Instagram enables marketers to boost influencers’ sponsored content

Instagram users are about to see more sponsored ads from the platform’s influencers whether they follow them or not.

On Tuesday, Instagram introduced “branded content ads.” These enable advertising partners to promote influencer-created posts featuring sponsored products or services. The ads will show up in Instagram users’ feeds in the next few weeks and in Instagram Stories within months.

Search Engine Journal reported:

For example, a fitness brand might pay an influencer to create a post about its newest supplement. The brand could then go a step further and turn the influencer’s organic post into an ad.

… Advertisers can set their own targeting so the ads will still reach people who are likely to be interested in the product.

In a blog post announcing the feature, Instagram said:

Branded content is an evolving ecosystem. As we’ve worked to build the right tools for both business and creators involved in branded content deals, one of the biggest requests from brands to date is the ability to incorporate branded content posts into their advertising strategies.

The new feature enables brand managers to boost their social media marketing strategies with content that consumers see as more trustworthy and transparent.

Instagram said:

68% of people say they come to Instagram to interact with creators. With branded content ads, businesses have an opportunity to tell their brand stories through creators’ voices, reach new audiences and measure impact. Using the tools available on the Facebook ads platform, businesses can reach targeted audiences beyond the people who follow the brand and creator . And by running ads, they’ll have access to measurement and can optimize and test their campaigns against their set goals for more effective marketing campaigns.

CNBC reported:

A quote from Old Navy vice president of brand communications Liat Weingarten in the blog post indicated that the organic reach from “trusted sources who have credibility” has become “increasingly limited.”

“Promoting content directly from an influencer’s handle inherently gives the post more authenticity than coming from a brand handle, and we’re seeing significantly higher engagement rates using this strategy,” Weingarten wrote.

CNN Business reported:

“Creators have found a way to use Instagram to share their lives, passions and interests … and they’ve built really strong audiences around those interests,” Susan Buckner Rose, Instagram’s director of business product marketing, told CNN Business. “There’s a natural opportunity for brands to build partnerships with those creators to reach those same audiences.”

Product recommendations from influencers feel more authentic than traditional advertising, according to Beca Alexander, founder and president of influencer casting and marketing agency Socialyte.

“Their audiences trust them and their opinion,” she said. “They feel like they have this personal connection with these influencers because the influencers give them a view into their day-to-day lives.”

The feature can also benefit influencers, who can increase their followers and engagement through branded content ads. The more followers they have, the more money influencers stand to make from sponsored content deals.

On Tuesday,The Verge reported:

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.

Though the move can benefit both marketers and influencers, Instagram is ultimately offering the feature to make money off the continuing popularity of influencer campaigns. It’s also a way for the social media platform to avoid issues with sponsored content transparency.

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The New York Times reported:

Evan Asano, chief executive of MediaKix, an influencer marketing agency, said big brands were clamoring to work with influencers and were “not afraid to drop $500,000 for a spot with Kim Kardashian,” the reality TV star who has nearly perfected the art of monetizing social media.

And now there are kidfluencers, nanoinfluencers and captionfluencers.

“Influencer marketing is blowing up,” Mr. Asano said. “And Instagram wants a piece of that pie.”

Sharing a popular influencer’s content instead of a marketing message from your organization might seem like a great option on Instagram, but there are downsides to opening the advertising floodgates on the social media platform.

Gizmodo’s Catie Keck wrote:

… [N]ow, not only are ads nearing overkill cropping up after every third or fourth post in feeds and in Stories, based on my experience but I’d argue most do not seem “as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy,” as the company initially said they would be.

… Also, do influencers really need more reach? I mean, really? Many influencers are, effectively, advertisers in their own right. And contrary to the opinions of executives, this confluence of two distinct forms of brand marketing does not a more “authentic” experience make. That is to say, hawking goods and services via an influencer whom users have no interest in following to begin with doesn’t necessarily make that brand’s ads any more palatable.

CNBC reported:

… [E]ven if a post has wider reach, brands still have to grapple with trust in a space where consumers are wary of the miracle benefits of the health supplements and weight-loss teas that are pervasive on the platform. A study released in May by media agency UM said 4% of respondents think that three-quarters or more of the information they get from influencers is true.

Marketers can reach more potential consumers by using Instagram’s new feature, but for each boosted piece of content, they must choose whether they want to focus on reach, building brand awareness, gaining traffic to their sites, increasing engagement or collecting views.

Choosing one objective can ultimately make the effort less effective, especially considering that Instagram ads will show up in feeds of Instagram users who might not have the same interests as the influencer making the content resonate even less.

Despite potential pitfalls, ads and other branded content on Instagram are here to stay.

In its announcement, Instagram said it would “continue to invest in branded content to provide even more value for people, creators and businesses.”

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