How Brands and Influencers Can Rise to Meet the Evolution of Social Media Aesthetics
Brands: don’t panic, but do pay attention. There’s a shift coming to an Instagram feed near you and it may impact how you curate content and engage with your key audiences. Perfection is on the outs, and authenticity is reemerging as the victor, yet again, in the social media ecosystem. In a recent article, the Atlantic chronicles the gradual yet noticeable shift from bright, color-filled Instagram feeds to more realistic portrayals of everyday life; hairs out of place, messy countertops and, dare we say it, no Facetune!?
The shift seems to stem from a gradual social media burn-out, where nothing quite seems real or immediately believable anymore. We’ve all become just a bit skeptical and perhaps a little worn down trying to obtain the illusion of perfection we’re fed through our devices. However, when it comes to the growing group of Gen Z users, we’re seeing an active rebellion against more stylized IG influencer content in favor of messier, lower-quality, candid photos that give followers a more realistic look at a day-in-the-life. We’re entering the age of the Finsta, folks.
The Atlantic notes that “…while Millennial influencers hauled DSLR cameras to the beach and mastered photo editing to get the perfect shot, the generation younger than they are largely posting directly from their mobile phones.” And that makes sense, given how far phone cameras have evolved in very recent years. Bulky equipment isn’t a necessity anymore for the Instagram-worthy content we’ve become accustomed to. But even so, this new, reality-loyal generation is skipping the filters, color-pops, and predictable compositions anyway.
So where does that leave our beloved brands and influencers who have built empires on content curation perfection? First thing’s first: this new shift in aesthetic doesn’t mean a complete end to the gorgeous feeds we’ve come to know and it doesn’t mean you should throw out all the brand standards you’ve built. What it does signal is an opportunity to rise to meet this evolution of the digital presence of a new generation. As Gen Z establishes buying power, they’re having more of a say in the visual landscape they’re inhabiting. It’s an exciting time for our industry, and smart marketers will research, respond, and restrategize to use the shift to their advantage.
The really good news is that influencers and the brands activating them already have that advantage. Our human-first campaigns naturally live and grow on the forefront of what’s current, so we’re exposed to these fresh nuances earlier. Younger audiences are craving more authentic portrayals of life and positively responding to brands that can infuse humor and ‘realness’ into their content, so it’s in our best interests to provide that experience for them. We’ll get left behind if we don’t. And let’s be real — less shiny, more of-the-minute content might make our jobs easier.
Advice for Influencers
Take a deep breath, and don’t throw out those fancy cameras just yet! When brands are deciding who to activate for a campaign, they’re assessing an overall skillset and creative ‘voice’. What you’ve created and how you’ve captured past stages of style are both vital to solidifying your place in the future of influencer marketing. The difference now is that there’s a little extra room to show more of the real you — unfiltered and unapologetic. Let your hair down, share an endearing quality, be conversational and transparent, and relate to your audience in a way that shows we’re all just people sharing similar experiences.
As social platforms shift in aesthetic, don’t be afraid to experiment with new approaches and educate brands on the types of content you see performing best. Remember, you’ve worked hard to cultivate your brand and the data will back up your methods of content creation.
Advice for Brands
Particularly when working with Influencers, it’s time to loosen the grip on those reins. Brands with the intention to appear more approachable, relatable, and obtainable should allow for a bit more humanity in their approved photo and influencer content.
- Empower your influencers to transparently share their personalities and include shots they know will resonate best with their audience based on past post performance.
- Inspire a feeling. Guide the conversation for your influencers and make the goals clear, but avoid the temptation to dictate and control the output.
- Incorporate influencer content into your brand channels. They’re creating that ~real real~ that directly speaks to your target market. Lighten up. Share the love. Welcome conversation.
Take one of our recent campaigns with Carter’s, for example. In support of the launch of their new preemie line of clothing, we activated 10 influencer Moms who’d had children born prematurely to deliver baskets of Carter’s preemie bodysuits, blankets, and Carter’s gift cards to the NICU unit that treated their own little warriors.
The influencers told their stories from a place of unwavering sentimentality using visuals that matched the rawness, ultimately driving millions of impressions by the close of the campaign. Their transparency was welcomed and appreciated by their followings and endeared them deeply to the Carter’s brand which was meaningfully aligned with the content from the beginning.
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Ultimately, there will always be a place for spotless product shots, photos of avo toast, and peeks into flawless lifestyles; the real insight is that now, perfect isn’t standard — it’s optional. All hail true storytelling: the OG true north for the entire marketing industry.
What content tweaks and redirections are you planning to make to embrace Instagram’s aesthetic evolution for your brand?