The brand reach across Instagram may go through the roof before long.
The social media company-turned-social commerce platform’s latest batch of announcements on Friday included an item that would give content creators in its affiliate program their own stores.
According to Instagram, it will begin testing “Shops for Affiliate Creators” this week for a select group of creators based in the U.S.
Affiliate linking is a time-tested way for brands and retailers to spread the word about their products online, while putting a little — or a lot — of cash in the referrer’s pocket. It’s evident across all social media, as influencers strike deals to hype items for a cut of the transactions or other revenue-sharing arrangements.
But the experience tends to be slapdash, maybe even chaotic, as fans who embrace the look or style of a creator must trawl through their feed for specific product recommendations or catch items that happen to pop up.
With the test, creators can set up their own digital storefronts as a single destination, accessible under a “View Shop” button on their profiles. When they tout an affiliate-related product in a post, they’ll see an option to add it to their store.
The holdback, at least for now, is scale. Instagram’s commission-based program is not yet broadly available.
“We have an affiliate program that’s available for a handful of brands and creators,” Christina Cua, director of product marketing at Instagram, told WWD. “We’re doing the test within that program, which allows those creators to be able to have a storefront on their profile.
“So if you are a fan with XYZ creator, you could go to that creator’s profile, click on a tab — which is essentially their storefront — and see all the products that they have curated or that they recommend, that they may have an affiliate partnership with,” she said.
If the test and the program expand, the brand reach across Instagram could effectively create a vast network of digital stores on the platform very quickly.
This commerce effect seems clear, though Instagram prefers to cast the test as part of a push to boost collaboration between creators and brands. The effort includes other features and tests — one of which puts yet another intriguing concept in front of influencers. Functionally, it’s akin to a matchmaking service with brands.
It starts with a new “partnerships” messaging folder inside direct messages, which allows companies and tastemakers to find each other and connect more easily. Those individuals can filter contacts into a preferred brand list as well, and it works to facilitate matches, because the businesses can see who is interested in them. It reads like dating app Tinder, but for brands and influencers.
“[Companies] are able to then filter, discover and select what creators make the most sense for them, based on what criteria they’re looking for, and finding people to partner with on our platform,” explained Cua.
The pilot, also U.S.-based, kicks off with a test group of creators and select brands including E.l.f. Cosmetics, Eva NYC, Dr. Dennis Gross and Keys Soulcare.
Beyond the tests, which are slated to start Monday, Instagram said it’s globally launching branded content ads for Reels, a feature introduced in more limited scope earlier this year. Alongside the launch, the company plans to offer the ability to boost organic feed and Story posts as ads and new account permissions for creators.