While only a small number of hand-picked partners have been selected to run sponsored photos on Instagram, the company’s methodical approach to advertising seems to be paying off. Not only is branded content resonating with consumers, but companies like Levi’s and Ben & Jerry’s have launched successful sponsored campaigns.
Instagram Ads are still in early stages of development in terms of scale, but the units are slowly becoming available to more advertisers. In June, Instagram announced plans to expand the ads into Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. However, in order for brands to be successful, they’ll need better insight into how people are engaging with and responding to their content.
Instagram Business Tools
Knowing how people feel about your photos and videos is an important part of evolving creatively. You don’t launch campaigns blindly; instead you study your existing content strategy to learn what’s working and what doesn’t. Only then can you feel confident that the content you’re publishing will help achieve your goals. This is particularly important when you’re paying for ads.
Over the coming weeks and months, Instagram will begin rolling out a new suite of business tools that will help brands better understand the performance of their paid and organic content on the network. These tools will provide value in three areas: Account Insights, Ad Insights, and Ad Staging.
In the first area, Account Insights, businesses will be able to see how they’re increasing brand awareness on Instagram through impressions, reach, and engagement. While this area includes organic posts, Ad Insights will focus the performance of individual paid campaigns through impressions, reach, and frequency.
With access to real-time campaign summaries and data, you’ll have a better understanding of how your target audience is responding to each of your posts. This information will have a significant impact on your future ad campaigns, which can be previewed, saved, and collaborated on through Ad Staging. Here your creative team can work together to create the best content possible for your target audience.
While You Wait
These tools will be made available to advertisers on Instagram over the coming weeks and months. If you don’t have immediate access, or weren’t invited to advertise on Instagram yet, there are still best practices you can follow to ensure your content is performing at its best.
For starters, keep blatant product placement to a minimum. It might seem counterintuitive, but recall that Instagram is about art and creative visuals. Plastering a big logo across the screen wouldn’t suit the native advertising style the network is aiming for. Your content, whether sponsored or organic, should blend seamlessly with the overall look and feel of photos on the network.
Herschel Supply, for instance, could easily use its Instagram account as a visual product catalog. Instead, the Canadian retailer uses the platform to tell the brand’s story through inspiring travel scenes and crowdsourced images of how its products are used in the wild.
“When we look for photos to feature on our Instagram account, we’re looking for photos that fit into our overall brand story of what it means to be ‘well traveled,’” explained Allison Butula, the company’s social media manager. “We’re looking for photos that tell that story in a single image.”
Once your message is defined and you know how Instagram photos will feed into it, put your content calendar in place. Don’t overwhelm followers with one product photo after another. Space out your branded content like you would on any other network. Moderate the number of posts you make per day to maintain a non-intrusive presence.
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.