Starting from the USA, Instagram users will soon be able to subscribe to a small number of influencers and creators to access exclusive features and content with Instagram Subscriptions.
In its official blog post (1), Instagram announced that it is launching a test of subscriptions on Thursday; it will add more creators in the upcoming weeks.
Instagram stated that creators inspire people worldwide with their talents and push culture forward daily. At Meta, the parent company of Instagram previously known as Facebook, we strongly believe in allowing creators to make a living via our platforms. We have also built a suite of tools to allow them to do it.
We aim to help our creators support their audience, partner with brands, and earn money from bonuses or ads directly from Facebook and Instagram.
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More About Instagram Subscriptions
Facebook had launched Subscriptions back in 2020, which had helped creators build sustainable businesses with the support of their communities. Meta has decided to bring the same business models for creators on Instagram based on strong creator feedback.
Instagram Subscriptions will allow creators to form deeper bonds with their followers and increase their recurring monthly income by offering their subscribers access to exclusive content and benefits, all within the same platform where they already interact with them.
“Starting today, we have started to test subscriptions with a handful of creators who can set a monthly price of their choice to unlock a ‘subscribe’ button on their profile,” stated Instagram on its official blog post.
The button will allow creators and influencers to offer the following benefits to their subscribers:
- Subscribers Live: Creators will be able to broadcast exclusive Lives to their subscribers, which will allow them to forge deep bonds with their audience.
- Subscriber Stories: Influencers and content creators can post stories exclusively for their subscribers. It will allow them to share content and interactive story stickers only with their most engaged followers.
- Subscriber Badges: Creators will see a purple subscriber badge next to messages and comments to identify paid subscribers.
While the feature is only limited to a few creators based in the United States, for now, Instagram is planning to expand its access to more creators over the next few months (2).
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10 Creators that are Part of the Early Test
Earlier this year, Meta. had announced that it will not collect any fees from creators on Facebook subscription purchases until 2023, and it will also apply to Instagram subscriptions (3, 4).
In addition, the company is also planning on offering more tools and features to content creators so they can directly connect with their audience off-platform in the future.
Below is the list of alpha creators part of the early paid subscription feature:
- Actor and influencer @alanchikinchow
- Basketball player@sedona._
- Astrologer @alizakelly
- Actress/dancer/model @kelseylynncook
- Digital creator @elliottnorris
- Olympic silver medalist @jordanchiles
- Creator and gymnast @jackjerry
- Artist and spiritual coach @bunnymichael
- XR creator @donalleniii
- Digital creator @lonnieiiv.
“Having subscriptions on Instagram makes it possible to build a more intimate relationship with my fans and followers. I am excited to nurture those connections and make a lasting impact that will keep my work sustainable,” said @bunnymichael.
In its announcement, meta also stated, “we believe that creators should know their audience and have more control over their business.”
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How Will Things Be Different With Instagram Subscriptions?
According to a TechCrunch report (5), creators can select their price point to access exclusive content. There are eight price points to select from, starting at 0.99 USD per month to 99.99 USD a month, depending on how much a creator believes their content’s worth.
We will likely see most creators starting with the lower spectrum of that range with price points like 0.99 USD, 1.99 USD, 2.99 USD, 4.99 USD, or even 9.99 USD before they start experimenting with a higher range of 19.99 USD, 49.99 USD, or 99.99 USD.
Once users subscribe to a creator or influencer, they will get access to subscriber-only content such as Stories saved as Highlights, for instance. They will also get an alert for exclusive broadcasts, where they will be able to engage more deeply with the creator as the viewing audience will be smaller, naturally.
In subscriber-only stories, indicated with a purple ring, creators may share things like special polls, behind-the-scenes content, and more. Subscriber’s badges, also purple, will help you stand out in the comments of the public content. It will also help you identify creators’ message request folders in the inbox.
There have also been reports about how Instagram is developing technology to prevent creators’ exclusive content from being screenshots (6). However, according to the report, Instagram has no such technology available in this initial test phase.
Regardless, resharing subscriber-only content violates its terms, and creators are encouraged to report any users recording or screenshotting their content.
There is no dedicated sector for creators’ analytics dashboards for subscriptions during the early testing phases. However, creators will be able to access their estimated earnings from subscriptions, new subscriptions, total subscribers, and cancellations from their Subscriptions settings.
While there are no tools available now that allow creators to export their subscriber lists or any other related data, Instagram hopes to offer features that allow creators to connect with subscribers off-platform.
Signing up for a subscription to their favorite influencer or creator happens on traditional in-app purchases across Android and iOS for fans. And for now, Instagram will not take a cut from its creators’ revenues.
“We are the same all of Meta; we are not taking any revenue share until at least 2023. Our main goal here is to help our creators make a living. We are trying to think of all the ways we can offer products monetization,” said Ashley Yuki, Co-Head of Instagram Product (7).
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The Other Motive Behind the Move
In a video posted on 19th January 2022, Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, stated (8), “subscriptions are one of the best methods for creators and influences to have a predictable income.”
