Instagram is considered the next big thing in social media marketing. The image sharing network, which was purchased by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion, now has a reported value of more than $35 billion, with advertising potential playing a big part in that calculation. Why is it worth so much? Because Instagram's been growing at a faster clip than any other major social platform in the last 12 months, hitting 400 million users last month - up from 300 million only nine months earlier. Instagram also has high levels of engagement and great potential for audience reach, uninhibited, as yet, by algorithmic filters.
To capitalize on this potential, Instagram has been slowly rolling out new ad offerings, including 'shop now' buttons and the wider availability of promoted content. And now, Instagram advertising has been opened up to everyone, everywhere - and while this move was officially announced on the Instagram blog a few weeks back, Facebook has today taken the opportunity to showcase Instagram's new ad options via their official channels, with not one but two posts outlining the case for Instagram ads.
A Visual Story
The first thing to highlight with Instagram ads is people approach Instagram differently to how they do other social networks. From the Facebook for Business blog:
"While people come to Facebook to connect with friends and discover things from people they know, people turn to Instagram for visual inspiration and to explore the world through imagery, giving businesses the opportunity to connect with people in an environment where they're open to learning about new things."
As such, the Facebook team has sought to highlight some of the behaviors and trends of Instagram's audience in order to help brands maximize the effectiveness of their Instagram campaigns.
"In Australia, 58% of people who use Instagram said the platform makes them dream, laugh or think, and 18-34 millennials use it the most. Many also said they use the platform to discover a world of creativity -- as well as new products and services. After seeing a sponsored ad, four in 10 took an action like visiting the company's website or Facebook Page, liking a post or tagging a friend."
Facebook also seeks to highlight some of the more successful communities on Instagram to help brands understand the visual focus of the platform and how people use it.
"Some of the largest and most engaged communities on Instagram are about cars, fashion, food, fitness and sport, travel, music and film."
Facebook specifically highlights the Asia-Pacific market in their research, noting that 75% of Instagram's user base is from outside the US. By 2017, research firm IDC predicts that Asia Pacific will make up over half of the global mobile payments market, estimated to hit US$1 trillion. Given this, and Instagram's popularity in the region, it makes sense to give it specific focus in order to highlight effective practices on the platform.
"Makati City in the Philippines is the world's selfie capital according to Time magazine, with Petaling Jaya in Malaysia not far behind. Thailand is home to Bangkok's popular Siam Paragon shopping mall - one of the world's most Instagrammed locations. Hong Kong's Instagram Pier is famed for its spectacular "Instagram" view while in Taiwan, a passionate community is helping to stave off the demolition of the picturesque Rainbow Village. In India, Instagrammers are capturing the country's diverse culture and stunning landscape through a range of perspectives."
Through these images, the most successful brands on Instagram share stories and create emotional connection with their audiences, and, importantly, don't look out of place in a user's photo feed.
Facebook also provides some examples of successful Instagrammers in this regard, including Japanese photographer Keiki Kasaka (@wacamera).
New Ad Options
While it's been announced that Instagram ads are now available to everyone, the roll out of access is still in progress, and not everyone can utilize Instagram's self-serve ad option as yet. When you can, however, Instagram ads will be available through Facebook's Power Editor ad management platform - if you haven't used Power Editor before it is a bit more complex than the simplified, self-serve platform available through regular Facebook.
To create an Instagram ad in Power Editor, you need to:
- Click the Manage Ads tab at the top of the page.
- Click the 'Ads' option within an Ad Set on the left side of the page and then click Create Ad.
- On the Create Ad page, choose whether to use an existing campaign or create a new campaign (your campaign has to use an ad objective that supports Instagram ads - currently only 'Clicks to Website', 'Mobile App Installs' and 'Video Views' are options in this regard). Similarly, choose whether to use an existing ad set or create a new one.
- Your ad set must have the Instagram placement checked in order for your ad to be eligible to show on Instagram.
- Enter a name for the ad and click Create.
- Complete the details for the ad, including the creative. Keep in mind that details such as audience targeting and bidding are managed at the ad set level for the ad.
- When ready, click Upload Changes to upload your new ad.
The process does require some familiarity with Power Editor so worth reading up or seeking advice before going live with your Instagram ad.
Instagram ads utilize Facebook's normal targeting functionality and, according to Facebook:
"...soon Instagram ads bought through the same tools will be available with more objectives, including website conversions."
To highlight the effectiveness of Instargam ads, Facebook provides the example of Pura Vida Bracelets, which was one of the first businesses to use Instagram ads through Power Editor.
"We used lookalike audiences to reach people like our website visitors on Instagram and Facebook. Our cost per order for Instagram ads is the same as it is for Facebook ads, so, in effect, Instagram has expanded our ability to drive orders and revenue from our website visitors and new customers." - Griffin Thall, CEO / Co-Founder, Pura Vida Bracelets
While it may take some time and testing to perfect, it'll be interesting to see how brands and users respond to the new Instagram ad options, and whether the introduction of self-serve ads hurts the wider Instagram user-experience. Right now, the new ad options look great and provide a whole new way to reach a rapidly expanding market - and they also encourage new ways of thinking creatively with your social media ads, lessons which would undoubtedly be applied to other platforms also.