If you’ve been keeping up with Instagram news lately you will have noticed that the platform has been pushing for some changes in its advertising capabilities specifically to its stories.
These changes are centered around the carousel ad format.
This format has been pretty successful for Facebook’s advertising, so it’s not that big of a surprise that Instagram is now opting to adopt the format as well (given that Facebook owns Instagram and whatnot).
Another recent addition is Instagram Shopping which allows products to be tagged and viewed from pictures.
Finally, Stories will receive some updates that allow users to share certain content from third-party apps such as Spotify.
Instagram is, especially among younger generations, one of the more popular social networks. For this reason, we here at NextGen Media Lab thought it would be a good idea to talk a little bit about Instagram as a platform, how it started, what its grown to become, and what marketing opportunities it presents.
Let’s start with some good old-fashioned history lessons. Instagram first launched in October of 2010 (nearly 8 years ago can you believe it?!) by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.
At the time it was exclusive to iOS and was the first social network that was exclusively centered around users sharing purely visual content.
Originally the app was actually called Burbn and was quite similar to Foursquare (mind you this was all before the actual release).
This caused some concern in Systrom and Krieger, and subsequently, they decided to tailor the app towards photo sharing and was eventually released in October 2010 under the now-famous name: Instagram.
From there on, the business completed various funding rounds and grew in value to roughly $500 million by March 2012, was bought by Facebook for $1 billion, and also released its Android App in April.
In November the same year, Instagram also published its (more limited) web profiles that users could access from any browser.
It was a pretty big year for the company.
Following this, Instagram began embarking on a steady growth phase, releasing its Windows phone app in October 2013 (yes, I forget they were a thing sometimes too), and inevitably opening the platform up to monetization, AKA advertisement.
In October 2013 Instagram first began its monetization efforts in form of sponsored posts, which were eventually pushed out on a global scale by November. This was followed by video ads in October 2014.
The first instance of carousel ads was introduced in March 2015 and was exclusive to the news feed. A year later Instagram also extended this include videos, following the success of the format.
Instagram’s user base also grew tremendously over the years
In August 2016 Instagram released the Stories feature, which allowed users to post pictures (and eventually videos) that would disappear after 24 hours. This followed the released of stories on Snapchat, where it had received positive users’ feedback.
Snapchat also offers various augmented reality features. Instagram published its own adaptation of these features in April 2017 followed by the ‘face filters’ in May.
Totally didn’t copy Snapchat though *wink*.
Advertising was also incorporated into stories, however only with one still image or video at a time.
One explanation for why Instagram became so successful so quickly can be attributed to the simplicity of its design.
The filter system it shipped with which made it very easy for people to edit their pictures, and the whole app was centered around mobile use (which no other social network had done before).
Instagram was easy to pick up and play with.
This feature has since been adopted by countless photo editing apps.
The social network is also extremely popular with bloggers, especially those creating content around lifestyle. Instagram opened the floodgates for affiliate marketing since a lot of bloggers and other influencers cloud now directly collaborate with brands.
This is still true today.
In fact, 65% of the best performing posts feature products in some way, while 29% feature an influencer or brand ambassador.
Social networks, in general, have become a marketing channel in their own right. Visual content, such as pictures and video, boasts the highest engagement rates across all social media channels.
Since this is the area that Instagram was built around, it meant that the platform experienced a lot of growth almost instantly.
The most recent features that are introduced to Instagram expand on these strengths:
Firstly, Instagram shopping allows links to products to be placed directly into the pictures, which gives the consumer incredible ease of access to the products, meaning there is less time for them to be distracted when completing the customer journey.
Secondly, the carousel ad is coming to Instagram stories. The carousel format was first introduced by Facebook as an ad format and, as mentioned, was already implemented into timeline adverts.
Instagram also allows its users to post in the format. It is only natural that Instagram allows businesses to use the format in their adverts now.
From a marketing perspective, the former has the obvious advantage that was already mentioned: creating a shorter customer journey.
The latter allows businesses to get a bit more creative with their adverts. Primarily it will allow businesses to be able to tell a story in a better way.
The normal Instagram ads have also received a polish by now being able to become full-screen ads, even outside the stories.
This can be done via the Ads Manager assuming that the video is under 15 seconds long and matched the Instagram Feed aspect ratios.
While this is nothing groundbreaking, it streamlines the ability of business to be able to reach their consumers since the format can be applied to both Instagram and Facebook adverts seamlessly.
Instagram has also been pushing to make their stories more interesting than Snapchat’s (to put it bluntly). Earlier this month, Instagram’s press page announced that they will be introducing a “Sharing to Stories” feature that allows users to share content from third-party apps straight to their story.
Examples of this includes songs from Spotify or action shots from the GoPro app. Whether this feature will be adopted as a new way for third parties to market their products on the platform remains to be seen.
Instagram has come a long way since its inception 8 years ago. It is currently the fastest growing social network and has surpassed Twitter (330 million vs 800 million users as of 2017).
The growing trend towards more media-focused content such as pictures and videos is symbiotic with the way the platforms works.
Video (especially live video) and picture-based advertisements already boast a significantly higher engagement rate making Instagram one of the most effective platform to run these kinds of ads (obviously this is just from looking at general statistics, the type of business and target audience also have to be taken into account).
If you would like to find out more or if you are interested in advertising on Instagram, or if you’d like to find out more about it, we’d be happy to have a chat with you! Just drop us a line.