Sarah Penny, Content & Research Director at leading influencer marketing platform Influencer Intelligence, discusses Instagram's latest shot across the bow in its battle against social media usrper TikTok.
Founded in 2010, Instagram is undeniably one of the biggest players in the social media landscape. Whilst the platform has been largely popular for most of its lifespan, in recent years owner Meta has had to constantly update functionality and features in order to keep a competitive edge over emerging platforms and to stay up-to-date with trends and demand. The most recent of which is the launch of Instagram Subscriptions, currently only available in the US.
The update means that when a user subscribes to a creator’s content, they will be able to access subscriber-only content, such as exclusive stories and broadcasts. Purple subscriber badges will also help fans stand out in the comments of public content and will additionally allow them to be identified in creators’ message request DMs folders.
The new subscriptions will cost users anything from $0.99 to $99.99 a month, although it’s not yet confirmed when this will be rolled out beyond the US.
Although there are a number of platforms dominating the social media space (Facebook and Twitter included), Instagram’s biggest competition is undeniably TikTok. The creator economy was estimated to be worth $13.8 billion last year, and Instagram needs to remain competitive with TikTok, as the platform is known for attracting creators who appeal uniquely to the Gen Z audience.
Instagram has already introduced several updates to try and win their engagement. Earlier this year, the company tweaked its algorithm to favour original content over material shared from TikTok, theoretically making it more attractive to make dedicated videos for Instagram.
The move will help to attract and retain the best creators on the platform due to the better monetisation opportunities it offers. Instagram Subscriptions is part of a much larger project which is intended to give influencers more stable revenue streams and to give consumers more access to content from their favourite creators.
What does the update mean for brands and influencers?
Instagram Subscriptions is a sign of a step forward in the industry as creators are being supported by a wider range of monetisation opportunities beyond paid partnerships.
Although undeniably an easier way for creators to make money, it is yet to be seen how many creators will want to take up the format. However, we might see that micro-influencers, who are less likely to sign high value brand partnership deals, will be most keen to get on board with the idea.
Either way, Instagram is confident in the new subscription model. Announcing it in an Instagram reel, CEO Adam Mosseri (pictured above) said he wanted the platform to become the ‘best place’ for creators to make money online. “At the end of the day, if you’re a creator, you’re a business. And a great way to establish some sustainable and predictable income is Subscriptions. This is just one step on a much larger journey to provide creators everywhere with a whole range of tools to be able to make a living online.”
In the long term it could be another influencer revenue channel for brands too. However, it remains difficult to predict as it is yet to be confirmed when the update will be reaching the UK.
What will it mean for consumers?
On the whole, it could be a great idea for consumers, as users will be enticed to sign up and access content from their favourite creators in a more meaningful and personal way – with no clicking out or marketing funnel required.
Consumers will be able to engage with their favourite creators on a more intimate basis and will benefit from a greater variety of content, not always dependent on brand partnerships, which is supported by the creator’s revenue from subscriptions.
On the other hand, Instagram has been a free app for the last 12 years, so users may not feel happy with paying to see additional content. Although other platforms such as Patreon or OnlyFans already have similar options available, they lack the user base of Instagram, so it’s hard to tell when replicated on a larger scale.
What does the future hold for the format?
The main appeal of the update is that once users have subscribed, they will be able to access subscriber-only ‘exclusive’ content.
While the concept has a lot of potential, the popularity will depend on how many creators adopt it and the results. Even though it’s the consumer who will be buying into the content, the success rests on the appeal of the additional content itself. How will creators tease it, how exclusive will it be and how often will the content be available? Time will tell.