In January, Instagram announced it was trialling a new ‘Subscriptions’ feature, similar to Facebook’s offering that launched in 2020.
Senior Account Executive
In January, Instagram announced it was trialling a new ‘Subscriptions’ feature, similar to Facebook’s offering that launched in 2020. Starting with a small pool of 10 creators, including Olympic silver medalist @JordanChiles, basketball player @Sedona._ and XR creator @donalleniii, the platform is providing the ability for influencers to charge for exclusive content.
The feature was first spotted on the App Store back in November 2020, but is only now just being rolled out, although solely in the US at the moment.
How can I see the content?
Unsurprisingly, it’ll cost you. To get access to exclusive content, users will be asked to pay a range of different fees depending on the creator. There are currently eight price points, which start at $0.99, but can be as high as $99.99 a month. It’s expected, however, that most creators will provide price points at the lower end of the scale.
What do you get for the money?
The paywalled content can be anything from alerts for exclusive broadcasts to subscriber-only Stories and profile 'badges', with the latter helping fans to stand out in the comments and message requests sections of the app. The service gives regular users the ability to engage more deeply with their favourite creators, by getting exclusive content.
This may sound dreamy, but there’s a catch. The obvious concern is that users could screenshot and share exclusive content; despite early rumours of Instagram blocking the ability to do this on creator accounts, a ban hasn't come to fruition. Instead Instagram has announced that resharing is a violation of subscriber T&Cs and creators should report those abusing the feature. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a problem during the early testing phase.
How are creators using them?
We’ve done some digging on the small bunch selected to trial the new feature and the monthly subscription fees vary. At the low end are @alanchikinchow and @bunnymichael, who charge £0.79 monthly, while at the more expensive end of the scale, @lonnieiiv and @alizakelly are asking £8.99 for their exclusive content.
What you get is completely up to the creator; we subscribed to both Bunny Michael’s and Alan Chikin Chow’s channels to take a peek at the exclusive content. Both creators announced to their followers about their involvement in the trial, focusing on how the feature would enable their followers to get to know them better.
Bunny explained how she’d be explaining the context behind her in-feed posts and captions and doing regular Lives on Fridays. Alan promised bloopers, tips and tricks for growing your own following, as well as behind-the-scenes shots of his content. Notably, all Stories save to a subscriber-only ‘Highlight’ so the content is continually accessible for those paying, removing the time-pressure element of a Story.
What do Subscriptions mean for the creator economy?
The creator economy is a large one. It's currently valued at over $100 billion and this figure is only going to increase. With this in mind, it’s certainly a valuable move from the platform, which is facing stiff competition from the likes of TikTok and YouTube.
Instagram chief Adam Mosseri believes that subscriptions are “one of the best ways” for influencers and creators to have a predictable income – and with many of them already monetising features like Close Friends, by charging fans a fee to view Stories, the subscription model seems like the next natural step.
In addition, Instagram says it won’t be taking a cut of creators’ subscription revenues until 2023 at the earliest, so there’s plenty of time for savvy early adopters to earn some major money.
What's next for Subscriptions?
We’ll be keeping an eye on this new feature to see if and when it’s rolled out further in coming months, along with how creators and users respond to it.
The key question is: will brands be able to get a piece of the subscription-only pie? It’s too early to say whether this feature will be kept strictly to creators – or indeed if brands opt to advertise via creators’ exclusive content – but we wouldn’t be surprised if everyone wants a piece of the action.