“You have to differentiate between Instagram users with many followers and real influencers”

LEAD: Riccardo, when did you discover Instagram and what interested you?

Riccardo: I have been logged into Instagram since 2012 and initially only used it to edit images. Back then I was still a student, but I already had my own blog “Fabulous Ricci”, which was atypical, as the dominant social media channels were already Instagram and Facebook.

On Instagram, I found it exciting to follow the lives of celebrities who have become more and more private and staged over the years. Then there were bloggers and influencers, in which – at least for many – meanwhile, a similar trend is emerging.

LEAD: What is your motivation to use Instagram today? How has that changed over the years?

Riccardo: After a while, I was addicted to Instagram, sharing everything and producing up to 300 posts a day, especially Instagram stories. It was incredibly fast feedback and could share a lot with people. At that time, the audience of the app also consisted mainly of Internet insiders and digital natives, who understood the humor completely and appreciated the implementation. But I have the feeling that the fact that the terms influencer and Instagram were so prominent in the broad media in the past year, more and more users come to it, which are not necessarily social media affine.

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By now, a large proportion of users are no longer so familiar with the language that prevails on the Internet and understand many things wrong. As a result, the number of hate messages has grown enormously and Instagram has become much more public. Haters used to hide behind anonymous “fake profiles”. Today, hate comments are always more public and completely visible under a picture. This is a development that has brought me some limitations as a “heavy user”. In addition, there are other aspects such as the inflationary and non-transparent labeling of advertising content, which continues to cause great confusion.

Despite such not-so-positive developments, Instagram is still essential for anyone with a message to reach young and growing people in particular. For example, in everything I do, whether on social media or elsewhere, I aim to encourage people to develop their own ideals and rebel against social stereotypes.

LEAD: Tobias, how do you observe the dynamics on Instagram, what has changed since the introduction of the algorithm?

Tobias: You keep hearing about influencers who have been feeling a big change in reach since Instagram uses other algorithms. On the other hand, we do not feel any real impact on the reach of postings – also because many users are targeting Riccardo’s profile to search for content. In this respect, we are not necessarily dependent on the homepage and the “Newsfeed”.

LEAD: What does that do to the users, so what “tricks” do influencers use to achieve high ranges despite algorithm changes?

Tobias: A popular tool for many influencers is certainly, in their Instagram story, as a kind of “parallel channel” to draw attention to the fact that a new post in their profile is online. This may well cause the post to get more attention because it might otherwise be lost due to the algorithm. Whether you place such hints in your Instagram story or not is at your own discretion – we usually do not.

LEAD: I know some people who want to participate in loop giveaways, run bots or increase their user numbers through engagement pods and regular shoutouts. Do you know Instagramer in Germany who use such tactics and what do you think about it?

Tobias: I think you have to draw a line in principle between Instagram users with a certain number of followers, which can be very high, and “influencers”. As the term implies, “influencers” are people who influence other people. If you buy likes and followers or drive up reach through bots and other mechanics, you do not seem to trigger enough in the users to grow organically.

It’s not an art to buy followers in a short amount of time – but to really transport content and add value to users. I know many Instagram profiles whose followers are bought or are part of a bot mechanism. For that, you also get a feel for it pretty quickly. Nobody is an “influencer” of course, although of course they all call themselves that in their profile description.

LEAD: Brands and influencers have a sort of symbiotic relationship. From short product placements to royalties to revenue sharing of a product sold to long-term partnerships: what forms of collaboration do you use?

Tobias: Riccardo differs in many ways from other influencers and so does its marketing and positioning. Riccardo has established itself in recent years as a brand in the German entertainment industry. He works as a moderator, has his own successful TV show and is one of the most printed men in the German press. Our goal is always to work with our partners in the long term at a brand ambassador level that is not exclusively about social media.

Conversely, one can also say that today there is virtually no advertising campaign without social media activation. In addition, there are always projects that are suitable for a short-term, purely selective product placement on social media – if they fit in with Riccardo and he enjoys it. Our top credo is always that users also pull something out of a product placement or an advertising post – be it a classic added value or entertainment.

LEAD: If you write to brands, which business models or offers do you reject or do you find rather dubious?

Riccardo: I always decide whether the product is something that gives me pleasure, enriching my life in any way, and whether my followers are interested in it. Anything that is too far away from my personal lifestyle or that of my audience, I exclude. For example, I do not drink alcohol – so I do not advertise for anyone.

Tobias: We often receive requests from smaller companies that expect great output through social media collaboration – but reach is not automatically a magnifying glass for any product you put under it. It definitely has to go with Riccardo and his target group, so that we can even consider it and then vote the result.

LEAD: What brands do you find striking Instagram influencer marketing?

Tobias: I believe that by now most companies have understood influencer marketing as an important tool and treat it with due priority and appreciation. We’ve had a lot of great experiences over the last few years and learned as many exciting things – not least because of this, we have been working together successfully with some partners for a very long time.

But there are still companies – and not infrequently these are the large corporations – which, contrary to the actual expectation, often have a somewhat dusty approach to the topic of influencer marketing. Influencers know their channels well and know what content works. The more you trust them here in the implementation, the better the result of the promotion.

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