Under the Influence: An Analysis of Instagram Influencers as Marketing Tools
by Hannah Brockway
Question: Does the role of influencers in brand communication and reveals how these social media bloggers help brands engage with their target audiences and spread their image?
Study elies on data and analysis from Instagram, Parse.ly Currents and Qualtrics survey results, as well as Forbes
Influencers are defined as users who made it big by building their fame from the internet up, rather than celebrities who also happen to have large audiences online. The study also only counted those who create original content and their study included mainly English speakers
What is an Influencer?
According to The Digital Marketing Institute, “A social media influencer is a user who has established credibility in a specific industry, has access to a huge audience and can persuade others to act based on their recommendations. An influencer has the tools and authenticity to attract many viewers consistently and can motivate others to expand their social reach.”
Influencers can be anyone - they must simply capitalize on a niche to attain widespread credibility
A major challenge for brands that aim to apply “word of mouth”-marketing, is to identify and select influencers whom may have a strong impact on their target audience and convince them to incorporate their products in their posts, this way diffusing them (Wong, 2014).
The movement of WOM marketing is best shown in Fig. 1 -Brand communication through digital influencers model
PROBLEM - Once influencers have applied WOM marketing, is tracking the audience and impact of these influencers over time.
Parse.ly Currents + Survey Data
In this study, all data were collected through Parse.ly Currents using the topic filter (articles about) “Instagram.” One sample was taken per day for two weeks.
Using Currents, I collected the number of views, articles viewed, and demand or the average daily number of views to each article for the “Instagram” topic. Also collected were the devices readers were using, data on the top traffic sources, the top stories being read. This study collected data on the top three stories daily including their section, the title of the article and publication, whether or not an Instagram user is mentioned in the article and if there was a brand or topic directly related to the user and the article. Also collected was the number of Instagram posts embedded into the article and the number of videos that went along with the article.
All data collected between April 15th - 30th, 2019, once a day through a Qualtrics form.
The sample for this study was students at the University of Maryland.
Questions asked: Do you follow any influencers on social media? If so how many?, How likely are you to click on another profile/link/ redirect that an Influencer posts about on Insta?, Have you ever purchased something online/in person because you saw it being advertised by an Instagram Influencer?, Do Instagram Influencers posts and/or mentions lead you to follow other Instagram profiles?, In the last month how frequently did you make a purchase based promotion by an Instagram Influencer?, What is your gender?
Survey was distributed through social media platforms and by word of mouth. The link was distributed to respondents every other day during the time period stated above. Because the survey is only six questions, the average time to take the survey is expected to be under a minute. Respondents can go back and take the survey again using the same link.
Follow over 10 Influencers
Purchased something because they saw it being advertised by an Instagram Influencer
Purcahsed something 1-2 times IN THE LAST MONTH because it was promoted by an Influencer
Parse.ly Currents Data
Percentage of mobile devices such as an Android phone or iPhone
Percentage of computers such as a laptop or desktop
* 7.4% of Traffic came from Tablets
Facebook was the top traffic source, which shows how readers find Parse.ly’s network of sites and the numerical ranking of where the “Instagram” topic lies compared to other topics.
Facebook dominated this category but Google was always the runner up.
Entertainment DOMINATES, followed by technology and news
The Sun #2
The Star/ The New Yorker/ Daily Wire #3
Average per day: 67.5k
(Avg. # of views to each article)
499 views each
By The Numbers
# VIEWED TOPIC
EMBEDDED PHOTO/ VIDEO
Avg. of 2 embedded Instagram photos per article, 1 video
The Parse.ly data did not confirm that Instagram Influencers are actually influential. Most of the top three articles were about entertainment, but usually celebrities (who I did not consider as Influencers). This is mainly due to some of the top publications being tabloids such as The Sun and The Star.
While Instagram users and usernames were mentioned often, they were usually celebrities. There often were embedded posts, but this seemed to have no correlation with video's and vice versa. It is unclear if embedding Instagrams in articles brings any benefit to the user.
Instagram has become a talked-about topic, though. Only once during data collection did it fall below #50 in the # viewed topic section.
Through the survey, it seems fair to deduce that Instagram Influencers do play a part in users daily lives and purchasing habits.
If I could re-do this project...
Get a larger survey response
Add more questions to the survey about users habits on the platform
Focus more on specific Instagram users (this would involve the tech to do so)