poorly organized website contains too much text and too little direction
  • Some users have reported the platform as being “buggy” and prone to glitches

9. InstaBrand

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Paid media

 

Instabrand holds its own with the other players on this list regarding features and functionality. It offers the “greatest hits,” like a large database of influencers operating on all major social platforms. And signup is a simple one-click process right from the homepage. According to InstaBrand they have an extensive client list of some of the biggest names, including Universal, Colgate, Pepsi and H&M.

 

One way in which InstaBrand is looking to capitalize on new social trends is through their Snapchat Labs feature. This tool allows brands to utilize Instabrand’s pool of some 12,000 Snapchat influencers to reach that coveted 18-29 Millennial demographic.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat,

 

Pros

 

  • Advanced search engine lets brands filter influencer results by a number of criteria including demographics and post relevance
  • Assigns campaign managers to offer personalized attention

 

Cons

 

  • Website is heavy on content but light on substance and detail of Instabrand’s platform

 

10. Instafluence

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Paid media

 

Instafluence has carved out a unique niche for itself by offering influencer services to clients looking to promote their mobile app. The platform leverages the popularity of social-media celebrities to boost downloads of the apps in question. Another selling point is that they offer to build a loyal Instagram following for the brand and then hand over the reigns so they can continue promoting on their own. Their client list includes heavyweights such as Viacom and Dos Equis, and many of their celebrity influencers enjoy millions of subscribers.

 

One interesting turn of events is that Instafluence was acquired by Disney’s Maker Studios in 2015. The platform can now utilize that production company’s some 55,000 YouTube channels and roster of celebrity vloggers to help promote client apps.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Instagram, Vine, Snapchat

 

Pros

 

  • The purchase by Disney means Instafluence can deliver a massive rolodex of genuine social-media celebrities
  • The only platform on the list that focuses solely on apps

 

Cons

 

  • Focuses solely on apps

 

11. Niche.co

Screenshot 2016-05-19 21.53.49

Paid media

 

Niche is an influencer platform with quite the social-media pedigree. One co-founder, Rob Fishman, worked the social beat at Huffington Post, and the company hired Vine celebrity Cody Johns as its creative director. Starting in 2013, Niche found early success with Vine campaigns in the world of film and retail. Now they’ve opened up their platform to all the major social networks and, according to their website, work with over 30,000 content creators.

 

For the benefit of everyone involved, Niche creates a single profile for their creators that aggregates all content from their various social profiles. Then they display these profiles in a leaderboard, complete with full analytics tracking, so brands can see which influencers are moving the needle the most.

 

Platforms Supported: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr

 

Pros

 

  • Leaderboard helps brands decide which influencers will deliver the most engagement to their campaign
  • Comprehensive profile helps creators see which of their content is hitting the mark
  • Niche takes a hands on approach, being involved in most aspects of the campaign creation

 

Cons

 

  • Website doesn’t make it easy to engage with content creators; brands who want free reign to create campaigns and communicate with influencers directly may feel stifled

12. Octoly

Screenshot 2016-05-19 21.52.52

 

Earned media

 

Octoloy is a French platform that has also gone all in on YouTube. Billing themselves as the “first Free Store dedicated to creators,” the site is an automated marketplace that connects brands with vlog personalities. In just a few steps, brands can search a database of influencers and create a campaign by offering nothing more than free products. Most of the influencers on Octoloy are beauty YouTubers, and the site claims to monitor some 800,000 channels.

 

Like Content BLVD, Octoly places a premium on authenticity and honest reviews. They charge a fee for brands to access their database.

 

Platforms Supported: YouTube

 

Pros

 

  • Doesn’t pay influencers; focuses on authentic product reviews

 

Cons

 

  • Octoly is limited by focusing predominantly on beauty items—although they are branching out into video games
  • Only YouTube influencers
  • Lack of practical info (or even a demo or tutorial) on the homepage means businesses that sign up with Octoloy are doing so without knowing very much about how it works

13. Grapevine Logic

Screenshot 2016-05-19 21.49.41

 

 

Paid media, earned media

 

The last YouTube-only option on the list, Grapevine works with over 200 brands. Like Content BLVD and Octoly, the site offers influencers product packages in exchange for reviews. Unlike the two other sites, Grapevine also deals in paid sponsorships. Like some of the best options, the homepage is in simple WordPress format, and they offer their own analytics engine to help brands and agencies find the most visible influencers.

 

Platforms Supported: YouTube

 

Pros

 

  • A database of over 60,000 influencers
  • Pairs brands with a dedicated account manager to facilitate the process

 

Cons

 

  • Only YouTube influencers
  • The option for influencers to receive monetary compensation diminishes earned-media potential

14. Popular Pays

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Paid media

 

This website offers speed and ease of use to help businesses leverage the power of Instagram to promote their brand. On the speed end, Popular Pays promises that visitors can list a campaign in six minutes, receive proposals from Instagrammers 24 hours later, and have the campaign up within a week. By focusing almost exclusively on Instagram (they have dabbled in Pinterest and Snapchat, too), Popular Pays can keep their website streamlined and simple.