It is also worth noting that some creators were already monetizing Instagram features like Close Friendly by charging a fee off-platforms for access to exclusive Stories (9).
Of course, Instagram is not only trying to help creators make a living. It is also aiming to shore up its platform against the threat of competition, primarily from TikTok, which has attracted a considerable number of creators looking to reach young Gen Z.
Other dominant players, including SnapChat and YouTube, are also trying to appeal to TikTok users with short-form video products like the TikTok clone of Instagram called Reel. Meanwhile, Twitter has also launched an initiative for its creators called Super Follow in September (10), besides other monetizing features like Ticketed Spaces and Tip jar. Several content creators also offer additional subscriber content off-platform on Substack or Patreon.
Besides major social media players, numerous other startups are working on services to allow creators to track, consolidate, and monetize their following in unique ways.
The activity in the market indicates the size of the space creator economy, which is estimated to be more than 100 billion USD and growing (11). Even if Instagram and Facebook don’t take their cut from creators’ revenue, Meta looks at it as a small investment to ensure a bigger piece of the pie in the future.
Even though the space is highly competitive, Instagram believes its strength because it is not a new product.
“One of the major differentiators in Instagram for creators and fans is the convenience of the fact that people already know how to use these features. People are already on Instagram, and we hear a lot about the friction of having to do the click out. It may seem insignificant, but in some situations, it can be the difference between someone subscribing to you or not,” explained Yuki.
“The convenience of having it all where the connection and conversation are already happening, we believe it will be one of the strong points for both creators and fans,” she stated.
As discussed, Instagram Subscriptions is not the only way Meta aims to help creators monetize their following. Last year, Facebook renamed Facebook Fan Subscriptions to simply “Subscriptions,” allowing influencers and creators to download their subscribers’ emails (12). Facebook creators can also promote their membership with personalized links. Also, they can take part in Meta’s 1 billion USD bonus program, which is available across Facebook and Instagram (13).
It also seems that Facebook and Instagram Subscriptions will merge over time. If this were to happen, fans would be able to sign up on Facebook or Instagram and on the websites, where no App Store commissions would be required. Subscriptions may also be carried over to the respective mobile apps. When TechCrunch asked about the possibility, Yuki didn’t dismiss it.
“In this case, it has not yet been implemented. However, it is something we will think about in the future,” stated Yuki.
On his Facebook page, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg lauded the launch, saying that Subscriptions will “enable creators to earn more by delivering advantages to their most engaged followers like access to unique Lives and Stories.”
He added, “I’m enthusiastic about continuing building tools enabling creators to make a career with their creativity and to put these tools in the hands of more creators soon.”
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The Impact on Influencer Culture
Over the past few years, content creators and influencers have become a critical digital marketing ecosystem. Today, many. Businesses and marketing agencies hire them to their brands’ reach and increase their overall value. It has led to an increased amount of sponsored posts on social media platforms.
While they have been effective to some extent for brands, it is also important to note that sponsored posts have a rather negative impact on creators and influencers who post them. Yes, several Millennial and GenZ users end up purchasing something they see on a sponsored post. Many unfollow a page or a creator after seeing a single post that was sponsored to any extent (14).
We believe it has something to do with how authentic a creative appears. As per a survey conducted by BestSEOCompanies (15), about 41% of Americans feel that sponsored posts would make a particular creator or influencer seem less authentic.
Social media users don’t like it when creators try to make money via such posts because it gives them the impression that the said creator is sold out and is no longer creating content because of their passion.
It is also worth noting that this trend appears to be mostly driven by Baby Boomers and Gen X customers. These customers frequently fail to realize how much work goes into being an influencer and how it isn’t just a hobby for most. For example, 35% of Gen Z customers and 29% of Millennial consumers believe that sponsored posts make an influencer appear more real since they show that they are serious about their job and are trying to make a career.
It could be because younger customers are more familiar with influencer culture and better understand what that job description comprises. Most of what influencers do is promote something, and younger customers seem to understand this, and they are less likely to unsubscribe from a page after seeing them post a sponsored message of any kind.
Still, sponsored postings made creators and influencers appear less real to 38% of Gen Z and Millennial users, indicating that examining the diversity of opinion within almost all of these categories is critical, as they might range from person to person.
In terms of consumer opinions, there is also a wide range of opinions on disclosures. According to 54% of Gen Z customers, Sponsored posts should be revealed, and 59% believe that an influencer should disclose a sponsorship even if they have gotten a free product from a brand they are now reviewing because failing to do so would be inauthentic.
Therefore, we believe that Instagram Subscriptions will allow creators to offer exclusive value to their supporters in exchange for a monthly payment. It is a better strategy to keep your followers excited about supporting you monthly instead of continuously throwing sponsored posts at them.
In our upcoming post, we will talk about how you can make the most out of subscription features and keep your fans raving for more. Stay tuned for more updates!