Friends Listen to Friends: How to Engage Millennials, Gen Z on Instagram [SPONSORED]

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 “People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend.” - Mark Zuckerberg

Influencer marketing is a billion-dollar industry on Instagram alone with spending set to double by 2019. Following the wisdom of Mark Zuckerberg, brands and agencies continue to create and execute social media campaigns that unlock the influencing potential of a trusted friend.

However, this hot market has its downsides. As more influencers enter the digital space, finding the most effective advocates becomes an even greater challenge, and it raises the questions: Just how much social influence do influencers really have? aggregated data from 16,277 influencers with more than 2,000 followers and the average engagement rate hovered just above 4%. In other words, when the average influencer promotes a brand, only 4% of his or her followers are engaging with the content. Clearly, influencers don’t actually have as much social influence as we think. 

Victor Layne & Aneesh Dhawan, PurPics

Victor Layne & Aneesh Dhawan, PurPics

So how can a brand get one step closer to unlocking the coveted recommendation from a friend? The answer is simple. Don’t look for quantity of followers but quality. Avoid influencers that measure their success (and structure their pricing) based on vanity metrics like impressions. Most importantly, proactively seek opportunities to capture the influencing potential of the average person.

That is the idea behind PurPics, a cause engagement tool launched in February 2017. PurPics leverages the power of friends, not influencers. Our platform connects brands with college organizations, whose members promote businesses on their personal Instagram account in exchange for donations to a nonprofit of their choice.

PurPics users are real college students with up to 2,000 Instagram followers. So when content is posted in a PurPics campaign, it's guaranteed to engage peers who share similar experiences, values and interests.

The results speak for themselves. The engagement rate of the average PurPics user is 26% - more than six times higher than that of the typical influencer. Looking beyond the numbers, the model makes logical sense too. Anyone can assemble a large following of loosely connected people, but building an authentic network of engaged peers takes time. Creating real trust and real influence simply can’t be done overnight.

Because PurPics users are posting to raise money for charitable causes that they support, the platform doubles as a CSR tool for brands. Leveraging the social influence of the average person may be especially important for CSR campaigns because not only are traditional influencers less engaging, but they may even have a negative impact on brand sentiment.

Phi Mu sorority worked with clothing company River Happy to raise money for CMN with PurPics.

Phi Mu sorority worked with clothing company River Happy to raise money for CMN with PurPics.

As Allison+Partners2017 Influence Impact Study explained:

“A top-down, celebrity focused view of influencer marketing may undermine credibility if not done authentically, while an empathy-driven, emotional plea from the most unlikely of influencers may spark extraordinary results.”

In line with the insight from Allison+Partners, PurPics has found the key to unlocking “extraordinary results” by working with the “most unlikely of influencers”.

Partnering with lifestyle clothing company River Happy, PurPics provided a creative entry into the University of South Carolina college market. In three days, over 100 members of Phi Mu sorority posted pictures promoting River Happy’s apparel on Instagram. Receiving over 33,000 likes and more than 150,000 impressions, the content engaged River Happy’s target audience in a hard-to-reach demographic.

Additionally, River Happy's marketing spend doubled as a $1,000 donation to the Children's Miracle Network.

Does your nonprofit work with a company that wants to target the youth market? Or are you currently working with student organizations? You could be a great partner for PurPics! Visit the PurPics web site or email Aneesh at

This post is sponsored by Purpics. Purpics helps nonprofits and student organizations raise money by connecting businesses with their target audience simply, organically and effectively.