pink selfie on phone - Instagram takeovers

If you have invested any time at all into creating an influencer marketing strategy, you probably thought a little (or a lot) about whether you should host Instagram takeovers for your brand.

Is an Instagram takeover even still a thing? Yes. And it does a really fantastic job of strengthening a brand’s reputation with the segment of consumers that live in the space where the brand’s audience and an influencer’s audience overlap.

But, I’ll do you one better. Instagram takeovers can also serve as a touchpoint for brands making their way into new audiences. I really want to jump right into this because I have some cool insights… but I feel kinda obligated to lay out that history lesson.

The Instagram Takeover is Born

In 2012, Instagram published a piece on what was then an emerging trend for big brands that were getting Instagram influencers to take over their social accounts for a few hours, or even an entire day.

Fast forward eight years (oh my gosh, it’s been EIGHT YEARS!), and takeovers are a tried and true way for brands to get eyes on their products and campaigns. What kinds of brands? That’s the beauty of it: All kinds.

So, while Kim Kardashian West’s 2017 Met Gala IG takeover was pretty epic (#MetbyKim), we’re also talking about local businesses working with micro influencers in the same town to grow their audiences.

We’re talking about global brands working with top influencers to grow their audiences and drive real results.

We’re talking about brands leveraging their employees’ networks to share their company culture and boost brand awareness.

I’ve even seen a case where a college was able to boost its social engagement and its Instagram follower count by hosting a social media takeover. That particular case study made our list of eight, actually.

The Big, Bold Benefits of an Instagram or Instagram Stories Takeover

Instagram Takeovers are an event

Instagram takeovers are an event, which is one of the main advantages marketers have in hosting an IG takeover. An influencer’s genuine excitement about partnering with a marketer to promote a brand or product can help a previously unknown brand gain instant credibility with the influencer’s audience.

Instagram Takeovers create a sense of urgency that can compel your audience to act

Takeovers, by their very nature, create a sense of urgency around products. They’re like the social media marketer’s equivalent of a blue light special (that’s old school, I know). The brand’s followers, and the influencer’s followers, have a very short window of time in which to engage with an influencer, as the influencer engages with (and speaks for) the brand.

Instagram Takeovers boost brand awareness and introduce your brand to a new audience

Instagram Takeovers are a useful and effective customer acquisition strategy for brands, and a powerful method for cross-promoting content. And takeovers aren’t limited just to Instagram. They work within the ecosystems of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as well. So, you will be able to apply some of the strategies listed in this post on other platforms.

We’ve already established social media as a viable way for marketers to reach their target audience. But do you really need to bother mastering yet another skill by learning how to do Instagram takeovers, too? Possibly.

When properly executed, hosting an Instagram takeover can help marketers quickly build brand awareness and push people further into the sales funnels. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to skip over the part of the sales process where you’re turning strangers into leads? That’s part of the advantage of hosting a properly executed Instagram takeover.

A Recap of Some of Influencer Marketing’s Finer Points

While I have your attention, let me just rehearse a few of the core reasons why influencer marketing works.

Social media marketing eliminates the ad-block problem

In general, if you’re targeting buyers in the mid-30s and younger, social media is a good place to do so. A popular Bustle survey reports that 81 percent of millennial women say social media is THE BEST place for brands to engage with them.

And Gen Zers are okay with getting produce recommendations from your regular, everyday social media influencer, as opposed to getting tips from celebrities.

Keeping that in mind, social media is a great workaround for the growing number of younger consumers who leverage the power of ad-block software on their laptops, phones and other devices.

Competition is stiff out there in the Internet display ad industry.  In addition to the online advertising space getting more crowded every day, Forbes reports nearly half (47 percent) of consumers are blocking ads. And it depends on which report you read, that number could go as low as 27 percent in the U.S. (that stat’s from Statista).

Still, that means if you are running ads online, you should know that between 27 and 47 percent of YOUR CUSTOMERS will never see your ad… and they don’t even want to see it. Social media marketing is an effective way to circumvent the ad-block problem.

Social influence converts

Social proof still works. Even when that social proof is being demonstrated on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or another popular influencer platform, social proof is still an effective tactic for reaching and converting audiences.

