As reported by ClickZ in October 2018, brands are increasing their ad spend on Instagram, which now boasts “a global community of one billion.” Financial brands are among those attracted to the image-centric social platform — and not just with ad dollars. Many have adapted financial services content marketing for Instagram and implemented influencer marketing strategies that allow them to leverage the audiences of some of Instagram’s popular content creators.

Authenticity & influencer marketing on Instagram
When executed correctly, these efforts (advertising, content marketing and influencer marketing) fit in with the style and intent of user posts instead of seeming out of place. They utilize powerful, intriguing images (Instagram is classified as a photo app, after all) and include captions that avoid ad speak and the hard sell. The word most often used to describe what brands must try to achieve on the platform is “authenticity,” and it’s especially true in the realm of influencer marketing, where credibility is key.

By establishing their credibility, a number of experts in fields like travel, cooking, wellness and photography have created personal brands and built large audiences. As influencers, they engage with followers as part of a community with shared passions and aspirations. This credible connection with followers is what brands tap when working with influencers, and it seems to be working. On Instagram in 2017, eMarketer says sponsored posts generated about one billion likes, an average of approximately 682 per post. Sprout Social reports that “at least 30% of Instagram users have purchased a product they first saw on Instagram.”

Examples of financial services influencer marketing on Instagram
Instagram’s authenticity requirement is one of the reasons Instagram is the leading social platform for influencer marketing, including in financial services where Mintel data1 indicates it is the “primary channel.” In the first half of 2018, Mintel found that American Express and Chase “lead the landscape” for sponsored influencer posts, but many top banks and card issuers2 are working with Instagram influencers to promote products and services across their portfolios.

Here, we take a look at how some of these financial services influencer marketing posts are set up3 for success – and a chance at authenticity.

“Embrace lifestyle, not product”
That’s the advice from Sprout Social, and it gets to the heart of what Instagram users are after. Instead of leading with the sell, these influencer posts for Bank of America Apple Pay and the American Express Global Assist Hotline demonstrate the lifestyle possibilities their products’ value propositions and benefits make possible.

See the world through someone else’s lens
In these financial services influencer marketing posts, the photos totally steal the show… which is exactly how it should be. Bank of America Premium Rewards and Chase Sapphire Preferred benefit from supporting roles (i.e. exposure) in one of the most powerful opportunities on Instagram: discovering delight and beauty through someone else’s eyes.

Find the perfect match
We agree with Mintel1 when it says that “brand alignment is essential” in influencer marketing, and celebrities4 with influencer marketing side gigs are good examples of this. Without brand/product alignment, they’re “just” celebrity endorsers, but with fan bases that share their personal passions, these celebrities carry a different kind of influence within specific niches.

For the launch of its Savor card, which is built on food and dining experiences, Capital One tapped the influence of David Burtka actor and professional chef, who hosts Celebrity Dish on the Cooking Channel. (Note the cameo here by Burtka’s spouse Neil Patrick Harris. The team sometimes works as a pair for Capital One.)

When launching the World of Hyatt credit card, Chase and Hyatt worked with Molly Sims, whose interests align with the travel card which features perks for health and wellness. In her Instagram bio, Sims describes herself as “Actress, Model,5 Humanitarian & Hip Momma,” and her feed showcases her as a working celebrity mom who travels frequently for business and pleasure while keeping up with beauty and fitness regimens.

Be part of a big story
These #powerofpossible posts from U.S. Bank demonstrate how a lengthy caption can help financial services influencer marketing content carry more meaning. As noted here by Sprout Social, “Brief, snappy captions work, but don’t fear stepping outside of the norm and following social storytelling trailblazers like National Geographic.”

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I’ve partnered with @usbank to share my #PowerOfPossible story… a story of how this crazy traveling life of mine began. ⠀ I have always loved experiencing new places, dabbling in photography, journaling, and the exploring the outdoors… but I never saw it being anything beyond a hobby. Back in 2015 I realized that an actual job existed that encompassed all of these things I loved: a full-time travel blogger and photographer. ⠀ It happened gradually: first I overcame my fears and published my first blog post. I spent all my free time improving my skills and learning from those around me. Then I began to take on freelance opportunities as they came up, which slowly allowed me to leave my day-job and start photography and blogging full-time. ⠀ There have been many ups and downs, but I am so proud of what all my hard work has achieved. Even more so, I am in love with this community we have created… one of support, encouragement and inspiration. Thank you for all being a part of my journey  #sponsored

