Is Instagram Turning Influencers Into Affiliates?

Be careful what you wish for. That could well be a message for influencer marketing as Instagram puts its appeal to the test with in-app shopping buttons.

Obviously, until now, people who have been enthused enough to buy what an athlete has on their feet have had to go off the platform to place an order. Now, however, with the launch of in-app purchases through 23 launch brands including Adidas, Dior and Burberry, there is the acid test right there in front of a viewer.

Poor click-throughs on ad or an influencer's links cannot be blamed on people not wanting to leave their Instagram experience. The classic excuse that it's all about branding and someone will buy an item they have previously liked when the time is right will be a little less hard to trot out if there is a button right in front of them to convert on the spot. 

Now, let's not suggest there isn't an element of truth in the branding argument. Of course people who see Burberry coats on beautiful models are going to have them high up on their wish list. Not all advertising is about an instant sale -- a lot is about the classic path of awareness and consideration before a purchase is made. 

However, once you have the opportunity to try direct sales without the excuse that it wasn't clicked on because people wanted to carry on enjoying their Instagram experience, then you really do begin to have a very real and direct measure of how effective a post has been in driving sales, rather than just likes.

The same goes for influencers. If digital marketers are completely honest, most would probably admit that the first thing they look at in measuring the success of getting someone to say something nice about their product is how many likes or shares and comments it receives.

The temptation is to equate these to sales further down the line, but now marketers will be able to tell how many likes turned into instant sales. 

This may be taking it too far, but it's worth wondering: will influencer marketing shift from being about branding and association to being more like affiliate marketing?

With order-placing possible within the app, it will be a lot easier to start remunerating influencers via direct sales rather than on a blanket fee for a campaign. 

The in-app ordering is currently only available in the US to beta trial users but Instagram has revealed the intention is to roll it out and see it placed within imagery uploaded by both brands and their influencers. 

It's going to be a fascinating one to watch as the CFO might just finally get an answer to the question of "so, we got 1,000 likes but how much product did we actually shift?"

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