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New data shows how large the decrease in sponsored Instagram posts from influencers has been in recent weeks, as the ad market sputters

Macy Mariano Instagram Influencer

  • A new report from the marketing-analytics firm Launchmetrics shows that sponsored post activity is down considerably on Instagram since the coronavirus outbreak began. 
  • Branded content on Instagram has fallen from representing 35% of influencer posts in mid-February to 4% of creator content in mid-April, according to Launchmetrics' analysis. The company focused on influencers who produce content for the fashion, luxury, and beauty industries for its report.
  • While influencers and marketers have cut back on sponsored posts during the pandemic, engagement on social media is spiking, with many creators and consumers testing out new formats like live video and apps like TikTok for the first time. 
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As brands cancel or postpone influencer-marketing campaigns in order to cut costs and avoid appearing tone deaf during the coronavirus pandemic, sponsored content's prevalence on Instagram feeds has dipped significantly.

Sponsored posts on Instagram fell from representing 35% of influencer content in mid-February to 4% of creator content in mid-April, according to a new report from the marketing-analytics firm Launchmetrics. The drop comes as many influencers have had deals put on hold. Some marketers are predicting a near-term 15 to 25% dip in the average price of a sponsored post as demand for branded influencer content declines.

"Over the past two months, I have definitely seen things slow down," said Macy Mariano, a travel and personal style influencer with around 100,000 followers on Instagram. "Even some existing partnerships that I have currently going on have been put on pause until June."

"There are some brands such as clothing companies that have even paused gifting, just as a precaution for the virus," Mariano added, referring to a common influencer-marketing practice in which brands "gift" products to influencers in order to gain exposure on social media. "Gifting would be a really big part of some of my content creation, which is not really happening any more."

For its analysis of the ratio of paid to organic content on Instagram, Launchmetrics used its own automated social listening tools, which uses a pool of 50,000 accounts, to scan the platform. The company focused on influencers who produce content for the fashion, luxury, and beauty industries for its report. While sponsored posts have trended down on Instagram in recent weeks, unpaid activity on the app and across the broader social-media landscape is way up.

Many influencers are leaning into new formats like live video to engage with at-home consumers seeking a distraction from the coronavirus crisis. Instagram Live views rose 80% in March, and YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch livestreams all saw double-digit increases in viewership during the same period. Google's CEO Sundar Pichai noted in the company's earnings call earlier this week that livestreams played a key role in boosting watch time on YouTube during the first three months of the year.

Creators have also been testing out new platforms like TikTok, which saw record downloads during the first quarter of 2020 but has yet to fully develop ad products for influencers to earn revenue through sponsored content. 

"I've been spending a lot of time getting to know TikTok," Mariano said. "Yesterday I did five TikToks. The other day I did four. I'm just doing a lot to experiment with it and see what people like and what people don't like, and then kind of follow through with that."

About one in four (23.6%) of influencers who previously weren't on TikTok before the coronavirus outbreak have created accounts on the app during the pandemic, according to a recent survey of 1,054 digital creators conducted by the influencer-marketing agency Obviously.

"Instagram is still my main focus, but I did actually start a TikTok after months of saying 'I'm too old for TikTok, I don't understand TikTok,'" Keiko Lynn, a personal style and lifestyle influencer with 141,000 Instagram followers, told Business Insider. "Once I started it, I found it to be pretty fun if you make it your own. It's kind of a nice reprieve from Twitter which is so easy to fall down a rabbit hole where you just feel like everything is horrible."

For more information on how social-media behaviors have shifted during the coronavirus pandemic, read these Business Insider Prime posts: 

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