I honestly don’t remember the last time I visited a personal style blog. But I can tell you, with relative certainty, that I am still more knowledgeable than most about the day-to-day happenings of the blogosphere’s biggest personalities: I know who went to Governors Ball, who traveled across the world on an exotic vacation (with all expenses likely paid) and who recently went on a shopping spree at her local Saint Laurent store—but most importantly, I know what they were wearing while they did it. So how, you may ask, am I privy to this information? One word: Instagram.
I spend way more time than I’d like to admit on the social network -- and I know I'm not alone. More and more, bloggers, editors and industry tastemakers have been flocking to Instagram to share their outfit details and brand info before they put them on their respective sites, making it the first place many fans and consumers can see (and shop) what they’re wearing.
Since readers are able to get the full experience of many personal style blogs via Instagram without even visiting the sites themselves, it seems likely that traffic on those sites would dip. Brands, too, would presumably, then, prefer to buy advertising on Instagram. But does the social network have the power to make the personal style blog entirely obsolete?
When it comes to the way bloggers share their content over the ever-growing variety of social networks, it’s not one size fits all. “Instagram is really not a black and white issue, because all blogs are so different,” says Nicolette Mason, who runs an eponymous personal style site. “There’s a lot of gray area, and it all boils down to why you need the blog. If readers are only looking for pretty photos or style and shopping inspiration, then yes, Instagram might be all they need. But, if they’re looking to join the bigger conversation and engage with really authentic content, they’ll still keep coming back to the site.”
The bloggers that fall into that first camp are those who are also using Instagram more often as an advertising platform, namely with sponsored posts that incorporate pieces by both established and emerging labels. From a marketing standpoint, the photo sharing app is now treated as its own strategy, and many brands are putting aside ad dollars solely for Instagram campaigns.
Sources within the industry tell me that bloggers with massive Instagram followings can earn more than $5,000 for a single sponsored post -- but brands are looking for a combination of messages across all platforms. And while Instagram is certainly more important to advertisers than it used to be, reach and quality of the audience are still the factors that matter most.
“Our readers have dispersed: Everyone has decided where and how they’re going to get bloggers’ content, whether it’s on their sites, or on social media,” says Amanda Delduca, who runs a personal style blog called Capture Fashion, as well as the e-commerce site Slasher Girl. “There’s so much more out there now, and brands are becoming savvy and looking at each platform and targeting influencers from each channel.” But this also has its caveats.
Many bloggers may have giant Instagram or Facebook followings, but in some cases, there is very little blog engagement, and it’s often difficult to tell whether the followers (and the likes) are real... or if they were purchased. To that end, even though the numbers might seem lucrative, Instagram can be a risky bet for brands that are spending big bucks to work with a blogger. A massive Insta-following doesn't necessarily convert into sales. And while fashion labels might get their wares lots of visibility with a sponsored Instagram post, it’s difficult to track their return on the investment in terms of numbers -- especially since you can't drop links into Instagram posts themselves.
But brands also keep in mind how their target customers consume media, and in some cases, Instagram might be the best way to reach shoppers. A marketing manager at a major New York-based publisher tells us that while more traditional, high-fashion clients might prefer to stick with a branded post on a blog, younger brands see Instagram as the best way to organically get their messages across to consumers.
But, as previously mentioned, before marketers can substantiate their investments with link traffic, sales stats and impressions directly from Instagram, it's unlikely that they'll put all of their eggs in the social media basket. With increasingly popular programs like RewardStyle's LiketoKnow:It, which are making Instagram instantly shoppable, this might be the case soon -- but it's still not a sure bet.
"While our site gets traffic from Instagram, it doesn’t necessarily convert into sales,” says Rachel Sacks-Hoppenfeld, the director of e-commerce and mobile and digital strategy at Loeffler Randall. "When I look at where my traffic is coming from, it’s from editorial, banner content, email and affiliate marketing — so many people come in from blogs, even smaller-scale bloggers with very loyal followings."
Instagram has proven its worth in terms of product placement and brand recognition, and though it's definitely changed the way that advertisers are thinking about digital sales and marketing, it still lacks the ability for the brand to fully tell its story — as well as to truly see results in sales dollars. Sometimes sponsored Instagram posts can come off as too staged or forced, and working with bloggers on their sites gives labels more leverage when it comes to getting their messaging across, and essentially getting what they're paying for.
“I see social media as part of the pie, but not the whole pie,” Sacks-Hoppenfeld says. “And I’m not ready to give up on the rest of the pie yet.”