MBPT Spotlight: How Brands Can Seize the Instagram Advertising Opportunity

Instagram rolled out ads for the first time this past month, offering a unique approach for brands to reflect on their image and engage with users. Instagram has initially only allowed a selection of brands already active on the platform to advertise in an attempt to keep the advertisements consistent with the site’s feel.

Michael Kors unveiled its first attempt at an Instagram ad and received mixed reviews, and it will definitely be a trial-and-error process as brands continue to perfect their strategies. Users will, however, have control over what ads they see, creating more incentive for brands to make their ads pleasing to users.

A user’s state of mind is different when checking social networks as they interact with each platform (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn). It is up to advertisers to understand these differences in a user’s mindset, and play up the strategies that can work best for them. It takes a unique approach when a previously unadvertised medium like Instagram begins to roll out ads for the first time. Users often react negatively at the start, so creativity is the key.

We at Fetch, a mobile advertising services company, have put together five key tactics that brands should keep in mind as they start to plan their launch into Instagram ads. It is still uncertain when all advertisers will be able to run Instagram campaigns, but when that time comes, a brand should be ready with their strategy.

1. Create ads that blend in with your brand’s Instagram profile in order to maintain consistency.
Instagram provides a great outlet for brands to express their tone and engage with users in a dynamic way through the art of storytelling. When incorporating ads into such a platform, brands should make sure the difference, at least aesthetically, between sponsored content and the regular content is negligible.

When ads enter the mix, they must try to not disturb the flow of the user experience and disrupt the user’s content consumption.

2. Provide entertaining engagement opportunities for users that are not followers of your brand.
Instagram ads will be displayed to users that are not necessarily following particular brands. For this reason, brands should think about messaging and content that will appeal to users and potentially drive engagement.

These new ads will provide an opportunity for brands to test and learn strategies that work most effectively, including campaign ideas, images/videos and call-to-actions.

Offering followers exclusive deals and discounts that they can either redeem online or in-store would be an engaging and effective way to gain followers and make loyalists feel as if they are a part of the brands ‘inner circle.’

3. Deliver ads with a specific objective in mind and customize content based on a measurable goal (i.e. attaining more followers, promoting a product).
Brands should unveil ads on Instagram with specific goals in mind by attaching their business objectives to Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) such as impressions, likes, comments and followers. This is a second area for brands to test and learn with different call-to-actions and goals to see what users respond to best. By doing so, brands will learn valuable insights about their users and get a better idea of what they can use Instagram ads to accomplish.

4. Develop a hashtag strategy that can categorize your ads, messaging and products in a beneficial way.
Hashtags have proven to be a useful way to search for content as well as categorize it. Although many users include hashtags to express tone of voice, brands can use them to archive their content for users to easily search for more images. Instagram has currently allowed sponsored ads to stay within the brand’s profile (even after the campaign has been run).

That being said, brands should definitely create a way to categorize their sponsored content within their profile using hashtags. In this way, ads will continue to speak for themselves even after the campaign concludes.

 A great example of a brand already taking advantage of hashtags is fashion company Marc Jacobs. During the holidays, they ask Instagram followers to share their family moments by using the hashtag #marcfam. They then take the campaign one step further by aggregating the images tagged and reallocating them to the official Marc Jacobs blog, allowing followers to feel as if they are an active participant in the brand’s identity.

5. As Instagram ads evolve to be more customizable, brands should incorporate features within the ads that can be associated to only them.

Incorporate brand identity within ads, such as proprietary filters or themed posts. Creating ads that can be associated with a particular brand will improve recognition as well as brand affinity. It is up to the brand to strategically leverage the Instagram ad platform as it continues to evolve. As soon as ad features are public, brands should be the first to provide content that they know will win out against their competition.

Lelait is responsible for leading operations and growth of San Francisco-based Fetch in the U.S., after relocating from Fetch’s London office, where he served as group account director for several clients including eBay, Hotels.com, William Hill, Debenhams, Supercell and Sony Music. Prior to joining Fetch, Lelait managed creative efforts for PhoneValley in the U.K., working across the Digitas and Razorfish agencies in mobile and providing strategy to brand innovators including McDonald’s, Nissan, NSPCC, Pfizer, Purina and Shell.