Subscription-Based Social Media Content | How Instagram Is Adapting to Creator Trends  

July 27, 2022

Above all else, social media has allowed people – especially celebrities – to be themselves. Data continues to underscore that the most resonating content is no longer based purely on quality or even strategy – it’s authenticity. Popular content creators such as influencers, athletes and musicians no longer have to hide behind the filtering of publicists and handlers to get their messages out. They’re able to take their stories directly to their audience. And, as a result, supporters are developing stronger connections with those they follow more than ever before.

The interesting thing is that both sides of that partnership are experiencing a deeper relationship. That’s because fans have proven willing to support others through direct donations, above and beyond the cost of merchandise and content. And that’s exactly what they do, pledging their support through monthly subscription fees.

In modern times, platforms allow content creators, brands, and businesses to convert fan loyalty into monetary rewards. A new entrant to this space is Instagram. Let’s take a look at subscription-based social media content and see how Instagram fits into the mix.

Subscription-Based Content

An emerging trend that’s taken hold in recent years is catering to the most loyal subsection of fans — specifically, the group of people that is willing to pay money for content that has traditionally been free.

The theory that it only takes a thousand true fans to succeed has caught on with content creators. If those fans support content creation through payment, and if the creators of that content pay back their supporters through direct communication and perks, it creates a symbiotic relationship in which both parties benefit.

This movement has its roots in sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which facilitated crowdfunding — projects were announced by aspiring creators, and those missions could be fulfilled if enough people pledged money to support their development.

As time went on, established creators realized that they could garner support in the same way. Patreon is the most famous example of a platform that collects regular payments that went directly to celebrities and creators.

People don’t need to pay in order to be fans, but if they do, they can know that their contributions directly help that individual to keep making a living while producing the work they love. Patreon contributors also receive rewards from the creators they support commensurate with their financial outlay, sometimes including direct contact with the artist or celebrity.

Patreon’s popularity has prompted other businesses to offer similar programs. Twitch allows video game fans to subscribe to their favorite streamers, with a portion of the monthly subscription fee going straight to the streamer.

Spotify offers a similar subscription model to support musicians. Ko-Fi is an alternative to Patreon that gives a bigger cut to the creator. OnlyFans is an infamous subscription-only site that allows customers to support individual content creators.

Subscription-based content is a trend that’s not going anywhere, and it’s giving content creators more options than ever. And the time has come for the social media giants to claim their piece of the pie.

Instagram Enters the Fray

Instagram has never been a platform to let a popular idea go without taking their own stab at emulating that concept. We’ve seen it in Instagram Stories and Instagram Reels. Now, Instagram has announced subscriptions.

Paywalled Content

The main takeaway for most people will be that content creators will now have the option to put their posts behind a paywall. Users won’t be able to see that content unless they pay the subscription fee. This includes traditional Instagram posts, Instagram Stories, and Instagram Reels. Subscriber-only content will be indicated by a purple icon.

Instagram profile managers will have the option to include some, or all, of the profile’s content behind the paywall. This makes it possible to have some images available for public consumption while requiring followers to pay extra to see the remaining content.

As a result, a content creator doesn’t have to have one public Instagram and a private profile on a subscription-based service — it can now all be done through Instagram, a social media platform with nearly 1.5 billion users worldwide.

Subscriber Chats

A common perk offered to supporters on Patreon and other similar sites is live chatting with the content creator. This can take the form of Zoom calls, traditional text-based chats, or even one-on-one calls or DMs. The idea is to reward subscribers for their loyalty, while also deepening the ties between creator and supporter, ensuring that those loyal fans will continue to pay their monthly subscription fees.

Instagram has included this chat option as part of its subscription offerings. Chats take the form of a typical group chat, based on text and images, and the chats themselves are limited to 30 subscribers at a time.

The chats themselves will only be active for 24 hours, which limits the amount of time celebrities spend in the chats while also maintaining an air of exclusivity, creating limited-time moments that are not to be missed.

User Availability

The eligibility for Instagram subscriptions is vague. Instagram’s help pages only state that the option may not be available for all members. What is known, though, is that only professional accounts — as in, those accounts designated as businesses — can set up their profiles for subscriptions.

For content creators or businesses, subscriptions don’t have to be expensive. Subscriptions start as low as 99 cents monthly and go as high as $99 per month. One nice fan-friendly feature about subscriptions is that if a page raises its fees, that increased price only applies to new subscribers.

Existing supporters continue to pay at the rate at which they subscribed. Additionally, Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Instagram won’t take a cut of subscription fees until 2024 at the earliest.

That’s also true of Facebook subscriptions, which are a separate entity from Instagram subscriptions. This gives Instagram users a significant incentive to try out subscriptions sooner rather than later.

How Brands Can Use Instagram Subscriptions

Though it seems like the target audience for Instagram subscriptions might be influencers, that doesn’t mean brands and businesses can’t get in on the action. For the right brand, Instagram subscriptions represent a unique opportunity for both the business and its supporters.

The best brands aren’t only about the products with which they’re associated. They’re about the image, the style, and the way they make people feel. And consumers who really believe in a business will be happy to pay a little extra to support brands that mean something to them.

Of course, subscription-based content only works if it’s a two-way street, so brands will have to give something to make customers feel it’s worth their while. Brands can achieve this in a variety of ways. Businesses can offer one-time promo codes to entice new subscribers since the long-term subscription revenue and the loyalty derived will far exceed the one-time discount.

Behind-the-scenes content and subscriber-only sales can be hidden behind the Instagram paywall. Brands can preview upcoming content and future marketing campaigns. Subscriber chat can be utilized to give subscribers a voice and let them have a say in the direction the brand will take in the future. There are many possibilities, and the options will only become more numerous and more fruitful as Instagram adds more options to its subscription program.

Smart brands are already looking into Instagram and identifying ways in which subscriptions can help them to drive revenue, engagement, and loyalty. Brands might not get rich from subscriptions, but they represent another revenue stream, and they can further the relationship between the brand and its supporters. If you’d like to see how Instagram subscriptions can benefit your business, contact us at Commit Agency today.