Written by Jana Matulovic
Are you trying to figure out why your fellow friends on Instagram are making the big bucks by simply promoting different kinds of products of a brand on their profile? Are you wondering how you can end up in the same situation? This blogpost will answer a great deal of your questions regarding why companies can end up contacting you on Instagram so that you can promote their products and hence, their brand.
In general, the Internet allows for different kinds of sharing (Belk, 2014). Having said that, Instagram has been around for more than 6 years (Instagram, 2016a) and according to them, Instagram is also an application that is supposed to be used in order for you to share your life (Instagram, 2016b). Furthermore, the pictures that we all post are initially there to link us together around the globe (Instagram, 2016b). Even though I agree with the second part; I have to stress that Instagram nowadays is transforming into a world where you do not only promote yourself but also promote a brand and its’ products which has become anything but rare.
It goes without saying that if a brand is going to use you as a tool for their strategies to promote online, a few factors such as your following have to be considered. On Instagram you can see that many popular individuals that are making deals with a brand in order to promote their products, have a large number of followers in order for the message to be spread to as many people as possible.
Let us look into an example of an individual on Instagram who is spreading awareness or there to promote a product and hence the brand in one of her posts. In the left picture below you will find this individual on Instagram with a following of 1.5 million, who posted a picture in order to promote a teeth whitening product and brand. Her caption under the picture is “Sorry not sorry for my cheesy smile. You can blame @brighterwhite [...] “. This indicates that the steps she is taking to promote this does not occur directly but rather indirectly. This post on Instagram obtained 46,700 likes and 364 comments, from which one can take that many followers have been affected by this promotion. On the other hand, on the right picture below you will see the brand
“brighterwhite” and you can tell that they do not have as many followers as the instagramer. In fact, they have a following of 488,000 compared to 1.5 million. You can find the instagramer under this link:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BD1rvQzN0lI/?taken-by=gabbyepstein and the brand “brighterwhite” on Instagram under this one:
Keep in mind that this is just an example of how one can bring awareness or promote a brand; there are other ways one can go about this. Having considered this; let’s dig deeper into the reasons why companies would want you to promote them on Instagram.
Reason #1: Narcissism of Instagram Users to Promote
If you are an Instagram user you will be aware of the fact that you use it in order to present or promote yourself online (Moon et al., 2016). In a recent study, it has been made clear that narcissistic people are more interested in self representing themselves and thus post more selfies as well as spend more time on this type of platform (Moon et al., 2016).
This could in fact lure a brand into collaborating with you as they will understand that you are firstly, very active on Instagram (post on the regular) and thus that there will be a higher chance that you will promote their product by combining it with a picture of yourself. In addition to this, the post that incorporates the brand might distract the followers of the fact that you were sponsored to feature the product or brand in the first place, since they are following you and might trust you enough to think that you are genuine. Furthermore, even if followers do understand that the Instagram post was influenced by a deal to promote an item, they might not even care about it as much. This could be due to the fact that the reason they follow you is that you are their ideal and they like your self representation. Because, if you think about it each time an an individual on Instagram posts a picture it gives us, the followers, a piece of entertainment.
Imagine you are following your favorite fitness guru on Instagram and they are giving you great workout tips throughout the week; do you really care if they try to promote and sell you a product every once in a while? For this reason, a brand can take great advantage of “narcissistic” instagramers and their followers that put them on a pedestal.
Reason #2. Story-telling to Promote
Furthermore, an important aspect about what a company and brand seek are stories. These stories are useful tools for marketers as they can help consumers create a bond with a company. In addition to this, they construct, amongst others, meaning to a specific brand. Storytelling has changed over the years with the rise of social media (Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012) and due to this, there is a need for companies to integrate you within the story (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009 in Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012). Within the phenomenon of social media there are both a listener and narrator, however these roles are sometimes taken up by different people (Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012). You
are probably asking yourself now what this has to do with you or your ideals on Instagram? Well, it is not hard to see that a brand on Instagram wants to sneak themselves into your life when they do these deals to promote their product. They want to become a part of your everyday life and want to get a hold of your emotions. What is better for a brand than building a relationship with their collaborators by undergoing deals to promote them and at the same time building relationships with their followers; just because the brand has been associated with the specific individual on Instagram.
