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Top 5 Instagram Marketing Trends for 2019

April, 2019

Wondering what the big Instagram marketing trends for 2019 will be?

From Instagram Stories stickers to “nano-influencers,” these predictions will help you know what to focus on in 2019, where the industry is headed, and how you can improve your Instagram skills for the year ahead:

#1: Instagram Engagement Moves from Likes to Stickers

There’s one thing every business on Instagram has in common: the desire to increase Instagram engagement.

The combination of Instagram users following more accounts, watching more stories, and the Instagram algorithm prioritizing personal content has meant that regular Instagram feed posts simply aren’t getting seen as much as they used to.

And when you get less impressions on your posts, you’re likely to see a decrease in engagement too. Engagement on Instagram feed posts has been steadily declining for a couple years now, and in 2019 it’s time to change your definition of “Instagram engagement” and focus on engaging with your followers through Instagram Stories instead of just your regular feed posts.

Instagram Stories has exploded in the last couple years, with over 400 million people watching stories every single day. Here at Later, we actually treat Instagram Stories as its own social channel, tracking traffic from stories separately from traffic generated through the link in our Instagram bio.

Just like you have a content calendar for your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook channels, in 2019 you’ll want to be doing the same with Instagram Stories.

So when it comes to increasing Instagram engagement, instead of focusing solely on how to get more likes on your feed posts, it’s time to turn to Instagram Stories stickers.

Instagram Stories stickers provide a free, easy, and fun way to engage with your followers and get them invested in your brand, content, and products.

In 2019, expect Instagram to come out with more widget stickers like the Countdown, Questions, or Polls stickers to help brands engage with their followers through stories instead of feed posts.

The new “Countdown” sticker for Instagram Stories is already proving to be a popular way for brands to pique the interest of their followers, and notify them of events or when new products are dropping.

I’m also predicting that the success of stickers on Instagram Stories will result in stickers coming to Instagram Stories ads, too. Now is a great time to be testing Instagram Stories ads while it’s still relatively new (and cheap), because this ad platform is set to explode in 2019.

We might even see branded Instagram Stories stickers too, similar to how brands can create their own branded face filters for Instagram Stories.

Until then, you can always create your own branded Instagram Stories GIFs! Here are three ways to use branded GIFs on Instagram Stories in 2019:

Create stickers that match your brand to use in your own Instagram Stories. For Later’s Instagram Stories, we’ve created call-to-action GIF stickers in our brand colors to encourage people to “swipe up,” and these stickers also help make our stories look perfectly on brand (you can find them by searching for “Latergif”)

Create brand stickers for your fans to use in their Instagram Stories. 2018 was the summer of the Aperol Spritz, and it seemed like you couldn’t open Instagram this summer without seeing someone posting the iconic orange cocktail. Aperol lovers everywhere could easily decorate their stories with cute branded gifs by searching “Aperol,” spreading brand awareness to all of their followers too!

Gift your followers with cute industry related stickers. The luggage brand @Calpak has created adorable travel related stickers, no brand name required. With sayings like “catch flights, not feelings” or “bon voyage,” they are providing a fun way for both their followers and Instagram users at large to engage with their brand through Instagram Stories.

Whether you’re posting a poll or answering fan questions, 2019 will be a big year for Instagram Stories stickers as they have proven to be a really fun, creative, and personal way for brands to interact and engage with their customers!

#2: Influencers Get More Authentic

Expect “authenticity” to become a big Instagram marketing “trend” in 2019. The days of perfectly posed Instagram posts, overly edited photos, and Instagram bot comments are over, making way for more genuine experiences and authentic relationships.

2018 saw the rise of a new breed of Instagram influencers focused on authenticity, like the body positive Jenna Kutcher who gained over half a million followers in one year, growing from 166k to 700k+ without ever paying for a single follower.

Kutcher’s authentic approach to Instagram marketing includes sharing her fertility struggles, personal finance figures, and yes, even posting photos of herself in her underwear (she recently became an Aerie model, after all!).

The influencer marketing industry has exploded thanks to Instagram, and global ad spend on influencers is expected to reach $5-10 billion by 2020.

Last year, we saw fashion and beauty brands like Revolve, Benefit Cosmetics, and Chloe invest heavily in influencers by taking them on glamourous vacations, all in the name of selling product.

And while brands are excited about influencer marketing, regular Instagram users are starting to see through the perfect Instagram aesthetic and #sponsored posts.

In order to keep their followers and their brand deals, expect Instagram influencers to get more personal and authentic in 2019. This includes talking about sponsored content, and I’ve even seen influencers go as far as thanking their followers for supporting their sponsored posts, and explaining how much of their income comes from sponsored Instagram posts.

