How Instagram influencers drive 100x the engagement for brands


By   |   July 26th, 2017   |   Reading time: 6 minutes Brands, Digital Journalism, Editors pick

social media analytics, influencer marketing

With new regulations on Instagram influencers, how are paid posts faring? We take a look at the top influencers of July and their impact on brands.

Got milk? Who doesn’t remember the celebrity dairy ads of the 90s, or the changing athlete faces on cereal boxes? Today, these influencer marketing campaigns have become much more prevalent, niche, and accessible, due to social media.

On Instagram, this is especially true. In a recent survey, 91 percent of influencers cited Instagram as their platform of choice, due to its community and opportunities to connect with brands.

But Instagram influencer posts aren’t always easy to distinguish. There’s a variety of hashtags involved and only recent plans for standardization. At the end of June, Instagram announced a new native ad feature to indicate paid promotions.

Despite the new feature, posts with sponsored hashtags have driven more than 58.5 million likes and comments in July as of the 25th.

influencers sponsored hashtags instagram

Sponsored posts drive more than 19 million engagements weekly, according to our July data. So what can we learn from this and how can we kickstart our own influencer campaigns? We turned to our data to find out.

Using NewsWhip Analytics, we decided to dive into:

  • Who the top influencers are in general and across relevant categories
  • How much impact an influencer can have
  • How to research influencers for our own campaigns

With NewsWhip Analytics, we can analyze the multitude of hashtags that influencers are using at once. We can search across hashtags like #paid, #ad, #sponsored, #spon, #promoted, #ambassador, and other variations.

These were the top Instagram influencers of just the first three weeks of July.

instagram influencers top

These influencers didn’t have a large quantity of sponsored posts. Chiara Ferragni had 24 sponsored posts, but the rest had an average of three sponsored posts in July thus far.

Several of the top influencers were athletes and celebrities, but others were digital superstars, like Chiara Ferragni, Lele Pons, and Elliot Tebele.

Influencers are not only celebrities or social media superstars. We can also identify native advertising moments where publishers served as the influencer. National Geographic and others like Tastemade and the Knot all appeared in our data as influencers for brands this month.

How much of an impact can an influencer have on a brand?

We’ve previously looked at the impact of partnered posts on Facebook for brands. How big is the impact on Instagram?

To find out, we analyzed five brands’ average engagements per post in June, and measured up against the engagements of a recent influencer post for that brand.

influencers brands instagram

The difference is staggering. For JetBlue, a paid post from Victoria Justice drove 102 times the amount of average engagements that JetBlue had per post in June.

Even Urban Decay, which does quite well on its own, saw a noticeable difference in engagements from a sponsored Cats of Instagram post.

Small brands aren’t left out from the world of influencers either. We can see Postmates’ influencer post drove significantly more likes and comments than the brand’s average.

Find your own influencers

So how can we find the influencers that are most relevant to us? It’s doubtful that the majority of us have the budget to get a Kardashian flaunting our brands, and to be honest, it may not even be effective. Engagement rates can be as much as 60 percent higher if you go with a micro-influencer with a smaller but more loyal following.

It’s worth finding someone that really speaks to your brand’s values and overall story.

Using NewsWhip Analytics, we can look into a specific category to find relevant influencers. Let’s try our parenting category, as new millennial moms spend over eight hours online daily, looking for parenting advice.

instagram mommy parenting top social media monitoring

We can see that in a three-month period, these were the parenting Instagram handles creating the most buzz around their sponsored posts.

Beyond identifying the top influencers, we can also look at what products they’re likely to endorse, and the number of likes vs. comments they drive.

We can also identify sponsored posts that have a specific hashtag as well. Let’s look at all of our sponsored hashtags, in addition to #avocado. This could be relevant if we’re a food brand or just a brand catering to avocado-crazed Millennials.

hashtag avocado sponsored instagram influencers

Looking at just April through June, we can spot not only the top avocado sponsored posts, but what companies are in that space, like KitchenAid, Chobani, Almond Breeze, and others that are not necessarily related to avocados. We can see that recipe posts drive buzz, along with mouth-watering photos.

Find influencers through brands

We can also reverse engineer this. Instead, we can look at competitor brands or simply brands that would be complimentary to our own brand culture and target audience. Then we can analyze the top influencer posts and Instagram handles that are producing content.

Let’s say that we are launching a brand with a sophisticated and classy feel, targeted at women. We could look at a few brands like Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor to find the influencer campaigns they’re running on Instagram.

fashion brands influencer instagram

Clearly, Nordstrom has had the most engaging influencer campaigns in this three-month period, out of the five brands we looked at.

We can change our view to the content to see what influencers were used by these brands and what sort of visuals and captions were the most effective. Whimsical, aspirational, and elegant photos tended to do the best for these brands.

This was the top non-celebrity post out of the five brands we looked at. Visually appealing, the sponsorship is more of an afterthought in the caption. This tactic could change depending on our brand’s focus, so it’s key to keep an idea of the best practices.

Start experimenting, get influential

It’s clear from our data that influencers can have a significant impact on a brand’s reach. Not only are influencer audiences often bigger, but influencers already have the trust of their followers. Nielsen found that 92 percent of customers trust the recommendations of a stranger (aka influencers) over brands.

Influencers create an opportunity to reach new audiences through a positive moment, rather than an advertisement. Our data shows that for brands big and small, these campaigns make a difference.

How should you start? Take a look at the best influencer posts that get you interested in a brand.

Social data can provide clear signals into what’s working. Try NewsWhip Analytics for a look into the best practices across any vertical, keyword, or region.

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