Today’s article comes from Deanna Zaucha, Webs Retention Marketing Coordinator. 

Three years ago, Instagram stepped out on the social scene and quickly became a mobile sensation of capturing, filtering, and sharing a world of food, pets,  and sunsets. And in just the past year, it has become a platform for brands to find new ways to engage with their customers in the introduction of video.

If you recall, Facebook saw the promise in Instagram last year, and according to TechCrunch, turned a “Budding Rival Into Its Standalone Photo App.”  With a big-wig brand like Facebook acquiring such an impressionable, young brand like Instagram, I was quick to think about the implications: “Oh great, here comes more marketers trying to send me ‘targeted’ messages in a place where I thought I was safe.”  (Just forget for a moment I am one of those pesky marketers…)

Surprisingly, Facebook proved me wrong — they waited a whole year!

Come October 2013, Instagram introduced sponsored photos and videos to a user’s feed. Along with the blog post announcement, Instagram claimed users will still have complete ownership of their photos and videos with ads not compromising this right. They even gave our creative teams a preview on how to design for the upcoming ads.

Businesses were skeptical, but Michael Kors quickly hushed the critics by publishing the first sponsored ad on Instagram at the end of the month.

Nitrogram, a platform for Instagram analytics, reported 3 encouraging stats about the first ad:

  1. Within 18 hours, accumulated 218,000 Likes or 4x more engagement than any other post from their official account.
  2. Gained 33,000 new followers, an increase of 16x their average of new followers for a recent post.
  3. 1% of comments suggested “clear purchase intent,” despite predicted naysayers.

With the first ad deemed a success, large brands released their advertisements progressively each week to make the Instagram ad a permanent fixture on a user’s feed.

So great — this works for big brands — but what about the small business? Again, we give the dreaded answer of “it depends.” As a small business owner you have to determine what is best for you and your audience. Are you already on this platform? Are your customers? If they are, how engaged are they? Do you have the time and/or money? These same fundamental questions apply to any form of online marketing, even social.

But personally, I wonder how much success a brand will ever claim with Instagram. While these ads are a chance for brand awareness and engagement, I am curious to how it compares with a more commerce-driven outlet, such as Pinterest. Instagram still lacks a direct connection to a brand’s website or product page without a link attached to the photo. I believe if they adapted this Pinterest characteristic, it could do wonders for Instagram’s revenue model. Not only could I ogle over the image of this product, but I could jump to the website, find out if it was “just the filter,” and potentially buy.

I doubt Instagram hasn’t thought of pushing the platform further, just look at their new announcement of Instagram Direct, but I guess we will just have to wait until 2014 to monitor these new commercial endeavors and their positive or negative effects on brands.

So now we turn things back to you: What potential do you see in Instagram’s advertising model? Have you used it to your benefit already? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: Deanna Zaucha is the Retention Marketing Coordinator for Webs. Can be found on a dance floor, or on her iPhone keeping up with trends in marketing and tech. 
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