December 19, 2018: Instagram tests Creator Accounts and introduces insights for product bookmarks; Pinterest announces its top 100 emerging trends of 2019; Facebook Watch expands ad breaks for Creator monetization; Amazon cleans up its CRaP.
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
All I Want for Christmas is Creator Account Access
Instagram is testing a “Creator Account” concept with a select group of high-profile Insta-influencers. The account offers new, creator-specific capabilities that range from growth insights to tools to manage all those DMs.
It’s about time. Tell me about it.
The Creator Account changes would apply across the Insta-universe–Feed, Stories, and IGTV–giving designated celebs, digital influencers, and artists access to:
- Growth and content insights, such as daily and weekly data on follow and unfollow rates;
- Direct messaging tools, such as filtering for brand partners and prioritization flags; and
- Flexible contact and category labels that allow influencers to dictate how they want to be contacted.
As Melissa Johnson, @BestFriendsforFrosting shared, “As a creator, I often feel the Business account is missing something. I feel that Creators and Business function so differently in the space. It would be great to see a visual difference when recognizing an account.”
Insta is officially an influencer stan. The new platform arms race between the big four isn’t for more advertisers, but for more creators. Whether this is the impact of Facebook’s “community values” influence or not, Instagram is actually behind Snapchat, Amazon, YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook in its development of creator-first experience design.
Per Instagram’s own Ashley Yuki: “We want to make sure Instagram is the best place, and the easiest place, to build fan communities and also build [creators’] personal brands … [the idea] was to create this space where we can now start to specialize the experience for the needs of creators.”
Sound familiar? Insta’s move in this direction highlights and validates one of the major trends of 2019: influencer experience design. For social platforms and brands alike, it’s not enough to simply design for the feed (lest you want a bunch of Insta repeats); influencers want the shot and the story that’s not available to the average user – and expect the tools and experiences to deliver it. This includes early access to new features before they go to market to incorporate their POVs and feedback, and get those exclusive takes.
Not Unrelated: The Real Purpose of Insta-Bookmarks
Last month, Instagram rolled out the ability to let users bookmark products, which were automatically saved to a “Shopping” collection. Now, it’s planning to release an insights tool that will show brands which products users are saving. From the ‘Gram direct: “We’re trying to build for people a personalized mall within Instagram,” said Layla Amjadi, an Instagram product manager.
And they say malls are dead.
As it stands, brands can’t track to that level of product engagement, which could better inform future influencer marketing and ad campaigns, as well as which products need a prioritized ratings and reviews strategy (the connected shopping experience is real – if you’re doing influencer content, you need customer reviews). With Facebook’s increasing influence and competition from Pinterest, it’s not wrong to expect that brands will be able to retarget ads based on product saves as an extension of their shopping features, and eventually, serve up more content based on the preferences and recommendations of people in users’ social graphs.
According to Instagram, 90 million of its one billion users are now tapping on tagged products on a monthly basis. It gets really interesting when considering the ability to retarget consumers based on bookmarked influencer content, and as well, if future posts featuring bookmarked content will be positioned higher in users’ feeds to solve the “reconsideration problem.” TBD on whether users’ collections of saved posts and products will eventually have the option to be made publicly available for users to follow and engage with (similar to hashtags and Story highlights).
For the moment, this all remains largely theoretical (aside from that bit about product reviews), but the evolution of Instagram as a long-tail influence strategy and connected shopping experience is something we’re excited for in 2019. What are we not excited for? New reports of Insta’s involvement in “Memetic Warfare” (yep, that’s a thing).
The Pinterest 100
By the numbers.
More than 175 billion ideas have been saved to some three billion boards, and an idea has to have an upward search trajectory for 6+ months to be considered a trend. Some insight highlights? People are getting their Game of Thrones fix by visiting abandoned castles in the offseason (+142%); elderberries are the new acai berries (+685%); everyone wants a side hustle (+690%); and bike shorts are having a moment (+1323%).
It’s safe to assume that any trend was first inspired by an influencer or creator(s) at least six months prior to it reaching peak search. Which is why we asked Pinterest influencer Chrissy Carroll (Snacking In Sneakers, 1.7M monthly views) for her take on how brands and influencers can leverage future campaigns to drive demand.
“Influencers can pitch these trends for sponsored partnerships, helping the brand solidify new content ideas that are likely to get more Pinterest impressions and click-throughs,” said Chrissy. “And since Pins can last months before they peak, that ROI lasts considerably longer than social shares on other platforms. A quick example from the fitness industry: searches for band workouts are up almost 2000%. While this is a clear slam-dunk for a resistance band manufacturer, it can naturally fit into other fitness brand content too. It’s easy to weave in new kicks or attire in a blog post and Pin with a band workout, highlighting their comfort and function while exercising, while simultaneously providing an evergreen workout that has a high potential for a lot of Pinterest shares. These are the kinds of creative ideas influencers can bring to the table during the planning process.”
Facebook Watch’s Bid for Creators
Since its worldwide debut, Facebook Watch is now commanding the attention of 75M people daily who spend 20 minutes or more on the platform (that number jumps to 400M if you count people who spend at least one minute on the platform daily, but because Watch is FB’s long-form content bet, we don’t). It’s hopeful in its efforts to gain some ground through social viewing experiences – there have been more than 12M Watch Parties in Groups, which command 8x more comments than regular videos.
Among the updates to come: darker backgrounds for mobile viewing (very YT), unifying the video experience across the FB universe (Watch, Pages, Search, and News Feed), and more opportunities for creators to make money. Ad Breaks are available to eligible Pages in 40+ countries, with tests for new placements ongoing and its fan subscriptions test expanding. FB is also taking a page out of Amazon’s playbook and seeking to expand its licensing and partnership deals with cable networks and showrunners alike to draw more users.
Creators’ biggest criticism of the Watch platform is that it’s a tough ROI. Facebook says it’s committed to “enhancing tools to enable publishers and creators to generate meaningful revenue from their engaged, loyal audiences,” but will it be too little, too late? Watch remains a test-and-learn opportunity for brands willing to pick up the sponsorship tab to fund creators’ series pitches – because you know they’re not seeing the ad revenue (yet). The value in Facebook Groups, though, remains the biggest opportunity for brands to engage consumers in 2019 (ongoing revelations of consumer data and privacy breaches notwithstanding: here, here).
Amazon Wants None of Your CRaP
Amazon is rethinking its sales strategy for items like bottled water, soda, and snack foods, which it says “Can’t Realize a Profit” or CRaP by threatening to remove them. It’s a major power move and a potentially massive blow for CPG brands active on the platform.
Which brands are affected?
Items sold for less than $15 and that are a PITA to ship have significantly lower profit margins and therefore are either being axed entirely or, if you’re Coca-Cola, are footing the bill. Amazon worked out a deal where Coca-cola packages are shipped directly from Coca-Cola rather than from an Amazon fulfillment center.
Amazon is expected to account for almost half of the US e-commerce market this year. For legacy brands with the capital to pick up the slack, it’s complicated, but at least they get to keep their centers in business. For the newer, challenger brands that haven’t had to play superstore politics or are using Amazon for proof of concept or demand, getting booted from the platform is certain death. This is also not surprising as Amazon continues to invest in its own private-label CPG brands, which could easily gain that market share from customers accustomed to ordering everything on Prime. Amazon’s continuing dominance further emphasizes the need for an Amazon-centric influencer marketing strategy (see above: importance of influencer experience design and connected shopping).