 

Popular Pays boasts a network of over 25,000 Instagrammers who have created sponsored campaigns for top brands including Nike, Target and Glenlivet. As for the bread and butter of Instagram—the photos—the site offers brands the option to use original photos from the content creators themselves, or full-rights pics from Popular Pays’ database.

 

Platforms Supported: Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest

 

Pros

 

  • Straightforward website free of visual noise
  • Popular Pays stays out of the pairing process, letting brands and Instagrammers find each other organically
  • Great for sponsored content on Instagram

 

Cons

 

  • Caters primarily to just one social-media platform
  • It’s a bid marketplace, meaning Instagrammers get paid for their services, thus eliminating any earned media

 

While there is no single winner on this list, certain sites might be a better fit than others. For example, those who want an established option dealing in multiple social platforms may opt for BrandBacker. On the other hand, those who want to create an earned-media video advertising campaign could be better off with Content Blvd. And businesses without previous influencer knowledge looking to setup quick campaigns with minimal hassle might prefer FameBit or, or Grapevine Logic, or Popular Pays. It all depends on the brand.

If you represent an influencer marketing platform that you feel I should have included, just say so in the comments.

 

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Influencer Marketing in 2016: Go Big, or Go Home

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millennials

Ask any savvy advertiser when the tectonic shift in marketing occurred, and they might pinpoint the rise of digital content, or the ubiquity of social media, or the intersection of the two. But looking at it through a wider lens, it’s easy to see that the dwindling efficacy of traditional ads coincided with the rise of the millennial generation. This group (those born after 1980) grew up immersed in technology, and many have been tethered to social media since they were old enough to manipulate a keypad. These consumers can sense the hard sell a mile away, and they value authenticity above all else. Forward-thinking brands have appealed to this new demo by focusing on peer recommendations, usually via social media. Thus, influencer marketing was born. Here are five reasons brands and advertisers will want to go all in on it this year.

 

Influencer marketing beats all other strategies
Where it concerns customer acquisition channels, influencer marketing leaves the competition in the dust. Looking at the trend closer, it’s not difficult to see why this is occurring. The popularity of influencer marketing is increasing in relation to the popularity and expansion of social media. Where once influencers relied primarily on vlogs and blogs, they can now be found on almost every social platform under the sun, from Snapchat and Vine to Youtube and Instagram.  The proliferation of new mobile-optimized social media platforms gives influencers access to increasingly larger audiences who can be reached anytime, anywhere via their smartphones. You simply can’t get the same reach or engagement with ads.

 

No one blocks an influencer
With almost 50% of all Internet surfers utilizing some form of ad-block technology, it’s no wonder pop-ups aren’t having the desired effect. With influencer marketing you’re not paying for the possibility of reaching a target demo—you’re buying a direct path to conversion, provided the brand in question has sound market research on their end. That’s because trust has already been established, and the long reach of the influencers paves the way.

 

It’s as cost effective as they come
Influencer marketing yields $6.50 for every $1 invested. (2)

Brands operating with limited budgets might still think traditional email marketing campaigns are good bang for the advertising dollar—and they’d be right. After all, how much does it cost to disseminate an email blast? However, not only is influencer marketing a cost-effective advertising strategy, it’s actually tied with email marketing as the most cost-effective channel out there. Want an even more savory statistic? Businesses are averaging a whopping $6.50 per every dollar they spend on influencer marketing. It’s hard to argue with such an attractive ROI.


Content isn’t as effective without influencer marketing
Many businesses have rightly upped their content output to keep brand awareness at a fever pitch. But since 2014 engagement has been decreasing. It’s not that the public is no longer hungry for content—far from it. But they now prefer to receive their messaging via a trustworthy entity. Enter the influencer. Brands who supplement their original content with influencer marketing will not only see greater engagement, but they’ll be able to track KPIs more effectively.


Influencer marketing yields more engaged customers
Many businesses are realizing that influencer marketing delivers far more valuable customers than other tactics for one simple reason: word of mouth. There’s no clearer path to conversion than strong buzz, and influencers with loyal audiences have no problem creating generating meaningful buzz for products and brands they like. So not only does strong word of mouth lead to conversions, but consumers often times become brand advocates, sharing their positive experience across their own social media channels, feeding the cycle and increasing average order sizes.
These are a few of the reasons influencer marketing is primed to explode, and why all marketers need to make this a big part of their strategy in 2016. But one other crucial stat is this: 59% of marketers plan to up their influencer marketing budgets this year. Will your brand be left out in the cold?

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