June 11, 2019: Instagram rolls out branded content ads; Amazon launches StyleSnap; Snapchat brings native checkout to five Influencers; Netflix tests Stories-like feed in mobile app; Revolve files for IPO
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Branded Content Ads Have (Finally) Arrived On Instagram
Brands can now promote organic branded content posts from Creators as ads within the Instagram feed.
You have my attention.
“Sponsored” and “Paid partnership with …” text will appear on Branded Content ads when they run in Instagram’s feed, along with the brand name being part of each post, which Instagram called “an important piece for our continued investment in ads transparency.” All advertisers will gain access to the new Branded Content ads in the coming weeks and Instagram said the feature will extend to Stories in the coming months.
Couldn’t we already do this?
Not quite – at a private breakfast for major brands and Influencers in March, Instagram quietly announced that this feature was coming and, while the branded content ad units themselves existed for select Influencers and brands, the targeting was limited. In addition to the full rollout, the biggest change here is that brands can now amplify any “organic” Creator post (as defined by business accounts with 10k+ followers) that mentions or features the brand. Previously, the described positioning and use case was only for #sponsored content.
What’s Instagram saying?
“Branded content is an evolving ecosystem. As we’ve worked to build the right tools for both businesses and Creators involved in branded content deals, one of the biggest requests from brands to date is the ability to incorporate branded content posts into their advertising strategies.”
What are influencers saying?
“I don’t see too many brands asking me to use the partner tag and still prefer me to put #ad or #sponsored. Most brands have their partner tag closed so influencers cannot tag them without permission … Ideally, with this branded partnership tool on Instagram, brands should be able to go in and boost our branded posts but brands are having difficulty doing that on their end. I’ve heard feedback from brands and agencies that they are unable to or don’t know how to. I still have agencies and brands that will pay me to boost my own post and then reimburse me because they can’t do it on their end.” – Jane Ko, A Taste of Koko (@atasteofkoko).
As we said before – this. is. game-changing. According to an Ipsos survey commissioned by Facebook, 68 percent of people come to Instagram to interact with Creators. With this new ad option, brands will be better able to showcase influencer-generated content while also taking advantage of Facebook’s targeting capabilities to amplify posts and reach people beyond those who follow the accounts of the brand or the specific Creator. The update is a win-win for both Influencers and brands who both benefit from the expanded distribution and reach.
A notable change from the initial tease of this feature is the positioning of being able to amplify Influencers’ organic content, which could also impact the economics of being a Creator or Influencer on Instagram. If brands prefer to amplify organic Influencer posts (instead of/in addition to paid/sponsored posts), Influencers could be more incentivized to share the brands they organically love and use. However, since the actual ad unit is not a disclaimer (since it applies to organic and paid posts), it’s important for Influencers to continue to use FTC hashtags to ensure FTC compliance. In addition, the update also makes Influencers’ audiences less significant while giving the brand increasing control. This alone puts more emphasis on generating quality content and helps to downplay the rampant fraud issues the platform continues to struggle with moderating.
It’s also worth noting that, while there’s a possibility that brand-tagged sponsored posts will receive less visibility in the feed (and will, therefore, require paid amplification), it all depends on the sophistication of Instagram’s image recognition and/or NLP to identify organic Influencer posts that feature brands.
Amazon Tries to Find the Right Look with StyleSnap
Amazon has introduced “StyleSnap,” a feature on its app that allows users to upload a picture or screenshot of a look or style they like and get recommendations from similar items on the platform.
As seen in the image below, users can take a picture or upload an image, StyleSnap will use machine learning to “match the look in the photo” and find similar items for sale on Amazon.com. When providing recommendations, StyleSnap considers a variety of factors such as brand, price range, and customer reviews, the company said in a blog post.
This sounds familiar.
That’s because it is. StyleSnap is essentially an extension of the system Amazon already has in place on Snapchat, in which users can scan items through the Snapchat camera and get relevant Amazon product matches. Knowing what we know about Amazon, it’s likely that the original Snapchat integration was used as a test-and-learn opportunity to inform the creation and deployment of SnapStyle on Amazon.
It’s also no coincidence that StyleSnap is near identical to Pinterest’s Lens feature. With Pinterest filing for IPO just a few months ago, it’s likely that Amazon is looking to directly compete with Pinterest in its ability to take the customer more seamlessly from product discovery to purchase.
In its dominance as an e-commerce platform, Amazon knows what people buy; but it doesn’t yet know what consumers want – particularly as it starts to invest deeper in its fashion and retail experience. Where Amazon continues to have the upper hand may not be in user adoption of this specific feature (yet), but instead, its ability to go deeper in its experience in the discovery phase as it learns about the styles and higher-consideration retail items consumers search for via this feature.
