A little over a year and a half ago Instagram introduced their first advertising product. In light of some recent new developments to the site’s ad capabilities, we’d like to revisit how the Instagram advertising platform has evolved. We’d also like to consider the value Instagram ads platform offers marketers and provide some best practices for media buying on Instagram. Just for fun we’ll wrap up with some of our favorite Instagram media buys as case studies and inspiration for your upcoming campaigns.
Instagram Advertising: A Brief Snapshot
Instagram, for those unfamiliar, is a popular mobile photo-sharing site purchased by Facebook. Demographically, the site was very popular largely with millennial and younger audiences. Prior to an official advertising product, brands utilized the channel for posting photos of their products, customers using their products, etc. The initial ad product functioned as a native ad, looking just like regular Instagram content except labeled with “Sponsored.”
In response to the popularity of Twitter’s Vine video service, Instagram introduced their own. Instagram videos were longer than Vine videos, 15 seconds compared with 6, and were expected to be a Vine killer.
The introduction of video to the service expanded the creative ways that marketers could promote their products on the channel. Increasingly, Instagram became more content-focused and engaging with this additional feature. Brands were driving this with creative how-tos, behind-the-scene, contest, and user-generated short videos.
Instagram Advertising: What’s New?
Instagram advertising was limited to large brands in its initial rollout. They have since opened to all business sizes and are in eight countries. There are some really useful changes to the ad product that make media buys considerably easier for media buyers, advertisers, and Instagram users.
In-app direct response: As a shopper, how many times have you seen a product on Instagram that you loved and had to leave the site to find it and make a purchase? The ability to buy directly from an ad on site is not here yet, but their testing future clickable ad capabilities that will also allow users to sign up for a service or even install an app from within Instagram.
- The value for marketers: This can be great way for media buyers and advertisers to track marketing efforts and to determine just how effective their Instagram campaigns are at generating product sales. Additionally, it provides an additional avenue for promoting and moving your products.
Better targeting: In the beginning the ad format could only target users by gender, age and geographic location. While limited, this allowed marketers a slightly better way to narrow in on their desired customer. They’ve now opened their targeting to include user interests.
- The value to marketers: Users can expect to see more relevant ads to the things they enjoy and marketers can better serve their ads to people more likely to use their product. Campaigns can be segmented and more niche-focused to reach those special audiences without the waste of reaching users with little to no interest in your product.
Our Favorite Instagram Campaigns Up To Now
Here are a few of our favorite campaigns along with some suggested practices to get you thinking about a possible campaign.
Applebee’s Fantographer campaign
This campaign was a favorite for a few reasons: It is easy to participate, fun for users, garnered a lot of engagement, and features lots of delicious food (yum). Applebee visitors were asked to take photos of their meals and tag the photo with their hashtag. The best photos were featured on the restaurant’s official Instagram page. Not only did they get more than 70,000 photos, they increased their Instagram following by 32%.
Best practice tip: Consider crowdsourcing content where appropriate. It offers up lots of perspectives and gives you lots of great content and it gives your audience an opportunity to engage with you directly.
Starbucks White Cup Challenge
Like the Applebee’s campaign this one was crowdsourced, fun, and simple. Starbucks asked users to replace the misspelled name on their white paper Starbucks cup with a cool hand-drawn design. The cup artists would then share their design on the company’s social media pages. They held a contest and turned three winners into reusable Starbucks tumblers. The first contest received 4000 entries and was so popular they held the contest for a second year.
Best practice tip: Make it a contest. Not only do you increase site engagement, but you also get to showcase the talent of your customers.
Mercedes Benz Make Your Own Mercedes Custom Shop
We can’t all afford to buy a brand new Mercedes today, but wouldn’t it be fun to just imagine. To launch their 2015 GLA SUV, Mercedes created a custom shop on Instagram that allowed you customize your dream car down to the color, wheels, and roof, and grille.
Best practice tip: Make it interactive. This campaign found a creative way to showcase their product’s many options while engaging the customer.