A great example of increasing transparency and authenticity on Instagram comes from influencer Dave Coast, who has started to share his empty bottles to prove that he really does use (and re-buy) the products that he’s promoting on Instagram. This simple gesture can speak volumes on stories of making the influencer more trustworthy and authentic, which in turn is more valuable for brands.

For a recent campaign, Olay encouraged influencers to actually purchase their product and share their “honest reviews” after trying their moisturizer for 28 days. Many influencers showed themselves actually buying the product in Target, and while I don’t think any influencer would actually say something negative about a brand who is paying them, it is a step in the right direction.

If you plan on working with Instagram influencers in 2019, lean in to authenticity.

One of the best ways to create authentic branded partnerships is to think long term. Instead of working with influencers to do one post about your product or campaign, create longer term relationships and brand deals.

Start to think of influencers you work with as brand ambassadors, and create longer, year-long contracts that feature 1 post/quarter and a couple stories mentions per month, etc.

Pampers Pure is an excellent example of this, and many “mommy influencers” post regularly about various Pampers Pure products, to the point where it feels like organic content in the form of advice from a friend, instead of a branded ad.

Aligning your brand with influencers who truly love your product and are excited to share with their followers is an ideal way to build an authentic relationship on Instagram.

Having an influencer post consistently about your brand over a long period of time not only increases brand recall, but it helps their followers start to affiliate your brand with that influencer, which can result in better engagement and results.

As a personal example, my travel Instagram @localwanderer has been working with the footwear brand Sorel for nearly 5 years! Our followers have grown to love the brand as much as we have, and they know to expect seasonal Sorel content from us.

Last summer, we went on a sponsored trip to Greece, and while all the #sponsored posts may have been off putting for a brand we hadn’t worked with before, because our followers knew we genuinely love and use Sorel products, they were excited that we had the opportunity, and our most engaging posts of the year were actually #sponsored posts with Sorel.

#3: It’s All About Micro Influencers (and Micro Brands)

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to Instagram marketing, a reality that many popular influencers face now that brands are preferring to work with micro-influencers (accounts that have less than 100,000 followers).

Nowadays, it seems like everyone (including kids) wants to be an influencer, and in 2019 you might get your chance. “Nano-influencers” are on the rise, as brands are choosing to work with average users, with as little as 1000 followers, on sponsored posts and brand campaigns.

I’ve experienced this first hand on my personal Instagram account @taylor.loren, which has about 7500 followers. Recently, a brand offered to pay me $100 for 3 posts on my Instagram Stories over 30 days.

I’m pretty active on my Instagram Stories, so if I was to recommend a product, it would likely come across more like a trusted recommendation from a friend, instead of a celebrity endorsement or #ad.

I ended up declining the offer, but these sorts of nano-influencer campaigns and micro-influencer marketing are set to take off in 2019 as brands capitalize on authenticity…and the algorithm.

Working with smaller accounts is not only cheaper, it can also be more effective.

Two separate studies by HelloSociety and Markerly discovered that influencers with a smaller following have a much higher engagement rate than top-tier influencers, and both studies noticed a drop in engagement rate as the audience size increases.

But in 2019, it’s not just influencers that are benefitting from smaller, highly engaged audiences: micro brands are on the rise, too.

So what makes a micro brand different from a small business? Not much, but there’s nothing “small” about them – micro brands on Instagram are competing with big retailers, and are able to generate millions of dollars in revenue with tiny teams through the power of high design and low customer acquisition cost using social media.

“Social networks that are truly social (as opposed to news oriented) and enable lifestyle discovery are perfect for this world, and nobody does this better than Instagram,” writes Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer at Adobe.

Thanks to the hyper-targeting abilities of Instagram ads, micro brands are able to design and sell products created for a very specific customer, who they can then target on Instagram.

Big brands are starting to take notice of their smaller competitors, and responding by creating their own in-house micro brands. Take the retailer Aritzia for example: while they mainly sell in-house designs, they have created and popularized their own brands and labels that speak to a different type of customer (and price point). Aritzia’s brand Wilfred even has its own, separate retail locations!

As Instagram becomes more saturated with brands, influencers, and branded content, Instagram users are set to make a shift in who they’re choosing to follow in 2019.

People are craving more personalized, targeted content, and this year they’ll be quick to click the “unfollow” button if they aren’t resonating with the content in their feeds.

If you want to retain your Instagram followers in 2019, create content that is targeted to your ideal customer. Use your Instagram analytics to see what content is resonating the most, and that your Instagram follower demographics match up with those of your customers.

If you’re a big brand, you may want to consider taking a cue from the micro brands by splitting your Instagram up into smaller profiles. For example, the Canadian retailer Frank and Oak created the @frankandoakwomen account to target their female customer, which has grown so much that it’s now equally as popular as its parent account.

