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July 25, 2019

Why Instagram’s Branded Content Ads matter to businesses

Written by MacKenzie Levy
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Instagram now counts 1 billion users who post about 100 million photos a day, according to Sprout Social. And 80 percent of those users follow businesses, and businesses continue to monetize Instagram with advertising, as depicted in this slide from Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report:

Instagram image sharing

To make Instagram an even more valuable tool for both businesses and users, Instagram has launched a new feature, Branded Content Ads. According to Instagram, with Branded Content Ads, businesses and Instagram users can work together to turn some of those 100 million pieces of visual eye candy into branded content for the business. In other words, businesses can capitalize on user-generated content.

How the Branded Content Ads Feature Works

Here’s how the feature works: so long as a content creator gives a business permission, that business can use Ads Manager to turn a creator’s post into an ad on the business’s Instagram feed. (Instagram provides specific ground rules to ensure that the promoted nature of the content is clear to all Instagram users.)

So, for example, a food chain might want to create a branded campaign from customers’ enthusiastic posts made from different locations. Although a business can already crowdsource content from customers via contests and organic posts on Instagram, Branded Content Ads makes it possible for businesses to launch ad campaigns from user generated content in a more structured and measurable way, similar to how businesses create promoted posts on Facebook.

Influencers and Businesses Unite

Even though businesses can theoretically work with anyone to turn organic posts into branded content, Instagram positions the tool as a way for businesses and influencers to collaborate. That’s because influencer outreach remains a hot area of opportunity not only on Instagram but across the entire digital landscape. For influencers, Branded Content Ads could result in gaining more visibility as brands share their content on their own pages. (Brands with millions of followers could create an instant audience for a micro-influencer.) For brands, the appeal of Branded Content Ads is to inject authenticity and cultural relevancy into their content through relationships with influencers.

Early Reactions

The potential for influencers and brands to collaborate more closely via Branded Content Ads has not gone unnoticed. The New York Times reported:

Coming soon to Instagram feeds everywhere: more sponsored advertisements from “influencers.”

While this may be good news for users with large followings who make money promoting products, for the rest of us, it could mean wading through more unwanted ads in our feeds.

The Verge also picked up on the potential for an explosion of influencer-generated ads:

Instagram is now allowing advertisers to promote branded content from influencers as ads in the feed and in Stories. That means you might start seeing an influencer’s paid partnership with Old Navy on your screen, regardless of whether you’re following them.

Plenty of creators make their living from posting sponsored content, but only their followers currently see their ads. Today’s announcement opens up creators’ sponsored content beyond their followings, just like how ads have already been showing up throughout Instagram in between posts and Stories.

Both The New York Times and The Verge suggest an uptick in unwelcome content. But smart businesses know that content only feels unwelcome when it is irrelevant and boring – which need not be the case here.

What You Should Do

For many individuals, the word “influencer” evokes images of globe-trotting bloggers sharing photos and videos of sun-soaked vacation spots. But everyday influencers create authentic, engaging content that is far more varied and interesting than stereotypes suggest. An “influencer” can be anyone, technically – a musician, a photographer, a writer, an entrepreneur, or an intrepid explorer of craft beers, just to name a few types. Branded Content Ads gives businesses ways to tap into a broad universe of fresh, lesser-known creators to elevate their content. How well they do so comes down to whether the brand:

  • Understands how to create a compelling narrative across digital channels. Compelling narratives always win. But putting the content and influencer ahead of the narrative? Not so much.
  • Has an eye for cultural or newsworthy trends that audiences care about. Tapping into culture, real time events, and viral digital conversations makes a post more relevant to an audience.
  • Uses Instagram’s analytics to measure success and learn from not-so-successful campaigns.
  • This sounds obvious, but it must be said: understands how to harness visual content – not just how to format images on Instagram, but how to find compelling images.

Businesses that already understand how to build great narratives with user-generated content have a head start with this new feature. To become one of those businesses, contact Investis Digital. We know how to create both paid and organic connected content that will help you form closer relationships with your audience. 

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