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  • Shreya Gulati

Into the World of Instagram Advertising

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

Instagram was launched as a seemingly simple photo sharing app where most of us spent some minutes from our day flaunting mediocre and newly adopted photography skills, layered with saturated filters. In 7 short years, the social media network has come a long way and has transitioned to a platform with one of the highest engagement rates that’s a source of income for millions! Alongside spreading information, starting social conversations, boosting small business, stirring gossip and providing employment to many - one thing that it has completely transformed is the way we - Advertise. From sponsored reels, paid promotions, carousel ads and strong social posts to targeted ads, high quality visuals and introducing influencers - Instagram has made its own innovative niche that is now a widely accepted approach when it comes to advertising.

All these aspects that once seemed so absurd are like second nature to us now to an extent that when I talk about an Apple watch and then an amazon link pop-ups on Instagram for the same, I find it rather helpful than terrifying. And Yes, I also belong to the category of fifty percent of this population that watched The Social Dilemma and decided to delete all traces on social media. But just like most of them, I was back within a span of hardly three days. So much said, it’s almost impossible omitting the existence of this phenomenon that we are so invested in and bombarded with especially as a generation, so the next best thing is to ensure we make the best out of it! Especially understanding Instagram ads and revenue is integral for businesses of all types to promote their brand more effectively! Together, let’s decode the world of Instagram advertising and see how we can optimize on this phenomenon because this trend is definitely here to stay.

Decoding the Phenomenon…

The story of Instagram’s explosive rise reads like a Silicon Valley fairy tale, with the company gaining astounding momentum within just a few short months. The photo and video-sharing social media application took only eight weeks to develop before it was launched in October 2010. But like all good tales this too involved many ups and downs like adding new features, acquisition by Facebook in two years, some updates that didn’t work and some that really helped them up their game. If you are into internet advertising, you know two of the biggest platforms that you must advertise on are Facebook and Instagram. Where the number of users on Facebook are several folds higher than Instagram, the daily engagement rate of Instagram users is what makes it attractive to advertisers. In fact, with more than 1 billion active users, 80% of everyone on Instagram follows at least one business and a whopping 60 percent have discovered a business or product they love using the platform. As Instagram ads get more intuitive and creative, this number is definitely going to rise.

Advertisements however are undoubtedly one of the hardest media products to sell because no one willingly wants to consume them. I mean no one has binged watched or jammed to ads for two hours straight. That’s why the more innovative you are in its overall presentation, packaging and passing it on to the target audience, the more it benefits the brand overall. This aspect is what truly benefits Instagram since they can skillfully combine advertisements with content that makes both sometimes indistinguishable. So for starters, this skillful incorporation is what helps make Instagram its Instagram game stronger. This however is one small speck in the larger ocean of benefits that this game changer offers. So, let’s look at some features that make Instagram a definite yes for promoting your brand!

Features that Set it Apart

Product tagging: What’s better than wishing you could know where to buy the beautiful bag that caught your eye while scrolling and then clicking on it and seeing it linked right there? Nothing. With product tagging you first simply see a visually captivating image of a product in an aesthetic surrounding. If you’re interested and decide to purchase it, you can see the price and be directed to the website with the help of a swipe-up option. This makes the feed look decluttered yet helps in quicker call to action.

Stories: Stories are a great way to engage with your audience with AMA’S (that’s ask me anything) and question tags that help the brand understand what the audience needs better. They also repost real people wearing their products which adds credibility to their brand and adding a link or swipe up option to purchase also makes the advertising effective.

Direct Messaging: Gone those days of waiting for hours on customer service lines only to give up eventually. With Direct Messaging(DM), you can contact brands and their social media managers are usually ready to answer all your queries. Brands can also respond to user comments and provide a personal touch. This also aids in instant feedback from the audience as brands can judge with the public’s reaction on their posts how their ad has been received.

Targeting: With this feature, you can target your customers by location, interests, demographics, behaviour and much more. This means that your advertisement will appear on the feeds of your exact target audience, increasing the chance of making a sale. This customisation helps in showing you lesser but more effective ads alongside allowing you to monitor the results.

Tracking success: It’s often said that advertising doesn’t convert directly to sales, thus tracing their effectiveness is difficult. But with Instagram insights what you can do is track the success of your campaigns in real-time as you get access to analytics that will inform you of which campaigns get the best engagement and also tell you how many converted into sales and leads, and how much you’ve spent/made on your campaign. This information can help you accordingly design your future ads and gain insightful information that can help you further.

Insight: Beyond a brand, it’s projection and products, with the help of Instagram one can know so much about what the brand stands for, what’s their social stance. Do they voice important issues? Do they use their influence to highlight important social movements? Are they ethical in terms of employee policies? There’s so much more to a brand than just its products. For instance, during the initial stages of the pandemic, all brands focused on generating awareness about hygiene and not about promoting their products. Or during moments like #MeToo or #BLM, what does your brand choose to support. Social media bridges the gap between a brand and its customer and makes it more vulnerable.

