What the New Instagram Advertising Functionalities Mean for Your Marketing

instagram_advertising-2Instagram has taken great strides to crank up their revenue-generation machine, and from the looks of things, it appears to be working. The immensely popular photo sharing site launched its advertising program in December 2013, but initially kept it limited to a handful of select brands so it wouldn’t detract too much from the user experience. Now, the company recently announced plans to expand its advertising platform to include all advertisers, from the local bakery to large multinational corporations, a little later this year. So how will these changes affect your business? Here’s a run-down of Instagram’s new advertising tools, as well as what they will mean for your marketing efforts.

1. Instagram’s new advertising functionality will enable marketers to reach the social network’s 300-million-plus user base through a robust API that can accommodate several different types of advertisements. This includes adding call-to-action buttons such as “Shop Now,” “Download” or “Learn More” to advertisements, enabling marketers to connect shoppers to products with only one click.

This brings a level of convenience and instant gratification to eager customers who were previously only able to inquire about a particular product they may have seen on Instagram, but had no way to make a direct purchase from within the site. As an advertiser, you now have the opportunity to provide your customers with direct access to your products at the precise moment when their buying interest is at its peak. 

2. Instagram has leveraged Facebook’s high-octane infrastructure to give marketers a highly effective way to buy, manage and measure the performance of their ads on Instagram. Some advertisers have opted for a “hybrid” approach by utilizing custom targeting features that integrate both platforms. For example, women’s shoe retailer Stuart Weitzman utilizes a targeting method known as “sequential messaging,” where potential prospects will see a cinemagraph on Instagram one week, followed by a related product ad on Facebook the next week. These added features can give your business a more extensive set of marketing tools in order to improve conversion rates.

3. It’s important to remember that Instagram is largely viewed as a social network that allows users to connect with images that represent a particular lifestyle that matches their interests. Photos shared by influencers from various verticals (e.g., fashion, sports, luxury, etc.) can quickly garner thousands of likes and comments, and are often referred to as “aspirational” posts. Set against the backdrop of Instagram’s clean, minimalistic and somewhat “laid back” newsfeed layout, brand advertisements run the risk of sticking out like a sore thumb, but if marketers can team up with influencers that already have large Instagram followings, they stand a better chance of being positively received by users. 

One thing that Instagram influencers have that many brands lack is an established, genuine line of communication with an audience that those brands would love to reach. This should come as no surprise, as the old adage about word-of-mouth being the most powerful form of advertising still holds true in the age of social media. Seeking out a partnership with an Instagram influencer can drive highly targeted traffic to your product offerings in an unobtrusive manner by integrating your brand’s message with the influencer’s organic content in a seamless manner.

4. While Instagram’s new ad platform is highly action-oriented and contains impressive features, it’s not a cure-all for bad marketing practices. Brands will still need to think on their feet, stay creative and develop content that can convert visitors into sales. Along with whatever short-term benefit an advertiser might receive (e.g., a sale, a lead, a commitment, etc.), there needs to be a plan in place that can further cement the newly formed bond between customers and their brand.

For years now, businesses have recognized the potential of Instagram advertising, but details were sparse concerning which direction the social network wanted to go in terms of how it was going to integrate advertising into its business model. With a boost from Facebook, advertising on Instagram can now offer brands of all sizes the ability to reach their target audience with laser-like precision.

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