One year after being acquired by Facebook, Instagram began offering native advertising to a limited group of brands as a beta. Since then, the visual-centric social platform has collected and reported initial results, opened their doors to more advertisers and introduced features to sweeten the deal for digital marketers. As native advertising becomes the norm of digital advertising and display media continues to fall by the wayside, Instagram, with its limited functionality and palette for creative expression, has taken steps toward becoming a staple in the social and native advertising world.
1. Simplicity of the platform
Unlike its parent company Facebook, Instagram is a simple social feed focused on photos and videos in a mobile-first format without an algorithm limiting content’s organic reach. Its minimalistic design allows images and videos to span the entire width of a mobile phone’s screen, keeping the user’s attention on the content itself instead of other functionalities/features of the platform. Brands have been successfully using Instagram as part of a social content strategy from an organic perspective, though the platform’s simplicity is also a strength of its advertising options, as well.
2. Truly native video
Facebook and Twitter offer native advertising and both added native video uploading relatively recently. Instagram was a video production and distribution platform before it introduced advertising and, due to the visual nature of Instagram content, video advertising on the platform is truly native. Furthermore, Instagram’s advertising guidelines prohibit overt branding in sponsored content, making it appear organic in a users’ feed.
3. Introduction of image carousels
This week, Instagram announced carousel-format image advertisements, allowing brands to include multiple images in one promoted post. Like stories on Snapchat, these carousels allow brands to publish and promote multiple images without overloading users’ feeds with separate posts. This feature could open new opportunities for brands whose products or offerings are better shown with multiple images, such as an energy drink company showing a new variety of products in one image and focusing on individual products in each subsequent image.
4. Clickable links
Until this week’s announcement, the platform disabled links in organic and promoted posts in an effort to keep users on the platform instead of linking to other content like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The non-linkability prevented brands from driving action from their Instagram content, which limited content impact to driving positive brand lift, product recall and other loftier, hard-to-measure metrics. Introducing clickable links that open webpages in a browser within Instagram allows advertisers to drive measurable impact, even if that’s just a visit to the brand’s website. As pointed out by TechCrunch, clickable links also give e-commerce companies a new reason to advertise on the platform since their business relies on driving online sales.
Instagram has released case studies detailing the success of beta advertisers on the platform. Ben Jerry’s sought to drive awareness for their brand and new flavor Scotchy Scotch Scotch among an 18-35-year-old audience. Over the course of an eight-day campaign, Ben Jerry’s reached 9.8M people, increased ad recall by 33 points and increased awareness of their new flavor by 17 percent. Over nine days, Levi’s reached 7.4M people and increased ad recall by 24 points in an effort to build awareness for Levi’s products and lifestyle before the holiday season. The case studies available are still somewhat limited and don’t speak to what metrics advertisers have access to, but prove Instagram’s ability to scale sponsored content in a native format on a fast-growing social platform.
Image credit: Instagram