Instagram Makes Its Entrance Into the Social Advertising Realm

Instagram recently announced the opening of its Application Program Interface (API), allowing marketers to start purchasing and posting ads to help automate Instagram advertising campaigns and target their specific audiences.


This is big news for digital advertisers who recognize the influence Instagram has with millennials. In the past, companies that wanted to advertise through Instagram, were required to contact a representative directly, limiting Instagram as an ad platform to only advertisers willing to make a substantial time and budget investment.


Before diving into a paid Instagram campaign, it is imperative to know how to maintain your authenticity in your Instagram presence. This authenticity will not only help to gain the trust of new followers, but also maintain the trust of your overall audience.


Since becoming part of Facebook’s ownership, Instagram has made a series of moves to open the advertising space. Select Instagram advertisers experienced upgrades such as the availability of Facebook ad targeting tools and the introduction of the “Shop Now” buttons, allowing advertisers to connect their ads to external links outside the app.


For now, the list of API partners mainly includes Facebook’s biggest marketing partners. Instagram has stated that its main goal with open advertising is to allow small- and medium-sized businesses to reach their audiences easily. It remains to be seen how these smaller brands will jump into the advertising game.


Instagram: The Mobile Advertising King?

Instagram has a unique distinction: it is a true mobile-only social platform. From its inception, Instagram has been a platform designed and best suited for mobile interaction and advertising, with little to no focus on appealing to a desktop interface.


This laser-focus on the mobile platform is uncharted land for advertisers. Advertisers can now reach the mobile millennial audience much easier than before, considering millennials have moved away from many of the more established social media advertising spaces. Nearly 75 percent of Instagram’s 300 million users are between the ages of 15 and 35 years old.


As a mobile-only offering, Instagram will have to go through the growing pains associated with the introduction of widespread advertising. However, the few advertisers who have tested their ads on the platform are finding great results.


Michael Kors: Pioneering the Instagram Ad Space

Luxury lifestyle brand Michael Kors was the first advertiser to test sponsored posts with their Instagram audience in November 2013. With the simple image of one of its watches, the ad does not appear as “sales-ey” as one would think a social ad would.


Michael Kors Instagram


The results speak for themselves. In the 18 hours following the post, Michael Kors gained nearly 34,000 new followers and the post received almost four times the average number of likes, reaching a global audience of 6.15 million users.


Of course, as with any change to a popular platform, the ads were met with some resistance. While marketers were able to achieve their desired ROI results, many in the Instagram community complained. Users were unhappy with the idea of more ads appearing in a seemingly untouched marketing space.


Influencers and Authenticity to Build Trust

With Instagram opening the door to advertisers, brands must find a way to balance their authenticity within the social platform with their overall business goals. Users seem reluctant to embrace more ads in yet another social space, so advertisers must find ways to make their content engaging and authentic to the audiences they want to reach.


One of the keys to building this trust will be authenticity. Due to the visual nature of Instagram, advertisers must rely on creative visual content to make their pitch. Finding the right balance between authentic content and brand messaging may take some time. Once a brand has found the balance though, it could attain similar successes to that of brands like Michael Kors.


Authenticity can also be achieved with the aid of influencers. To users, influencers already have a sense of perceived authenticity because they don’t seem push out ad content all the time. While they may share promotional posts, they come off more genuine and organic than if a brand were to post an ad.



Influencers Building Brand Authenticity

Capital One figured out a great strategy to utilize Instagram influencers. With their “What’s In Your Wallet?” campaign, they gave three popular Instagrammers control over their brand account. The photographers then snapped photos of the interesting things in their wallet such as love letters, photographs, tickets, and more.


Capital One Instagram


Nine of these photos were then chosen to run as paid Instagram ads for Capital One. The images were also posted to the brand’s other social media channels. Overall, the campaign boosted Capital One’s ad recall by 16 to 25 percent among older generations. For the increasingly difficult to reach millennial group, overall brand favorability increased by three percent.


Capital One has even taken the campaign a few steps further, utilizing the photos for their other social media channels, showcasing multiple images in Instagram’s carousel ad unit feature, and asking for submissions from their followers, which could be chosen for future advertising efforts.



While social media marketers want to ensure that they are utilizing all the social platforms they can, Instagram comes with a very unique offering. Marketers must build trust and authenticity with users through their content in order to find true success on Instagram.




Written by Danielle VanZandt

Danielle is a Public Relations Coordinator with the Communications team at esd & associates, serving a dual role as a social media account manager and content writer. With a degree in both Business and English from Southwestern University, she has assisted with client projects through event planning and coordination, social media promotion, and content development.

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