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Over the past few months, I’ve partnered with @USbank to share my #PowerofPossible station on @Pandora. Head over to my profile and click the link to listen to my updated #ChicagoPossible mixtape. Let no one fool you. Success is rarely an accomplishment made by oneself. It takes a group of hardworking, dedicated people to see a vision come to reality. One of the things I love most about Chicago is the people. I’ve made so many wonderful friendships over the years and have had the privilege of working with incredible teams of people who have shaped me into the person I’ve become and the work I’ve contributed to. Including the pixel pack @LowResStudio. I’m so proud to call each person from our team a co-worker and friend. #Sponsored

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Turn over the mic
With influencer marketing, it’s important to let someone else do the talking. This not only helps with the authenticity factor but also frees brands from some of the restraints that may exist in marketing guidelines on their own platforms. Brands may not be able to get away with saying “hubs” (for husband), but they don’t have to if they simply let users hear the familiar voice of the influencer, as in this post for the co-branded SPG Amex card. Similarly, the influencer promoting the American Express Gold Card helps connect the brand with trendy hashtags by loading her first comment — a place where influencers often expand upon their content — with hashtags like #foodstagram, #satisfeed, #hangrydiary, #devourpower and #forkyeah.

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#Ad OMG I SAW HAMILTON ON BROADWAY AND NOW MY LIFE IS COMPLETE! Thanks #spgamex for inviting me and the hubs to see Hamilton last night– it was MAGICAL. Real talk, the ability to purchase tickets for incredible experiences like this is why I love my @spg @AmericanExpress Consumer Credit Card! When traveling I’m able to get awesome rewards, too. You can earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels and so much more [terms apply]! Link in bio for info and peep my stories for more behind the scenes action from the play! ___ Have you ever seen Hamilton? Not only did I love the ethnic diversity of the cast, but the soundtrack was POPPING! My favourite song by far was "The Schuyler Sisters"(aka "Work"), and King George's tracks cracked me up! What's your favourite song or moment from the play? #AmexAmbassador

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Make friends IRL
When brands bring influencers to them (like this upscale bus restaurant) or go where the influencers are (like #BlogHer18), they add an experiential dimension to the content. Influencers can speak firsthand about the brand and/or experience, as in these posts for the co-branded Barclaycard – Uber rewards credit card and for Chase Slate.

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#ad Thanks to recently becoming a home owner, I’ve been thinking a lot about my financial wellness lately, along with many other big questions that come with adulthood . Needless to say, whatever personal finance cards had been obscured at the bottom of the deck, we each put on the table. It forced us to get really comfortable with talking about money and start planning a joint financial future together. And it also forced me to get real with many of my own money cards that I had been too lazy to acknowledge . With all this already brewing in the back of my mind, it was such a gift from the universe to see Chase Slate Ambassador @farnooshtorabi talk all about maintaining our financial wellness at #BlogHer18 Health. I’m sharing some of her advice (and my own two cents on ) in partnership with @chase about small steps we can take to be more financially healthy, while still affording that green juice, shaman, yoga retreat, or other high vibe price tags. You can read the full post via the link in profile. Also check out the Money Honey story in my highlights in which you all weighed in on budgeting, saving, credit score monitoring, and more! Finally, this little slice of hygee pictured above was the studio apt I lived in during The Wellness Project! #ChaseSlate #financialhealth

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Sit in the lap of luxury
As reported by Business Insider, “Instagram has become the leading social media site for luxury shoppers.” For the Citi /AAdvantage Platinum Select card, Citibank and American Air tap Benjamin Heath, whose other clients include Burberry, Lacoste and Ducati. For its Centurion Lounge member perk, American Express uses luxury travel and fashion vlogger Mr. Robbie Leung. In both cases, the content successfully associates the brands with sophistication and accomplishment.

Be relevant
What’s “in”? What’s trendy? It can be hard for traditional financial services marketing to keep up, but influencer marketing lets FIs be part of what’s popular right now without seeming to try too hard. For example, this post for Bank of America’s #BetterMoneyHabits includes content related to the tiny house movement.

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1 Mintel’s “Influencer Marketing in Financial Services” report, September 2018

2 Although these financial services influencer marketing examples are from larger banks and card issuers, the same approaches can be scaled for regional banks and credit unions by using influencers from their own cities and communities.

3 Part of the set-up for influencer posts includes full disclosure of the brand-influencer relationship, and the posts we’ve highlighted demonstrate many different approaches to fulfilling this requirement.

4 Convince & Convert does a great job of explaining the difference between celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing, but some individuals (like Molly Sims and David Burtka) are both.

5 Reporting on data from Celebrity Intelligence, Marketing Week says, “Models with a large social media influence [were] the top celebrity endorsers for brands in 2017.” Models’ natural alignment with beauty, fashion and wellness – and their influence on fans in that niche – help them straddle the line between celebrity endorser and influencer.