Until now, monetization within Facebook-owned Instagram has been ruled by external parties, brands who have been utilizing the following of social influencers, as a means target their own audience through ‘sponsored content’ and ‘brand deals’. The 500,000 plus influencers operating on this platform have thus far had very few options to generate revenue outside of this exchange.

With the photo and video sharing giant announcing it will be ‘doing more to support its creators’, allowing some of its users to sell “badges” to viewers while broadcasting live video content. They will also introduce ads within their video product IGTV, sharing an “industry standard” 55 percent cut with creators, Justin Osofsky, Instagram’s chief operating officer, tells The Verge.

Amid COVID-19, many are posing the question, is influencer culture coming to an end? In a statement, Instagram explained “Given the uncertain circumstances many are facing today, that commitment (to supporting creators) is more important than ever”. While many influencers who rely on ‘spon-con’ saw their brand deals disappear overnight, leaving a question mark above their finances and careers, perhaps this new in-app revenue stream will be their way to jump off the hamster wheel of sponsorship culture, and towards an ownership shaped future.

The move towards monetization, will also have a considerable impact on the type of content influencers produce. At Genflow, we believe there will be a very real shift towards more authentic, and original material generated by influencers over the next year on this platform. Many influencers are financially cornered into accepting brand deals which don’t align with their own values or image, which in turn has devalued their own personal brand.

We have already noticed over the past several years, and most recently accelerated by COVID-19, how influencers are finally realising that generating content for themselves, and for their own brand, offers the greatest possible rewards, from financial gain through to improved mental health. As brand building experts we are very excited about the opportunity Instagram has presented, the ability to monetize a live (of which many of our fitness clients use religiously) or place ads on an IGTV where they are promoting their own brand, it's a win-win.

Our CEO Shan Hanif comments; “This is a great initiative from Instagram, demonstrating that social media brands are recognising and rewarding influencers for the creative, educational and engaging content they develop for millions of people. The new monetization of the platform will provide influencers with a valuable and much needed layer of financial security as they build brands and business through their social community.

Platform’s like Twitch, Patreon and YouTube have allowed creators to build fortunes from their work, connecting them directly with their audiences in a way that the likes of Twitter and Instagram haven’t historically. This push towards enabling influencers to build revenue streams that do not rely on brand deals and sponsorships will bring more creators to the platform and encourage a new wave of entrepreneurs.”

We believe it's time to change the narrative, rather than discussing the ‘death of influencer culture’, we should be talking about the ‘shift in influencer culture’. Instagrams recent decision to provide monetization in-app is a clear indicator as to the future of this evolving space. From sponsorship and towards ownership.