Trends, news, and analysis: catch up on the week's biggest headlines with the Julius Works Blog's weekly round up, your cheat sheet for staying in the know with influencer marketing.

News and Analysis:

 

Instagram updates stories, allowing users to post stories to their “close friends” only

Last week, Instagram debuted a new feature called “Close Friends” that allows users to share stories to specific lists of users. In an effort to make the platform more personal, Close Friends ideally incentivizes users to share content they wouldn’t otherwise share, whether they fear their parents seeing what they’re up to or strangers snooping too much. Rather than make a “finsta” (fake instagram account), Close Friends can let users share genuine content – and keep them on the platform. Limiting an audience to specific, trusted followers helps bridge the gap between private and public social media.

The Julius View

Keeping users engaged and interested in the platform is great news for advertisers and influencers alike. For advertisers, it means users have more of a reason to stay on the platform. For influencers, adding select followers to a Close Friends list might be a way to boost engagement and positively improve an influencer’s perception as authentic. Members of a Close Friends list may also  interact with content on a deeper level. It's early yet, but the ability to segment users may be a potential new source of revenue for influencers, for example, by offering preferential access to premium content to followers who pay or donate, a la Patreon.

 

Turkey challenges and the boon of group-generated content

For social media virality, timing is everything. The time of day you share a post matters as much as the post itself. This rule is especially true for group-generated trends like the 25-Pound Turkey Challenge, which surged around Thanksgiving. It’s by no means a “new” trend, but it caught on again this year. The premise was that participants would text one of their parents asking how to microwave a 25-pound turkey, with responses ranging from bewilderment and disappointment to full-on recipes.

Group-generated content, like the Ice Bucket Challenge or even the “In My Feelings” Challenge, usually rises in popularity around particular events, seasonal or otherwise. The 25-Pound Turkey Challenge obviously cropped up around Thanksgiving, while the “In My Feelings” Challenge from earlier this year gained traction around the release of Drake’s eponymous song.

 

"Challenges" gain traction around holidays, events, etc.

The Julius View

Viral trends like the turkey challenge can teach us several things about social media as a whole. First and foremost, they show us that trending conversations on social media can be guided and monetized by brands and influencers. While this comes at the risk of being tone deaf, the benefits of gaining viral traction are hard to ignore. Influencers like Doug The Pug got in on the #InMyFeelingsChallenge, much to the benefit of their brand. And Butterball capitalized on the #25lbTurkeyChallenge by releasing a recipe for cooking a turkey in the microwave – seriously – in addition to advertising a “hotline” for children shunned by their parents for the prank.

Second, viral trends show us the pulse of social media: what people think, how they feel, and how those opinions change over time. Using these trends as touchstones can inform brands on future advertising strategies, as the core of virality is entertainment. Getting a feel for what people really think helps inform marketing campaigns.

Finally, following trends shows us the endless well of creativity that social media can tap into. The “Yanny” or “Laurel” challenge, for example, showed us the depths to which social media users will go to solve a problem, whether they’re breaking down audio clips or sharing academic findings. For brands, it’s beneficial to understand that tried-and-true isn’t always the best way to go. People care about genuine conversations with tangible benefits, not just pure advertisement. Some of the most successful branded social media channels contribute to trends, rather than follow them. For influencers, jumping on the bandwagon is one thing, but taking it further can yield better results as well.

 

What’s trending this week:

“Brands Prefer Microinfluencers” - Via Wired

YouTube debuts stories and home feed autoplay - Via The Verge and TubeFilter

“How luxury hair-care brand Amika overhauled its influencer strategy” - Via Glossy

 

That's all for this week, thanks for reading. Be sure to to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for more influencer marketing news, analysis, and interesting content.