If you’re a brand on Instagram, you know the little thrill of getting tagged in a post. Whether tagged by a long-standing influencer partner or a new fan, that @ symbol represents your social media marketing strategy taking form and new eyeballs engaging with your work.
Well, that simple tag is about to get a powerful upgrade: Tags can now link directly to product pages integrated into the shopping tab. This feature was previously limited to Business and Creator accounts but is rolling out to all US users by this summer.
Thanks to this change, it will be possible for more of your fans to shout out their love for specific products—and drive sales in the process. Not only is this a big deal for brands that want to spread the word about their goods, it also allows fans to make more direct connections with the standout items they love.
It’s no surprise that Instagram chose to highlight a makeup brand—Kulfi Beauty—for the announcement, given that beauty brands rely on Instagram as the perfect place to highlight everything from swatches to packaging to amazing full-face looks. Just ask Leslie Valdivia, co-founder of Vive Cosmetics.
“Our customers and community reviews and feedback is what really drives sales, so their posts and recommendations go a long way,” she says. “Being able to now tag products, not just brands, will hopefully make it easier for others to discover the products their friends and family are recommending online.”
Now everyone is an influencer
Instagram couldn’t say when the feature will roll out to more markets. However, just having US users able to link to products could still have a huge impact for brands on the platform, especially in how they work with influencers.
“From an influencer perspective, working with brands directly, it’s really exciting to be able to link to a product directly within the app—it means the call to action is that much more direct,” says Ashley Buchanan, Senior Director of Product at influencer marketing agency Obviously.
In the case of Vive Cosmetics, that means a fan or influencer could post a photo wearing its bestselling Qué Matte Liquid Lipstick in Amor Eterno and tag the product. Then, someone who sees the post only needs to click the tag to be taken to a link to purchase it.
Instagram influencers are already a great marketing tool because they’re able to highlight products in a real-world context—like a beauty product being applied or clothing being worn. Being able to link directly to the product lets customers find—and purchase—those products that much faster. Ashley says it’s a win for influencers, too, because it keeps their own fans on the platform rather than sending them away from the app to hunt down the product.
As an added benefit, Ashley says, the move will enable more people, even with small accounts or niche audiences, to behave as influencers or micro -influencers and direct their networks to products.
The tags also open up opportunities for influencers to be tied to not just the brand, but a specific product that fits their niche. Instead of being a social ambassador for an organic skin care brand, an influencer may be an ambassador for its rosewater face mist, because that’s what’s most applicable to their target audience.
“Being able to open up the concept of ‘everyone is an influencer’ just means infinite opportunity,” Ashley says.
A game changer for affiliate marketing
The other exciting prospect is that Instagram is simultaneously testing an affiliate sales program that works with product linking. When this is rolled out more widely, participants could earn a kickback if customers shop through their product tags. That’s a game changer for affiliate marketing and a great incentive for influencers to work with brands.
I think this feature with Instagram will allow more customers to be rewarded to talk about brands and products they love.
“I think that’s huge. Being able to monetize linking products means you don’t need to be part of a formalized program to make money,” Ashley says. “Outside of the campaign context it means that influencers can be recommending products they like, and going out of their way to find brands their audience will like.”
Leslie is also eyeing the affiliate possibilities, as Vive Cosmetics currently has an existing affiliate program.
“I think this feature with Instagram will allow more customers to be rewarded to talk about brands and products they love,” Leslie says.
Make the most of product tagging
This is all coming at a great time, given recent news that regular hashtags don’t actually have an impact on reach. Product tagging could have the impact that hashtags don’t.
It’s worth noting that your followers probably aren’t aware of these changes. If you already work with influencers that don’t already have Creator accounts, it’s worth reaching out to encourage product tagging, or to adjust future contracts accordingly. And make sure to let your fans know they now have a very direct way to support the products they love.