Campaign of the week – Instagram introduces ‘Sponsored Posts’.
Last week Instagram began the roll out of sponsored posts across UK users news feeds and this week Facebook relaunched Atlas, the ad management tool which now offers opportunities across both networks. I am among the users who have enjoyed Instagram as a commercial free, creative zone, but these days are over.
The introduction of advertising to any social network will naturally encounter some resistance from users – Emma Jane discussed the fine line between force and encouragement when introducing new features to social platforms a few months ago, after Facebook strong-armed the Messenger app on our iPhones. As an Instagrammer I have been intrigued to see how these ads would display and working in social media marketing, it presents an exciting new opportunity for our client brands.
The brands to take part in the first roll-outs are a handpicked, credible list of household names, including Channel4, Waitrose, Rimmel, Cadbury and Starbucks. I have not seen the ads in my feed yet, but I was able to search the brands names and see the ads on their streams. The quality of imagery, the art direction of the photography and the subtly of the promotional message, made these ads blend seamlessly into the usual Instagram feed. Aside from the ‘sponsored’ tag in the top right hand corner, these posts appear as usual and users are able to Like and Comment on the posts as normal.
It is the distribution of these brand posts which is different, as you do not need to be following the brand to receive their ads on your feed. “We are giving brands an opportunity to sponsor their posts and deliver them to a much wider audience,” Instagram’s global head of business and brand development James Quarles said. “We want this to be a natural experience, like the way people consume high-quality ads flicking through a magazine.”.
The comments under some of the first sponsored posts, shows the expected backlash from the Instagram faithful has erupted against this “force feeding”. Those objectors will be pleased to hear that as with Facebook, there is a feature which allows you to ‘Hide’ a post if it is not relevant.
Facebook was always going to monetize its $1 billion acquisition and in turn, this sustains the business and protects users from having to pay for their accounts. James Quarles also said: “We are going to go slow, and we are going to learn. At the start, it’s a very slow introduction to the market, to help people understand what it looks like. We’re very much in a learning mode, but we think we’ve struck a great balance in the States.”.
It is encouraging to hear this sentiment from senior people at Instagram and find the creative minds at Insta HQ have introduced this first set of advertising campaigns without creating too many waves with their loyal users. The effect of the commercialisation process on users seems to have been properly considered, and judging by the quality and number of Likes on these first few sponsored posts, they have been well received by the majority of users reached so far.