The secrets behind the Instagram #Ad

The truth behind blogger marketing...

instagram ad
(Image credit: Rex)

The truth behind blogger marketing...

Words by Callie Robertson, Head of Fashion Campaigns, The Goat Agency @CallieKazumi

The power in marketing used to sit with celebrities, but a hybrid has been born - social media influencers. They aren’t celeb-status stars, they’re normal girls who document what they do on social media and have amassed a fanbase off the back of this. I guess dodgy snaps of my morning coffee isn’t quite cutting it...

The ability social media recommendations have to sell a product is rocketing - the proof is in the people still tweeting Fyre Festival for their refunds (awks). But how much work really goes into these #AD posts, and are they worth it?

I underestimated the value of influencers, particularly micro-influencers (10k followers or less), before I started working at The Goat Agency and realised their true value to brands. These girls are worth big money - and they know it. MuseFind found 92% of consumers will trust an influencer recommendation over a traditional advertisement, and this means all it takes is the casual mention of a product from an influencer with a high following to see sales soar. It’s not always authentic though, and there’s a lot of things brands need to watch out for to avoid wasting time on an instagrammer who won’t get them the results they’re after.

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The first thing to know is that some girls pay for their followers. This is done using ‘bots’ or fake international accounts, and brands need to be able to pick out the authentic from the wannabes in order to get the results they want.

Liv Blankson (@LivBlankson), a fashion influencer from London, explains to us, ‘I think it's a major shame that the blogging industry has come to this to be honest. This community isn't all about numbers, so to see people come into it and almost 'cheat' their way to the top is a sad thing. When you have a true passion, skill and work hard for something, that's what will shine through and we need to educate those buying followers on what this is all about and why it began.’

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And that passion, skill and hard work Liv talks about means you can’t assume free product is payment for them - these girls are business women and are reaping the rewards of having influential power over their followers. They are paid up to five figure sums... for a single post. Brands provide them with the assets they need to create the content, but it’s the time and expertise used to create the content alongside their followers that they’re really paying for. It may be cheaper than putting out a TV ad, but it’s definitely not free and a lot of them know how to negotiate their worth.

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Most bloggers will only work with brands they genuinely like or would support, because they know that if they’re disloyal to their followers they’ll lose fans quickly. But the truth is, once they have signed the contract to work with a brand (yep, a real, binding, contract), a lot of what goes on behind the hashtag isn’t much to do with the blogger. Some brands will send them a product to photograph, write the captions word-for-word and then the influencer just hits that Publish button and watches their bank balance grow. At Goat we like to keep things natural in order to avoid looking too advertorial, but even if it blends in seamlessly, the #ad #sp will still give the game away… they’ve been paid to post this.

The #Ad game is strong in the bloggersphere, but celebrities have come under fire for not using #Ad, so the lines blur for their followers on what is authentic and what’s promotional. Would their followers still go out to buy that top if they knew the blogger was paid to say it was amazing? Who knows.

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The reality is that instagrammers have gone from being content creators to business women making a brand name out of themselves. The evidence is in the influencer marketing job roles that never used to exist. All we need to do is look at how fast Zoe Sugg’s (@Zoella) products have sold out in bookstores and Superdrugs across the country, purely because it has her ‘Zoella’ namesake stapled all over it.

Bottom line? Don’t hate - congratulate.

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.