The Ins and Outs of Instagram Subscriptions
During 2021’s last quarter, Instagram won ‘most downloaded app’ – a personal best for the platform since 2014. The app currently ranks third in preferred social networks among the teenage population, behind Snapchat and TikTok. So no, Instagram isn’t dead, it’s just evolving.
As the future of social inevitably moves more into the e-commerce space, it makes sense to invest in creators who are driving engagement and building engaged communities.
In 2020, Facebook launched Subscriptions, which have since helped creators develop their businesses, expand their communities and gain a recurring monthly income. Instinctively, Instagram has now integrated the next part of its evolution… Instagram Subscriptions.
In January 2022, Instagram launched subscriptions for a handful of creators, 10 to be specific. However, thousands of creators now have access to the subscription feature free of fees until 2024, with the hopes of helping more creators make a living on the app.
‘Creators do what they do to make a living, and it’s important that that is predictable. Subscriptions are one of the best ways to have a predictable income—a way that’s not attached to how much reach you get on any given post, which is inevitably going to go up and down over time.’ – Meta.
In this article we explore the ins and outs of instagram subscriptions – demystifying the platform’s latest feature, how brands can benefit and dropping our suggestions on how to succeed with creator subscriptions.
Figuring Out The Feature
By unlocking the subscribe feature on their profiles, creators are able to set a monthly price (of their choice) and offer four different benefits to their subscribers:
- Subscribe stories/post/reels – an opportunity to share exclusive content with their subscribers and express your most authentic self to your core audience.
- Subscribe lives – creators can broadcast exclusive Lives to their subscribers.
- Subscribe-only badges – creators will see a subscriber badge next to comments and messages so they can easily identify their subscribers.
- Subscriber-only chats – create exclusive chats and connect with up to 30 subscribers at once.
There are also many benefits for creators, as the introduction of subscriptions almost feels like a power shift back to those who made the platform what it is.
Subscriptions are a great way for creators to gain control of the work that they produce – a confirmation of ownership that will encourage them to create more content that they know their audience will relate to. This could also give them more power in terms of partnering with brands that truly resonate with them, instead of seeing brand partnerships as paychecks only, allowing for more authentic collaborations.
To further that point, if creators and influencers are making content that is truly in tune with their audience, the platform may experience a new lease on life, with users trusting paid brand endorsements more so than they do now.
The Price of Premium Content
Brands as well as creators can develop deeper connections with their most engaged and loyal followers. As audience sizes grow, the number of comments, direct messages and other forms of engagement are bound to rise at a steep rate.
To nurture the most valuable relationships with those who are most invested will become far easier with the feature. Fair warning though: any content published within the subscription paywall must be fine-tuned for your audience. It must be added value to the nines.
By launching the Instagram Subscription service Instagram is competing with the likes of off-platform subscription hero, Patreon – a subscriber based platform that could be seen to be more cost effective for both creators and consumers – and OnlyFans, the infamous content subscription service that took social media by storm in 2020.
Since its launch in November 2016, OnlyFans has revolutionised the relationship between creators and their fans. With more than 150 million registered users, the site generated over $2 billion in sales in 2020 with $400 million in annual net sales.
Obviously, the site’s signature X-rated content is the main motivation for the boom but it also proves fans are seduced by content that sits behind a paywall – whatever it may be.
Costs start from $0.99 – $99.99, with 8 price points for users to choose from. At the moment, Instagram is not taxing Creators for this, and have stated they will not do so until 2024. This is of course enticing creators to join the service now to start earning a consistent monthly income.
That being said, we can already see Instagram taking approx 20-30% of creator revenue earned from the likes of Live Badges, which could give us a ball-park figure of how much Instagram will decide to take from subscription-based creator earnings in the future. To put this into perspective, Patreon only takes a 5-12% cut of creator earnings, plus a payment processing fee, exemplifying it as the more cost effective choice for users and creators alike.
In a world where the cost of living is constantly on the rise, how many users are going to feel this new service holds value for money? And when long-time fans lose access to some of their favourite creators’ content, the stir caused – especially if critics make references to issues of inaccessibility and elitism – could be detrimental.
Looking forward, we can start to predict how brands and marketers will be utilising the feature. Subscribers on the app can be identified by a badge that appears alongside the user’s profile image when commenting on public content, meaning that any subscriber comment is more visible, and would usually be pushed or pinned to the top of the section. A.K.A. a very effective way for brands to target a creator’s coveted audiences, focusing on highly engaged fans that are more likely to be influenced by creator endorsements.
Though the power and importance of ‘influencers’ is often diminished, creators undoubtedly inspire people around the world and push culture forward every day, which Instagram seems to be recognising with this change:
‘We strongly believe in enabling creators to make a living through our platforms and have built a suite of tools to allow them to do that—helping them get support from their audience, partner with brands and earn money from advertising or bonuses directly from Instagram and Facebook.’ – Meta.
Top Tips for Working with Creator Subscribers
When looking to work with a creator, take time to understand why their audience is subscribing, what they like, what makes them unique:
- Ensuring creators are interacting regularly with their subscribers in an authentic way. This will allow more genuine brand collaborations and lead to better campaign ROIs.
- Make sure they are consistently posting. Their subscribers will know when to join in on lives or interact with posts and stories when they post regularly scheduled content.
- Let the creator lead collaborative content – they know their audience best and what they respond to, so trust their insight.
- Remember that their subscribers are paying to see this content, so make it something special for them. Bring in guests, exclusive giveaways, invite them to a live stream, all these will encourage them to engage.
The best bet for forward-thinking brands is to integrate this new feature into their influencer marketing model now, to reach niche audiences at their most engaged, tapping into a new type of consumer who’s past the point of brand awareness and ready to purchase before you know it – simply because their favourite (and therefore trusted) creator has vouched for you.
Get in with creators and you’ll get a hell of a lot out of it as a brand.
Want to take the leap but don’t know where to start? Our stellar socials team can offer a tailor-made solution for your business, all you have to do is get in touch.