Key USP: The Visual Component

In advertising, we moved from print media - newspapers and magazines to broadcast media - television and radio and finally to digital media consisting of e-newspapers, podcasts and social media. Now even though ads exist in all these mediums, what makes Instagram ads stand out from other social media platforms is that it is a visual platform at its core. We’re inherently visual creatures and the reason Instagram is so huge is because building a social network that connects people solely through visual elements is a powerful way to capture – and sustain – our attention. When most of our social interactions today are infused with visuals – be it snapping a quick photo to a friend, posing at a club for a selfie, or killing a few minutes scrolling through newsfeeds filled with photos and videos, it’s only natural that we also find it normal to consume ads in the same way.

This factor has also changed the way we view advertisements. From traditional direct messaging to now conceptualisation, camerawork and editing, each component plays an important role in creating a good post that will stick around in your audience’s mind. That’s also the reason several creative ad agencies and social media managers are gaining so much popularity these days because they ensure your content stands out! As professionals when they follow a particular theme or consistent style, it is more likely for users to remember your profile and it will make a good impression. You can honestly build a brand identity on the basis of how you choose to advertise. When people remember your brand, they will be more likely to come back to your account and this can help convert into a sale. Innovation and creativity know no bounds as ads are no longer limited to any visually traditional ways of advertising.

Brands are in fact investing and going above and beyond to make content distinct. The visuals speak for themselves and sometimes are minimal yet have stronger messaging than the traditional copy and ad designs. Hence, Instagram’s rise due to this aspect has been astronomical – and understandably so.

‘Instagrammers’ - The Influencer Wave

In the year 2021, when almost every third person we know is an Instagram influencer, the term doesn’t need any further explanation. Whether you’re keeping up with the Kardashians, turning on your post notifications to see what Janhvi Kapoor wore to gym, hooked onto the chorus of the most trending reel or simply channeling your inner Poo from K3G with the fashionista Komal Pandey, you definitely are investing more time than you should on this platform. So much so that it’s almost impossible to find someone who has managed to keep themselves aloof from this madness. But if somehow you are a part of the sacred few, let me break it down for you.

An influencer is simply someone who has an impact over others' buying decisions. How you ask? The logic is easy. Even if Nike tries to influence you to buy their most comfortable running shoes, you will still not be easily convinced cause well of course, they come from a place of direct bias. But when a third person, say your colleague or friend recommends the same product to you, you are more likely to value this opinion and act on it. The influencer therefore, is no one but that same third person. On the basis of their USP– authenticity they are currently making money in millions – yes you read that right! Millions by developing a following by sharing quality content that inspires, entertains, informs, and connects them with their followers.

They start social conversations, drive engagement, and set trends amongst a receptive audience, which positions them to work with brands on sponsored content. So, before you mock your friends for trying too hard to increase their followers, just know that some of these influencers have travelled the world, bought luxury cars, attended international festivals, met the biggest stars and politicians, bagged films and what not all on the basis of their influence. Many of them have left esteemed jobs as doctors, lawyers and engineers to live this life of glam and glitter. They are categorised on the basis of their reach and followers and accordingly get brand deals. However, many influencers grow incessantly and within months go from an Instagrammer to a celebrity.

The most important source of income for them are collaborations. The bigger the influencer – in terms of reach and engagement, the more high-end requirements. However, brand-influencer collaborations are the backbone of most marketers’ Instagram marketing strategies for several reasons. Firstly, compared to traditional ways of direct advertising or above the line approaches, this approach is way more cost friendly and is a pretty fool-proof way increasing consumer engagement and even driving sales. People follow influencers who are experts in a certain niche, hence their opinion has more credibility and them advertising a brand makes it more appealing. For instance, when a renowned make-up influencer with millions of followers recommends a certain eye-shadow palette, owing to the source people are more easily convinced. Reviews and hauls make it easier to know a product better before making a purchase and overall the type of influencer you associate yourself with also positions your brand that way.

A Holistic Approach

Overall, there are too many benefits offered on Instagram for you to be refraining from changing your advertising game with it. While this can’t be your only channel, but paired with print and Facebook, this should suffice you and prevent you from spending big bucks on television ads. With online streaming being so popular anyway, the future is for those who invest in-movie ads or high quality videos for Youtube compared to broadcast.

If your idea of advertising is a basic jingle with a common storyline that aligns with your product, most your audience will ‘skip ad’. Don’t get me wrong, jingles and stories still work, however the way you present them isn’t the same anymore! You’ve got to twist, turn, innovate and learn to capture the attention of your target audience, or simply invest in agencies that can-do wonders for you. Remember – our attention spans aren’t so low, the content available is too high and of really good quality. Advertising isn’t just screaming your product’s name loudly in the market anymore, it’s wrapping it so silently that people can’t distinguish an ad and a post!


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