LEAD: Thomas, how long have you been on Instagram? What was your initial motivation to start the account?
Thomas Kakareko: I’ve been on Instagram since 2010, more specifically since November. At that time, Instagram had been in existence for a month. There was no concrete motivation for me then. I accidentally listened to an Instagram Instagram post and just wanted to try it out. Until then, I have not gained any experience in the field of photography and have not tried myself as a content creator.
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LEAD: Tell me, how did you use Instagram in the beginning, how is it today?
Thomas: I quickly noticed that many creatives were active on this network and exchanged their photos after work. Thanks to the mutual feedback, I was able to quickly improve myself as a photographer and because the community initially did not have many members, I was able to quickly connect with many people. I started to develop my own style. In the beginning, my focus was on street photography in black and white, and I took all the pictures with my phone. I have followed this style for years and grew with the network.
I realized the first campaigns with different companies in 2012. In the same year, I founded the social media agency visumate with two friends, which made a name for itself above all with Instagram marketing in the German market. Today I use the network to share my private pictures and to enter into more exciting collaborations with interesting partners. My style is more urban landscape these days. But I still like to do portraits.
LEAD: Of course, the introduction of the algorithm was also a central turning point: how did you rate the dynamics on the platform change over the years?
Thomas: Overall, it can be said that Instagram has become more commercial. From the creative platform, the network has evolved into a multi-billion dollar business and a new advertising medium. Even with the acquisition of Facebook, you could see in which direction things are moving. Whether the Instagram algorithm is bad or good depends on your own expectations. But the fact is that Instagram has changed in the course of commercialization. Likes and commitment have become more important.
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LEAD: How did these changes to the network make it work?
There are certain patterns that users use to push their accounts. There is a tendency to optimize and adapt to proven concepts, which makes many accounts look the same. There are more and more influencers and the market for it has become huge.
When I started working with brands, that term did not even exist. Nowadays, teenagers want to become influencers and track every day what the big stars in the scene are promoting. The fact that many people push their accounts with artificial engagement, the market is damaged. Many companies can no longer distinguish whether there is healthy growth, or whether the user has like-bots on at night. Here, the agencies and companies have a duty to look at the accounts more closely and to think carefully about whom they trust, because in the end, the Content Creator always represents the brand.
Certain quality standards must be respected and artists who do not work honestly must not be given a platform. Luckily, Instagram is decidedly against any attempted manipulation.
LEAD: What tricks for reach, engagement, etc. do influencers use? Which ones do you apply yourself and what do you refuse?
Thomas: It’s hard to say what tricks are about adding new ones every day and changing the network every day. The algorithm is adjusted regularly, updates are imported and new features introduced. Personally, I do not use tricks. After years of use, I know my community very well and know which content is well received. I often use the story feature to point out new posts and still use old fashioned hashtags. Properly applied, they can lead to considerable increase in range.
LEAD: Can you name brands you’ve noticed with particularly innovative Influencer Marketing?
Thomas: ASOS is doing a good job on the subject in my opinion. They have their own ASOS Influencers and bring their products closer to the customers through these talents. These influencers usually still have a private (main) account and additionally operate an ASOS account. Another example that I have already worked for myself is Deutsche Welle with their account @dw_stories. They do not do influencer marketing in the classical sense, but they use the reach of the photographers. It’s nice to see that influencer marketing can be done well on a non-commercial level with some “heavier” topics.
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