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Creators weren't exactly going wild for the short-form video feature.
But since posting Reels regularly, many creators have said the feature has become a secret weapon to supercharge their growth and engagement.
This has become an enormous incentive for creators to continue using the feature and shows how much Instagram is prioritizing it.
My colleague Sydney Bradley spoke with creators who explained how Reels has bolstered growth on Instagram:
Influencer Lissette Calveiro said her following increased by 3.6% and her total reach increased by 555% within a month of posting Reels.
Being active on both TikTok and Instagram has been a key strategy for creators to grow, industry insiders said.
Lifestyle influencer Chandler DeHart said the ratio of followers that a really good Reel video will generate, as opposed to a regular static post, was "three to four times the amount."
"When I started going more viral and having my Reels get picked up, I started growing a couple hundred and I was like, 'Oh, this is cool. I'm finally growing again,'" said influencer Christine Tran Ferguson.
Many influencers are starting to use text messaging to interact with fans and earn money.
My colleague Dan Whateley wrote about the new text messaging startups that have emerged to help build out this market.
Executives in the text-marketing industry broke down why creators are blasting out texts:
Texting is another extension of this trend, which has driven sales for influencers and media brands.
TikTok creator Addison Rae Easterling uses the startup Community to send automated messages to her followers. Other startups in the space are Subtext, SimpleTexting, and Chatitive.
AwesomenessTV used text marketing to promote the release of its recent influencer-focused reality show and was impressed by the results.
"It definitely allowed me and my team to pivot in real time in terms of how we were talking to our audience as well," an AwesomenessTV exec said.
Substack is a famously ad-free newsletter platform, but some of its top writers have begun to incorporate advertising into their newsletters.
Substack makes money off of subscriptions, but some startups have sprung up to help small newsletters sell ads. They include Swapstack, Upstart.me, and Letterwell.
"Our goal is just to make it easy for people to do something that they are already doing," Swapstack cofounder Jake Singer said.
But the rise of ads in Substack newsletters could become a problem for the company, my colleague Mark Stenberg wrote.
Instagram's lead, Adam Mosseri, is "not yet happy" with Reels.
Sydney wrote that Mosseri discussed Reels, TikTok, and how creators could make money on Instagram on a recent podcast.
Here are some key takeaways and a look at what 2021 has in store for creators:
Mosseri said TikTok was ahead of Instagram with filters and augmented-reality effects.
The three main ways to monetize on Instagram are: commerce, "user-pay" products, and revenue share.
Commerce is how the majority of career content creators earn a living through Instagram today, but the company wants to expand other avenues of making money.
More creator industry coverage from Insider:
This week from Insider's digital culture team:
Gab, a social-media platform that's similar to Facebook, has become popular on the far-right.
Insider reporter Rachel E. Greenspan wrote that the company recently quoted a message from QAnon, a baseless far-right conspiracy theory, on its Twitter page.
"DARK TO LIGHT. BLACKOUT NECESSARY," Gab said in the tweet, which has become a popular QAnon phrase.
Gab has become the platform of choice for QAnon followers, as the movement has been widely banned from mainstream platforms.
More on digital culture:
Inside the rise of Nikocado Avocado, the extreme-eating YouTuber (Moises Mendez II)
Sea shanties are going viral on TikTok (Palmer Haasch)
YouTube suspended a creator known as Onision from monetizing his videos (Lindsay Dodgson)
Here's what else we're reading:
How to cleanse your social media feed (Kate Lindsay, from No Filter)
Merchandise promoting the Capitol riot is still available on major e-commerce sites (Sapna Maheshwari and Taylor Lorenz, from The New York Times)
TikTok was told the 'confidential identity' of the UK's next ambassador to China (Chris Stokel-Walker, from Business Insider)
Why the current lockdown is having an effect on mental health (Sarah Manavis, from New Statesman)
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