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Instagram Subscriptions: The Future of Content Monetisation?

With a massive 2.9 billion visits a month, Instagram is the second biggest social media platform after Facebook. Pair this with the high impact video/image-first nature of the platform and it is perhaps no surprise that so many influencers see Instagram as their social media platform of choice.

Brands also see huge potential in Instagram, with many of them using the platform as a major part of their marketing strategies - often working with influencers to leverage high levels of trust and increase their reach.

To date, the influencer economy has been funded primarily from brand marketing budgets. This has created several issues when it comes to authenticity and trust, arguably diluting the major selling point of working with influencers.

In this article, we take a look at a new Instagram feature that is set to shake up how influencers monetise their content.

Content Monetisation to Date

So far influencers have been limited to how they can make money from the great content they create regularly. Typically, this has fallen into one of several categories:

  • Influencer Advertising/Marketing - being paid a flat fee by brands to try, talk about and/or post about their products and services

  • Affiliate Marketing - similar to influencer adverting/marketing, except influencers are paid a commission on each sale made via their content

  • Ecommerce - where influencers create their own online store selling products that they know/think their audience will like

  • Starting a D2C Brand - creating products that can be sold directly to the consumer (one recent success story of this type of monetisation saw fitness influencer Grace Beverly raise $5.7 million for her D2C fitness brand)

  • Selling the Rights to Use Their Photos & Videos - mostly for photographers and specialist content creators

Alternatively, some Instagram influencers will use the platform to promote their presence on other subscription-based platforms such as OnlyFans.

Instagram Subscriptions

Instagram is now testing a new way for creators to monetise content with a small group of influencers in the US. These individuals will be able to set up a pay-walled area on their Instagram account where fans can pay to access exclusive content such as stories and live streams.

Once the paywalled section of their account has been set up, these influencers can then charge their audience anything ranging from $0.99 to $99.99 per month for access. Users will be able to identify those taking part in the test due to a special purple barge that will be visible on their profile.

Although Instagram has promised that they won’t start monetising subscriptions until at least 2023, this is a big move by the Meta owned platform that is likely fueled by reports from other subscription-based platforms such as adult content focused OnlyFans that saw £1.7 billion worth of transactions in 2020.

The Impact on Influencer Marketing

Why is the potential of the wide rollout of subscription-based content such good news for influencers and the brands they work with?

Well, in many ways the influencer marketing economy is currently flawed. Brands work with influencers to leverage the trust they have built with their audience. However, for influencers to be fully funded and to continue putting out great content they need to work with multiple brands.

In turn, many influencers feel forced to collaborate more often than they would like and with brands who do not align fully with their values - this diminishes audiences trust in the influencers and results in poorer results for brands.

Offering a subscription-based option for influencers will allow them to monetise directly from their audience, offering them a way to step away from unnecessary brand collaborations. It will also allow the influencer to focus primarily on serving their audience as best as possible. No longer will the profit be aligned solely to appeasing brands. This move will create a positive loop where influencers can serve their audience via content, whilst the audience enables the influencer via subscription payments.

Unlike brand collaboration, which is often based on one-off payments or short term campaigns, the subscription-based model will offer influencers more predictability and stability in their income, allowing them to better plan their brand and content development over time.

Detachment from brand dependency also opens the door for some influencers who don't necessarily align with brands to generate income for better content creation such as influencers that focus on social causes and activism.

Instagram Subscriptions: Summary

Ultimately, the rollout of subscriptions will benefit everyone involved in influencer marketing. Brands will be able to work with influencers that command more trust from their audiences, influencers will be able to better focus on serving their audience and subscribers will be able to expect a better quality of content without awkward branded ads.

If approached correctly, this could be a significant move in minimising the negative impact of inauthentic, large scale influencer adverting and help promote more healthy relationships between brands, influencers and their audiences.

Even though Instagram are in the early stages of testing the subscription service if successful it is likely to generate a considerable new income stream for the platform, likely leading to other social platforms following suit.

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