Last week, the New York Times ran an article on how influential Instagrammers are being courted by luxury brands with offers of free swags and other out-of-this-world perks in exchange for photos. We’re talking incredible “all expenses paid trips to Iceland”. AdWeek also chimed in with a follow-up article that called Instagram’s “secret barter economy.”
Well, it’s definitely not a secret anymore (and really, was it ever?), but it’s essentially a bartering system. With the race for the always-elusive, Instagram-loving millennial generation on, it’s easy to see why brands would jump at the chance to trade their luxurious swag for thousands of highly engaged millennial eyeballs that Instagram influencers and pay attention to their feeds.
But before anyone starts crying #GramGate or claiming that Instagram influencers are “sold out,” let’s remember that brands and influencers have had this type of relationship for years. Companies send products to bloggers who “pay back” the brand with an honest review on an influential blog with thousands of readers. We all know this exercise.
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The only notable difference this time is the medium: photos instead of text. But that’s not new either, because as the Times article also points out, Coach has been hiring popular Instagram users to promote their products for the past two years.
So if Instagram’s sharing economy doesn’t mean it’s time to marvel at the network’s lost integrity, what does it mean?
Aside from the selfies, the food pics, and the filters, Instagram represents something great for social media marketing: an opportunity to turn things around in an age of newsfeeds littered with poorly targeted promotions.