Social & Influencers

For influencer marketing, Instagram isn’t the only show in town anymore

Execs at DTC brands like Recess and Andie told us they used to spend 100% of their influencer budget on the app, but that’s no longer the case.
article cover

We Are/Getty Images

· 4 min read

About a year ago, when Recess paid influencers to promote its canned sparkling water, all of them were asked to post on Instagram. But as of this summer, according to the company’s founder and CEO, Ben Witte, that was no longer the case.

These days, Recess isn’t spending all of its influencer budget on Instagram content. Now, only about 75% goes toward creators’ Instagram posts. The remaining 25%, Witte said, typically goes to influencer-created TikTok videos.

Recess isn’t the only company expanding its influencer marketing strategy beyond Instagram at a time when many people—including major influencers like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner—have criticized the platform for copying its younger rival, TikTok.

Many other marketers that Marketing Brew spoke with told us that Instagram is sharing the spotlight more and more these days. Over the past couple of years, brands have started shifting influencer marketing dollars that were once solely reserved for Instagram to platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

Three years ago, a typical influencer campaign from Obviously, an influencer marketing agency that has worked with brands like Ulta and Converse, lived 100% on Instagram, according to its CEO and founder, Mae Karwowski.

Now, Obviously usually divides up influencer content across a few different platforms. For example, Karwowski said, 40% of one campaign’s budget could be spent on TikTok, with another 40% going toward Instagram posts, and the remaining 20% on YouTube.

“It used to be [that] Instagram was the one show in town,” Karwowski explained. Now, 80% of the agency’s campaigns include TikTok, she said, whereas “two or three years ago,” about 90% of them were on Instagram alone.

Swimsuit brand Andie has had a similar experience, according to its VP of brand and design, Michelle Copelman, who told us that two and a half years ago, 100% of its budget for paying influencers went toward Instagram posts. As of this summer, she said, about 80% of that budget is still spent on influencer posts on Instagram, though 20% is shifting toward TikTok.

Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer at Mekanism, said that his agency—which works with brands like Peloton, Quaker, and Alaska Airlines—has always been bullish on YouTube. So as his team continues adding TikTok into its influencer marketing split, it’s the Instagram budget that gets hit, rather than the YouTube one.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.

Adding TikTok into that mix, he said, is “definitely eating away more from Instagram than anything else.”

Gahan said that three years ago, influencer campaign budgets would have typically been split about 50/50 between Instagram and YouTube. Now, based on the influencer campaigns that the agency has done so far this year, around 25% of what used to go to Instagram is often pushed toward TikTok.

“Instagram influencers are still active on some of our campaigns, but very tertiary,” he continued.

Matt Zuvella, partnerships lead at creator payment platform Lumanu, told us that he’s generally seen some influencer marketing dollars shift away from Instagram as well.

There are a few reasons why, but according to Zuvella, it partly comes down to performance.

“Let’s say you paid $1,000 to a person to post on Instagram and TikTok. On TikTok, you’re going to reach 30% or 40% more people” for the same amount of money, he said.

“The algorithm on TikTok—I wouldn’t say it’s built better, but there’s more chances that content is going to get more views,” Zuvella explained.

TikTok also just feels particularly charming to many brands right now, per Gahan. They’re interested in testing out the platform, whether via influencers or with their own posts. “Brands are excited about TikTok. It’s something new, it’s the sexy, shiny object,” Gahan told us.

“There’s sort of this alluring sense that you can really pop off on TikTok,” he continued, explaining that a piece of content could get 1000x its expected reach on a really great TikTok, whereas on Instagram, they’d probably only be able to double their reach with a similarly stand-out piece of content.

“With a lot of our brands, they started posting on TikTok [and] out of the gate, [they] are getting more engagement than their Instagram,” Gahan said.

To put it simply, “When you’re a creator or when you’re a brand, [you’re] looking to get in front of as many people as possible, in the most cost-efficient way possible. And TikTok provides that,” Karwowski told us.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.