Consumers don’t always welcome new forms of advertising, but marketers are often eager to get hands-on and explore ways of integrating new methods. You might think that this couldn’t possibly bode well for brands — after all, consumer feedback is amplified through social media — but branded content has actually proven to be quite popular on a number of social platforms.
Instagram specifically has been adopted and accepted by brands and consumers alike. Since the photo app’s launch, hundreds of businesses have maintained an active presence, leveraging the platform’s popularity into successful marketing campaigns. But one area marketers still seem unsure about is Instagram Ads.
Launched last November, Instagram Ads fit right in with the app’s traditional photo and video layout. In fact, the only thing setting them apart is the “Sponsored” label in the top right corner. And now, after a successful test period with national advertisers, Instagram has announced plans to expand the ad product into Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Regardless of location, however, marketers are wondering whether Instagram Ads will be a good fit for their brand and will they have a worthwhile return on investment? Although the answers to these questions will be different depending on your business goals, here’s a closer look at some early Instagram Ad campaigns to help you gauge whether they’re something you’d like to pursue.
Fashion designer Michael Kors kicked off the first Instagram Ad with an image of a watch. The brand eased into this new advertising space with an upload that was similar its traditional Instagram posts. When the ad’s engagement was compared to that of the last five non-promoted posts from the Michael Kors account, it was obvious that the ad had garnered extra attention.
Eighteen hours after having been shared, the ad had received 217,000 likes — a 370 percent increase compared to the 46,000 the brand usually sees. The average engagement rate for its five most recent posts was 3.57 percent. Additionally, @michaelkors gained 33,985 new followers, an increase of 16 times the 2,138 followers gained on average.
The downside was that not all of the engagement was positive. Nearly 20 percent of comments were negative, and only one percent (or almost 20 people) expressed clear purchase intent. However, with better targeting and time, we expect that negative comments will taper at least somewhat.
Leading up to the holidays, Levi’s sought to build awareness for the lifestyle it inspires. Over a nine-day period, the retailer posted four sponsored images featuring people wearing its iconic denim apparel and sharing a moment in beautiful outdoor spaces.
According to Instagram, Levi’s reached 7.4 million people in the U.S. through its campaign, which targeted individuals between the ages of 18 and 34. Additionally, 24 percent of people who saw more than one ad remembered seeing a Levi’s ad — nearly three times more than the control group.
“Not only were we able to reach a large audience with our ads on Instagram, but the metrics clearly show we engaged with them in a memorable and authentic way,” explained Julie Channing, director of digital at Levi’s. “We’re pleased with these results.”
Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s Instagram Ad campaign aimed to drive awareness for its creative an fun-loving brand, and for its new Scotchy Scotch Scotch flavor. The brand posted four sponsored images over an eight-day period featuring its ice cream in a carton, in a cone, and even as a vision in the clouds. The campaign targeted individuals aged 18-35 in the U.S.
As a result, the brand reached 9.8 million people, and 33 percent of those who saw more than one ad remembered seeing a Ben & Jerry’s ad. By managing the frequency of the sponsored posts, Instagram ensured that viewers saw ads from the brand only three times on average. Each ad was inserted in an individual’s feed only once. Additionally, 17 percent more people became aware of the flavor Scotchy Scotch Scotch and associated it with the brand.
“Since its launch, Instagram has provided us with an amazing platform to connect with our fans and tell our story visually,” said Mike Hayes, digital marketing director for Ben & Jerry’s. “Ads on Instagram let us reach and engage with more fans about our flavors, fun and values.”
As Instagram expands its ad product, it’ll continue to optimize ads to make them more successful for marketers while maintaining a great experience for the service’s users. We’ll continue to highlight success stories of brands using Instagram Ads as they become available. In the meantime, while you wait for a wider release, it’s worth considering how the ad unit can be integrated into your strategy.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.