In order to succeed with this and signal that you are a useful individual that a brand can incorporate within their stories, you need to give them a unique yet popular platform that fits into what type of products you are trying to promote for the specific brand. You should also be caring about your followers on Instagram and have already built trust and “friendships” with them.
Reason #3. Need to Keep in Mind Power Relations to Promote
Before the rise of Web 2.0, brands were fixated on the one-way communication aspects of marketing but they had to change their way of thinking and incorporate consumers into the mix (Hoffman & Novak, 1996 in Christodoulides, 2009). This suggests that there has been a power shift from companies to consumers and thus you need to make sure the consumers are there to promote your brand for you.
According to Christodoulides (2009), in classical marketing times, the managers would brag about their brand and make sure that only positive messages were to reach the potential customers in order to promote themselves. Furthermore, companies made sure to cover up negative aspects that were associated with their brand (Christodoulides, 2009). However, nowadays, since consumers have gained power and brands have lost it, how do they deal with keeping an aspired image in consumers’ eyes and promote their product?
Well, let us look at the Instagram platform in order to gain a deeper understanding and insights of how this can work. A company could contact you in order to either cover up the “bad messages” associated with their brand that you put out or to enhance the “good messages” to promote it. If individuals on Instagram, meaning you, post a bad review about a product and many people see this, a company needs to take action.
They could do this by maybe offering you a deal to promote them on Instagram, which means that even if you honestly do not like the brands’ products or what they stand for, you will gain something in return. However, let us say you post something on Instagram of high value for the brand and they see that you mention and promote them even without getting something in return. This would be a signal for a brand to take action to not lose an incredible loyal customer and therefore also might contact you in order for you to get rewarded and promote them again.
Reason #4 Listening On Instagram to Promote
Going hand in hand with reason #3, listening to not only your customers but also consumers could be an important aspect to undergo. According to Smith (2009), brands are not the only ones controlling what kind of image they put out, but it is being dominated by people on social media (like Instagram) that act as a publisher, reviewer and commentator. This suggests that a brand needs to focus on listening to what consumers think if they want to promote themselves, rather than trying to force their ideal brand image onto individuals (Smith, 2009). Smith (2009) also suggests that research on its own turns into marketing. But why does this apply for a reason to contact you on Instagram?
Well, let me put it this way, let’s say you collaborate with a brand that is not doing so well for itself at the moment and you promote them in one of your Instagram pictures. This would lead to the brand looking at what different types of people are commenting and hence start listening to, not only what their customers want, but in general what consumers want. Furthermore, this will allow for the gathering of an immense amount of data about e.g. who their customer group is and what the opinions are about the product or brand. In addition to this, you, the one who might be sponsored by this company, should use a hashtag featured within the Instagram post, so that the company can find out how the product has spread through the use of this hashtag.
Now you know some reasons for why companies might contact you on Instagram in the near future in order to promote their brand. Thus, you might want to take these aspects into consideration the next time you post something. Think about the fact that companies understand that they are not always invited into the world of social media (Fournier & Avery, 2011), which basically suggests that they need you more than you need them.
Belk, R., 2014. You are what you can access: Sharing and collaborative consumption online. Journal of Business Research, 67, pp. 1595-1600
Christodoulides, G., 2009. Branding in the post-internet era. Marketing Theory, 9(1), pp. 141-144
Fournier, S. and Avery, J., 2011. The uninvited brand. Business Horizons, 54, pp. 193-207
Instagram, 2016a. Press News. [online] Available at: <https://www.instagram.com/press/> [Accessed 24 November 2016]
Instagram, 2016b. FAQ. [online] Available at: <https://www.instagram.com/about/faq/> [Accessed 24 November 2016]
Moon, J.H., Lee, E., Lee, J.A., Choi, T.R. and Sung, Y., 2016. The role of narcissism in self-promotion on Instagram. Personality and Individual Differences, 101, pp. 22-25
Singh, S. and Sonnenburg, S., 2012. Brand Performances in Social Media. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26, pp. 189-197
Smith, T., 2009. The social media revolution. International Journal of Market Research, 51(4), pp. 559-561