Influencer marketing has seen rapid growth over the last 18 months and looks set to continue throughout 2018. According to research by Klear, influencer posts on Instagram almost doubled between 2016 and 2017. The latest figures show that there were 1.5 million influencer posts on the platform, generating an incredible 1 billion likes.

What’s Driving the Growth of Influencer Marketing?

In a word, Instagram. According to Sprout Social, almost 80% of influencers prefer Instagram for brand collaborations over any other channel. That puts it a huge 64% ahead of the second preferred platform which is blogging. The addition of features like Instagram Stories and Live Video has enabled it to muscle out competition from Snapchat and Periscope whilst increasing interactivity and engagement.

However, it’s not just influencers who prefer Instagram. Another key reason it’s so popular is that businesses are seeing meaningful results to their bottom line. The same Sprout Social research shows that at least 30% of Instagram users have purchased a product that they first discovered on the platform. Businesses are seizing the opportunity, with an estimated 71% of US companies now using Instagram (up from 48% in 2016).

Targeting the Millennial Consumer

According to the Klear research, almost 75% of Instagram influencers are aged between 18 and 34. This puts them firmly in the Millennial generation with audiences of a similar age. Almost 60% of 18-29-year olds use Instagram, with a further 33% aged 30-49. For businesses targeting consumers outside of the US, it’s interesting to note that 80% of Instagram users are international.

In gender terms, women are leading the influencer marketing game – approximately 84% of Instagram influencers are female. Of all the sponsored posts on Instagram, a quarter relate to fashion and accessory brands. Beauty and cosmetics came in second place.

Big Opportunities for Small Businesses

It’s not just the big brands who are benefiting from Instagram. Influencer marketing offers potentially huge opportunities for small businesses too. Setting up a profile is quick and easy, with minimal social media expertise required. Location tags make it easy to target posts towards local consumers and develop a genuine community.

Partnering with influencers provides a cost-effective channel for extending the reach of a business. By carefully selecting an influencer whose audience matches your target, you can generate serious returns on a small budget. Nielsen recently found that influencer marketing delivers 11x higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.

The Rise of Micro-Influencers

Despite being relatively new, influencer marketing has evolved at a rapid pace. In the past, brands were only keen to partner with influencers like celebrities who had huge followings. But it’s increasingly recognized that micro-influencers with smaller followings can deliver just as good of a return. In fact, their communities often have higher levels of engagement and rates of purchase because they have closer relationships.

For a small business with a niche focus, it makes sense to partner with a like-minded influencer. Their audience will be more closely aligned to the businesses needs and more likely to take action on their recommendations. Micro-influencers are often perceived as more authentic and can drive greater returns for small businesses. The key to success is identifying an influencer who is well-matched to your products and setting clear objectives from the start of the campaign. This way you’ll get the most bang for your buck when generating increased sales and brand awareness.

Do you have questions about Instagram influencer marketing? Our digital team are specialists in all aspects of social media and always stay ahead of changing online trends. They can advise you on the best approach for your website, whether you’re a small business or large enterprise. Learn more about our services here.