Amazon isn’t exactly the most stylish destination to shop for clothes. Most of its Women’s Clothing best sellers are basics. However, recent moves would suggest that the e-commerce powerhouse is looking to establish a stronger digital footprint in the fashion sphere. Just a few weeks ago, Amazon announced the Drop, a series of limited-edition fashion collections designed in collaboration with Influencers. With this week’s launch of StyleSnap, it’s clear that Amazon is not only looking to become a more dominant player in the e-commerce fashion space but also sees Influencers as a vehicle to get there.
As its name would suggest, SnapStyle is Snapchat technology repurposed for Amazon’s customer experience; helping to make it one part Pinterest, one part YouTube/Snapchat in the way that it’s leveraging visual recognition to make its products discoverable. As well, making it easy for Influencers to get paid based on the purchases they inspire. Also, where Amazon Spark was lackluster, the adoption of this feature in-app as a social/search platform makes it a competitor here to social-search platforms like Pinterest.
It’s also worth noting that customer reviews are a significant factor here in product rankings and recommendations. If you are a fashion brand (or not), as part of your Amazon strategy, it becomes even more important to ask Influencers who have just created content on your behalf to submit an additional review – not only on your brand.com but also on Amazon – so that your brand has more visibility, reach and exposure with this new feature.
Snap, Crackle, Shop
Snapchat is continuing its ecommerce push by bringing native checkout to five Influencers on the app.
Any more details?
Last week, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West, Shay Mitchell, Spencer Pratt and Bhad Bhabie received a shop button on their profiles that let users buy items from their respective brands (Kylie Cosmetics, KKW Beauty, Béis, Pratt Daddy Crystals and BHADgoods).
The in-app commerce feature is powered by Shopify and is the same technology that was previously used by SeatGeek to sell tickets to live events on Snapchat. Currently, Influencers keep all revenue on sales and merchants receive no customer data unless someone follows through with a purchase.
This update comes as Snapchat looks to keep its users engaged on the app and appease Creators by offering them more ways to generate revenue from the platform. Where other social media platforms have often shared ad revenue as a way to satisfy their Creator communities (i.e., YouTube), Snapchat has often used native commerce. Given Amazon’s stake in Snapchat, it’s also interesting to consider how much Amazon is influencing this strategy – if at all.
For Your Coworker Who Won’t Stop Quoting Michael Scott
Netflix is testing a feed in its mobile app that brings together movie trailers, photos, and alerts for upcoming shows in a format that resembles the Stories features in Instagram and Snapchat.
The feed, called “Extras,” is geared towards helping users find something to watch while staying connected with favorite shows. Its videos play automatically without sound, which can be turned on with a screen tap, and users can horizontally scroll through images that aren’t available elsewhere in the app.
As the lines between OTT and social continue to blur – largely due to TVs becoming more algorithmically smarter and more connected – TV will continue to become more feed-like. For Netflix, the move towards shareable, short-form content is a natural progression following its integration with Instagram in January that let viewers share a photo of a show/movie directly to Instagram Stories and link directly back to the Netflix app to watch.
Inside Revolve’s Influencer-Powered IPO
Retailer Revolve has raised $212 million in its initial public offering last Friday, hitting the market at a $1.2 billion valuation. Revolve reported a net income of $31 million in 2018, largely in part due to its network of 3,500 Influencers.
I want details.
It’s safe to say Revolve’s sophisticated influencer marketing strategy has been one of the biggest contributing factors to its success. In its S1 filing, the word “influencer” was mentioned 79 times, which makes sense given its influencer marketing strategy is responsible for driving nearly 70 percent of the company’s overall sales.
Championed by chief brand officer Raissa Gerona, the retailer began working with fashion bloggers in 2009 (before Instagram even launched) and hired its first influencer relations team in 2014 who have been largely responsible for transforming an annual investment of $18.5 million into hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of earned media.
Revolve is one example of a brand who emphasizes the quality of its influencer experience above for driving for brand and customer growth. From Revolve’s VIP festival at Coachella (that is often viewed by Influencers as a bigger event than Coachella itself), exotic trips in the Bahamas and even smaller scale actions, like engaging with its Influencers on social media, Revolve’s approach to influencer relations is an always-on strategy. As Justin Blaney, a professor at the University of Washington stated, “Revolve has made Influencers feel amazing. At all these events they do, they just shower them with attention, products and money.”