Guest Post: Influencer Marketing’s Secret Weapon - Instagram Whitelisting

A guest post deep dive into the secret world of Influencer Whitelisting - when an influencer gives advertising permission to their brand partner. These advertiser permissions allow a brand to create and post an ad through the influencer’s handle, then promote that ad to a specific audience using data from the influencer’s account.
Ellery Kemner
March 29, 2023

Influencer marketing has taken social media by storm, but it’s not a new concept: paying someone with a voice and people who listen to promote a product started a century ago (think of the classic Wheaties cereal, with your favorite pro-baseball player on the box). While influencer marketing has been around for generations it has also changed dramatically since the 1920s, with social media platforms being the go-to place to connect with new customers and make an impact (which makes sense: 63% of consumers trust influencers more than brands). 

Influencer marketing strategy is still the same in theory, but the ability to drive influence and performance at scale has radically changed. Marketing campaigns can now be clearly measured based on bottom-line sales versus social media engagement metrics. One of the most effective methods for driving sales is turning the organic influencer content we all love into ads. This influencer marketing technique is called influencer whitelisting, and it has taken brand partnerships to a new level.

What is Instagram influencer whitelisting?

Whitelisting is when an influencer gives advertising permission to their brand partner. These advertiser permissions allow a brand to create and post an ad through the influencer’s handle, then promote that ad to a specific audience using data from the influencer’s account, all while ensuring account security for the Instagram influencer (no more password sharing). 

The best part about these influencer ads? They don’t exist on the influencer’s organic page, but still look like influencer posts. Ads like these are called “dark posts.” Dark posts look similar to everyday Instagram content found on an Instagram user’s feed, and a user can interact with it the same as any other Instagram post (commenting, sharing, click-to-shop, hashtags, etc). The benefit of dark posts not existing on an influencer’s page? You get more bang for your buck, and Instagram influencers don’t exhaust their followers, thereby lowering their engagement rate, by inundating their organic feed with #sponsoredposts. Win-win.

How whitelisting has elevated Instagram influencer marketing:

Before influencer whitelisting, influencers were generally chosen based on the size of their following, and influencer campaigns were more or less a shot in the dark to get those followers to buy; brands hoped for forgiving social media algorithms so that their influencer's engagement rate would drive sales. Often, that shot would miss. With whitelisting, influencer marketing has transformed into a measurable  acquisition channel. Here’s how: 

  1. Transforming influencer content into Instagram or Facebook ads gives brands the power of a target audience: amplify just the right content, to just the right consumers, for a variety of outcomes. As mentioned above, brands can target consumers more precisely than ever before, and the data insights available to brands and their influencers was previously unmatched. One of those methods is Lookalike Audiences (LAL). An LAL audience is created by analyzing user data of an influencers’ following. When you create an LAL audience for your dark post, the ad will be shown to users most likely buy what you’re selling, streamlining the customer acquisition process and driving down the cost of each purchase. 
  2. Whitelisting makes A/B testing easier than ever, and enables brands and influencers to customize their message to different markets. Figuring out the best combination of carousel vs slideshow, or the best order of instagram story frames, or the best image to sell a product used to be a nightmare. Whitelisting allows for simple A/B testing, and using a tool like Lumanu ensures that only your most successful ads keep running. No more wasting money on a failing ad. 
  3. No more mass-messaging. Customize your ads for different needs. Influencer marketing used to be a shot in the dark: post it, get as many eyes on it as possible, and hope that active users buy in. With whitelisting, you can create different messages catered to the viewer and their current placement in the sales funnel. Whether you’re focused on prospecting or retargeting, your ads can now apply to the right message at the right time.
  4. Click that Call-to-Action. It’s as simple as it sounds. Shop now, visit the website, sign up, and learn more are all clickable additions to make whitelisted influencer campaigns more effective. Thank you whitelisting.

Like all direct response marketing, unlocking performance requires testing, optimizing, tweaking, and finding your sweet spots.

How to whitelist influencers

There are many methods to choose from when it comes to whitelisting on Instagram, each with different benefits and drawbacks for influencers and brands, including:  Manual Whitelisting, Lumanu, and running Branded Content Tool Ads. If the goal of your marketing campaign is to drive sales, either Lumanu or Manual Whitelisting is the best option. If your current focus is brand awareness, the Branded Content Tool is a free option with many of the same benefits (although it is important to note that there is no advertising access when using the Branded Content tool). The chart below highlights key similarities and differences between these options for influencer whitelisting processes. Here’s a how-to guide for manual influencer marketing.

Whitelisting with affiliate partners:

Whitelisting has reached beyond your standard influencer campaign. Brands have started to use whitelisting to tap into before-unavailable results with their affiliate partners. The main benefits we hear from affiliates and their brand partners? 

  • Affiliates can work with more brands than before, because dark posts erase the risk of over-saturating their feed with #sponsoredposts. 
  • LAL audiences give brands the ability to leverage new audiences and reduce customer acquisition costs. 
  • Using a Facebook Certified Partner like Lumanu ensures data security for both brands and influencers, and offers data analytics unmatched by Instagram itself. 
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines are intuitive to the whitelisting process, and are automatically baked in to most ad options.
  • It’s critical to get the sales tracking, commission structure, and payments right. Everflow’s Direct Linking and coupon code tracking makes it easy to manage payouts while understanding the performance delivered from these influencers. 

What this boils down to? For affiliate partners, it means more money in their pocket. They can take on more brand work than before, and whitelisting’s methodical and efficient nature means more sales generated per sponsored post (better commission than ever before). For brands, sales go up; people are more likely to respond to ads from real people (affiliates, influencers, etc) than an ad from the brand itself. We’ve tested it. Better conversion rates, higher sales, half the effort. 

Whitelisting is for more than your standard influencer, but there is a small obstacle to consider for brands who want to whitelist their affiliate partners: Brands may need to create a separate commission structure for whitelisted content that is run as paid media by the brand (this is simple to do with Everflow). A change in payment structure is often needed because the affiliate partner will need to be paid their commission, while brands will need to invest into promoting the media itself, ensuring a successful influencer marketing campaign. After sorting out a payment structure that works for you and your affiliate partners, the benefits of influencer marketing through whitelisting can really pay off.

The takeaways for whitelisting affiliate marketing campaigns:

Brands: Download Lumanu’s free eBook that explains the ins and outs of whitelisting, and direct your affiliates to this blog post so they can learn more.

Affiliates: communicate your interest to your brand partner, or send them this blog. Expanding your horizons as an influencer, with the promise of getting better returns for your brand partner, is a path to success. 

Guest Post from: Ellery Kemner, Lumanu, Marketing Coordinator

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