Creating targeted Instagram accounts is more than just splitting up your men and women’s lines, though – you could do this for different styles, ages, locations, etc.

2019 is not about how many followers your main Instagram account has, and as your account gets bigger, it may actually do more harm than good as accounts with 100k+ generally see a much lower percentage of engagement.

#4: Tracking ROI From Instagram

The biggest Instagram trend of 2019 isn’t the sexiest, but it is the most useful (and potentially controversial).

Last year, we saw a huge change at Instagram as the founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger left the company. You may not have always agreed with their vision for Instagram, but they did have a very specific vision for what they wanted Instagram to be for the world: simple.

In 2019, the simplicity of Instagram will fade away as it inevitably becomes more like Facebook. The new Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, was formerly Facebook’s VP of Product, and we’re sure to see major changes that will help businesses market and sell products easier.

It’s also possible that we’ll see a standalone shopping app for Instagram, making it even easier to shop your favourite looks from brands and influencers.

Thanks to the success of shoppable posts and stories this year, businesses will finally be taking Instagram seriously as a conversion channel, and we can expect new products and features to support this.

Tracking ROI from Instagram will be a huge marketing trend in 2019, including the ability to track revenue back to individual Instagram posts and stories to see what content is generating the most sales.

With this we may see advanced analytics, like the Instagram Account Analytics currently in beta, and potentially opening up the Instagram API more to allow third-party platforms to create better reporting and tracking tools.

Gone are the days when you just posted to Instagram whenever you felt like it – now, brands are optimizing their Instagram marketing for the best time to post, scheduling Instagram posts, and monitoring advanced analytics.

If you’re wanting to use Instagram to grow your business in 2019, you’ll need an Instagram marketing platform like Later to help you stay organized, plan your feed, optimize your content, and analyze your results.

You also might need to hire for some new roles, as the social media manager skillset continues to evolve. Thanks to Instagram Stories, social media managers now need to also be video producers, graphic designers, photo editors, and copywriters.

Businesses are now hiring for social specific positions, whether that’s Instagram Stories designers or Art Directors for Social Media.

#5: The Rise of Dark Social & Instagram Direct

“Dark social” may sound like an ominous villain, but in reality it’s just referring to social media that we can’t track because it’s private, like links or posts shared in direct messages.

In 2018, we saw a huge improvement to Instagram Direct, with the addition of gifs and video chat, and the app has transformed from simple one-on-one texting to a robust group chat platform. Now it seems like people are not only actually using the feature, but it’s becoming a popular alternative to Messenger and WhatsApp, too.

Thanks to the reply, tagging, and sharing features on Instagram Stories, it’s easier than ever to strike up a private conversation with someone on Instagram, and that includes businesses too!

When looking at your Instagram analytics, you’ll be able to see the number of saves and shares on your feed posts, and personally I have been noticing both of these numbers increase over time as Instagram users start to engage with those features more.

In 2019, you can expect Instagram to continue building features for Direct, and we might see DM’s disappear from Instagram altogether as it’s spun into it’s own app, like Facebook did with Messenger. In fact, the standalone “Direct” app already exists in the United Kingdom, so time will tell if we see this worldwide, too.

Instagram will hopefully be making it easier for businesses to respond to all their direct messages too. Currently the Instagram API does not include DM’s, so the only way businesses can reply to all of their messages and stories mentions is through their mobile phone.

It would be great to see improved business messaging for Instagram and the ability to reply to DMs from your desktop, which would cause social media managers everywhere to rejoice.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see more features around saving content, possibly making your saved boards and shopping wish lists shareable.

But…What’s Next for IGTV?

You may have noticed one trend missing from this list: IGTV. Honestly, I don’t know what’s in store for IGTV. I don’t think it will die, because Instagram is getting creative at finding ways to make us watch it, and it’s important to remember that Instagram Stories were slow to take off too.

It’s hard to believe, but Instagram is already 8 years old, and while Instagram Stories has officially crushed Snapchat now, you can’t help but wonder what the Next Big Thing will be.

Youtube is incredibly popular with kids and teens, and IGTV is Instagram’s hope for a piece of that popularity pie. But it’s not just Youtube that Instagram has to worry about.

The video sharing and lip-synching app TikTok (which recently merged with Musical.ly) has quickly become the #1 social app in both the App Store and Google Play store, gaining a whopping 30 million users in just three months at the end of 2018.

This prompted Facebook to create a competitor app, Lasso, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of Lasso integration or lip-synching / video editing features integrated into Instagram, IGTV, or Instagram Stories in 2019.

Also read: How To Use Instagram For Lead Generation

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