Sponsored posts rising in engagement: study

While superstars like Drake draw big love from fans, NewsWhip found that micro-influencers in niche verticals can bring more of a return.

A new study of social media influencers from NewsWhip suggests social media consumers may not be all that turned off by knowing a post is sponsored.

The social analytics firm tracked the rate of engagement with promotional Instagram posts (anything containing hashtags such as “#ad,” “#sponsored,” “#SP” and the like) between March and July 2017. The analytics showed that even within the last several months, engagement with sponsored posts has increased.

In early March, just over six million engagements with these posts were recorded over a period of two weeks. For the first two weeks of July, that total was up to more than 26 million.

But Garbiele Boland, analyst and content strategist with NewsWhip, said it wasn’t just the big celebrities driving that engagement.

Of the 10 influencers driving the highest engagement on the platform for the month of July, most had an average of three sponsored posts for the month (with the exception of Instagram superstar Chiara Ferragni, who posted 24 sponsored posts throughout the month).

The top influencers were a mix of athletes and celebrities (including the user @champagnepapi — better known as Canadian superstar Drake) as well as digital-natives like Ferragni, Lele Pons and Lewis Hamilton.

But beyond the Drakes of the world, Boland said there’s still a lot of brand interest in working with so-called “micro-influencers” — users whose followings may be somewhere around the six-figure range.

In Canada, these influencers come in the form of family and style influencer Anna Argiropoulos, who boasts just under 100,000 followers and has worked with brands like Amex and Nivea, or fashion Instagrammer Kayla Seah, who has 216,000 followers and attracts brands such as Armani Beauty and Chanel.

With big names like Drake, “everyone’s already following them anyway and they’re going to like them no matter what they post.” But the smaller influencers tend to build more niche and passionate audiences, according to Boland.

Boland said increasingly, brands are looking at niche verticals to grab users’ attention rather than simply making a grab for the biggest celebrities. In fact, Boland said, NewsWhip saw that throughout the month, engagement rates with micro-infuencers was as much as 60% higher than those on people with larger followings.

One example of those current niche communities is the millennial mother demographic. NewsWhip’s analytics found that new mothers in the under-34 age range spent an average of eight hours online daily, and found that although the millennial mom group picked up on social several years ago, there are no signs of it going away. Over a three-month period, the top 10 global Instagrammers in this category created 763 sponsored posts between them, resulting in 471,074 total likes and 28,833 comments — or 655 average impressions per post. The fourth-most engaging was Canadian Ana Klizs, who posted only six sponsored posts in the quarter but saw an average of 7,700 impressions per post.

Judging by the firm’s research, Boland said the next big vertical to come up for brand posts will likely be sports and fitness, as well as streetwear fashion. “Sports are going tremendously well in terms of engagement right now, and there’s definitely a lot of opportunities for brands there,” she said. That ties in with the rising engagement in street fashion, which she said is more about sneakers than high heels.