Let me just pull a few relevant stats from our recent roundup of influencer marketing stats:

  • One in three social media users defer to social media before making a purchasing decision.
  • Seventy-four percent of c-level execs use social media to make buying decisions
  • Consumers are 58 percent more likely to feel positive about an ad on TV, Facebook, or YouTube if they’re first exposed to the campaign via an influencer’s post.
  • Influencer recommendations are actually working.  Forty percent of consumers purchase something after seeing it on an influencer’s social page.
  • And another 41 percent of consumers say that each week, they find at least one new product or brand mentioned/promoted by an influencer.

Influencers are the olive branch between – and let’s just be real here – distrusting consumers and the brands that want so desperately to forge long-lasting relationships with them. Influencers are the people who step in and say, “Hey, these guys are pretty cool, and their stuff is worth checking out.”…

Brands need that.

Social media gets brands in front of targeted, niched-down consumers

One of the primary reasons marketers contact influencers for takeovers is the obvious one – getting their product or brand in front of a new audience. Hosting a takeover also provides a unique opportunity for marketers to get in front of a niched-down version of their target audience.

For instance, let’s consider a hypothetical cosmetics company that is in the process of pushing a new bronzer it wants to start selling to young women around spring break time. It makes sense that the brand would target a beauty influencer for an Instagram takeover. It makes even more sense for the marketer to seek out the handful of beauty influencers who focus on contouring, or influencers who focus on creating great sun-kissed / outdoor looks.

The Instagrammers who follow and engage with an influencer who specializes in creating sunkissed looks are more likely to be the marketer’s target audience for the bronzer product. That’s what a niche audience looks like.

Brands and influencers can take advantage of a 50/50 value exchange (most of the time)

Instagram takeovers work well for another reason. They are a near-perfect example of a 50/50 value exchange, according to social media expert and Vayner Media CEO, Gary Vaynerchuk.

With Instagram Takeovers, the host gets the benefit of getting its brand in front of a new audience, while the influencer gets the social juice that comes from having a big brand choose the influencer as one of its online ambassadors.

Brands get the power of influencer-generated content

Half of all Instagram users follow at least one business, according to James Quarles, Instagram’s VP & GM of Monetization. But people follow people more than they follow brands.

A surefire way to get your business in front of more people is to leverage the pull of a popular online personality to create the type of powerful content that made him or her an influencer in the first place. We call it IGC (influencer-created content… just like UGC, but you’re paying someone to handle it for ya).

Good influencers produce compelling multimedia content. On Instagram, that’s likely in the form of entertaining videos and aesthetically-pleasing images. Playing host to an Instagram takeover means you get an expert creator to create high-value (often evergreen) content for and about your brand, and you can and should push for full rights to that sponsored content so you can do with it what you please when the influencer campaign is done.

Measurable results and room to optimize those results

Every Instagram takeover needs to have a goal, some metric that tells the marketer and the influencer that the campaign was a success.

One of the big hiccups traditional marketers must overcome with marketing on social media is the fact that it’s sometimes difficult to measure the ROI of social media advertising. In truth, marketers can measure the return they get on their investment, as long as they understand that the return is not always going to be immediate in-store sales.

Hosting an Instagram takeover is often an exercise in long-term brand awareness. It’s more about getting on people’s radars than it is about getting 100,000 widgets sold by Saturday. So, it’s important to have reliable, realistic metrics in place to track before, during, and after a takeover.

The five big metrics to track are:

  • Followership – Know how many followers you have before the takeover (and the rate at which you are adding them), track how many followers you gain during the takeover (and a day or two after the takeover), and take a tally of how many followers you have after the takeover.
  • Post Likes – Monitor the number of likes for each takeover post to determine how the takeover content performed against your regular content.
  • Post Comments – How responsive was your target audience to the content posted by your influencer partner? Did the posts get authentic comments, or just emojis and canned responses?
  • Clicks – If you added a link to your bio for Instagrammers to use during the takeover, that’s another good way to track the performance of the campaign.
  • Hashtag use – Branded hashtags that you create specifically for an Instagram takeover is another way to find out who engaged with your campaign.

I get into more than a dozen campaign examples in the second half of this post. Check out Instagram takeover examples from Sephora, Finnair, the city of Calgary and other brands on The Shelf blog (which I edit).