Last week, Amazon unveiled a new feature called Spark — a feed within its mobile app that allows users to post photos and tag products available for purchase on Amazon. On some level, this photo posting and tagging is a more native, more transparent version of what users are already seeing on Instagram. With the rapid rise of influencer marketing on the platform, sponsored content has seen a major uptick, which means more posts with products and brands attached.
Amazon Spark is like an Instagram feed without the pretense of social sharing, and plenty of influencers are already using the feature to post photos and highlight products from sponsoring brands. Here’s what you need to know about Amazon Spark and the influencers who are creating sponsored content for it.
Amazon Spark is a feature created around the shopping experience. It’s not much of a social network, but it does feel like an evolution of the shopping experience, particularly where reviews and catalogs are concerned. It’s a place where product photos have some degree of real world context and where reviews take on more significance than a star rating and a few lines about packaging and shipping.
For the most part, sponsored content on Amazon Spark looks a lot like what you’d expect to see on Instagram — high-quality photos featuring products in real world settings.
Spark allows influencers to tag products, which links users to a portal on Amazon where they can purchase said products. There are sponsored photos of everything from overalls to foldable kayaks, and Spark gives users the ability to add “smiles” (like “likes”) to posts, as well as comments.
Spark is organized largely around interests and tags, rather than particular users. It’s possible to follow specific people on Amazon Spark, and certain early influencers have verified profiles that make it feel more like a tool for social buying, but, at least for now, the feed is largely focused on discovery.
There are a number of influencers who are early to Spark. In fact, a quick scroll through the feed reveals that quite a bit of the early content is sponsored — probably an attempt by Amazon to use influencers to draw users to Spark (similar to how Facebook rolled out their Live Video feature with top celebrities and influencers).
Influencers like Gone to the Snow Dogs (with over 200,000 Instagram followers), Eric Rubens (274,000 Instagram followers), and Tiffany Nguyen (308,000 Instagram followers) are posting content not to their loyal band of followers, but to a still-nebulous feed full of users who are likely just trying it out for the first time. These influencers are travelers, photographers, models, design enthusiasts, chefs, and more, and they’re sharing content via a new medium.
For the most part, posts on Spark are what you’d expect from posts on Instagram. They’re aspirational, they’re high quality, and they often emphasize an enviable lifestyle.
What’s unclear is how, exactly, these posts are sponsored. When we think of sponsored content, we often think of brands paying influencers to post about a product, tag the brand, and/or publish a link. That may well be the case for some of the content on Spark, but it feels more than a little unlikely that brands would want to pay influencers to post exclusively on Spark when the reach, at least for now, is extremely limited, with many sponsored posts garnering only a handful of “smiles.”
What seems more likely is that these posts are sponsored, at least in some form, by Amazon, not the brands that are featured. Because Spark is new, it’s going to succeed or fail based on how many people use it. Even the best social networks languish without large user bases, and by incentivizing influencers to use the feature, Amazon is hoping to raise awareness and use of the feature.
Influencer marketing on Amazon is largely all product-based, it’s meant for marketing and selling, and there are natural, native ways to connect posts to the products and pages to buy those products. It makes sense to push influencer marketing forward by making the journey from post to purchase simpler and more intuitive.
For now, though, Spark is like a less polished Instagram. It feels clunky and unfocused and it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be or who it should be for. But that may not always be the case. These are early days for Spark, and though it feels like it’s a long way from being a serious threat to proper social platforms like Instagram, Amazon has proven time and time again that it’s hard to write off.
If users don’t buy in and if Amazon Spark doesn’t move beyond being a strange little feature that few people use, it won’t have much of an impact at all. At least, not on its own. It may catalyze a movement toward more sophisticated linking and better, more native shoppable posts on other platforms, but in its current state, Amazon Spark is just finding its legs in the bigger influencer marketing ecosystem.
If users do find their way to the feature, though, it could change everything. It could change the way that people browse, shop, discover, and purchase products. It could change wish lists and gift buying and the seemingly defunct art of catalogs. It could change the way shoppers approach reviews, testimonials, and shopping as a social act.