Over the last few years, Instagram has become the go-to social network for online branding and digital marketing. Since its billionaire acquisition by Facebook, Instagram has undergone a gradual transformation from image sharing platform to a powerful tool for brands to interact with customers and prospects, and this has a lot to do with the vision of the business and development teams at the social network.
In November 2020, just before the start of the holiday shopping season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Instagram rolled out two new features that should be of special interest to brand managers, influencers, and content creators. Let’s take a closer look at these features:
Branded Content Advertisers Get More Freedom
In June 2019, Instagram rolled out a feature that allows advertisers to work closer with content creators. Branded Content Ads serve a couple of purposes; first of all, they let Instagram users know that certain stories appearing in their feeds are paid advertisements. Second, these branded stories highlight the collaboration between influencers and the advertisers, thus allowing users to interact directly with the content creators as well as the brands should they choose to do so.
The new feature augmenting Branded Content Ads gives brand managers more creative control. Let’s say a fashion boutique has an existing partnership with a busy influencer but does not want to wait for her to create new Instagram Stories. The boutique can now produce the ad and pitch it to the influencer for instant approval. Although this feature intends to streamline existing processes, it could also create friction if approvals are not obtained right away.
New Branded Hashtags
Take a look at this example of Instagram profile hashtag use; notice how the relevant tags in each post are assigned naturally. Starting in November 2020, a new kind of hashtag will be available to Instagram content creators and the brands they work with. Branded content tags for paid advertising will be part of Instagram Live as well as Reels, two features that have proven to be very popular on the network, and which are designed to compete against the likes of Facebook Live, Snapchat, and Tik-Tok. Although these tags will be visible to users, they will not have an impact on the viewing experience. The purpose of branded tags can be appreciated in the background by the publishers and advertisers; similar to Facebook pixels, they provide advanced analytics on the performance of Instagram campaigns, and marketers will be able to develop strategies based on these actionable insights.
Thus far, Instagram influencers and their commercial partners have reacted positively to the new features, particularly the new ability given to brands to interact directly with users. Let’s say a professional soccer player works with an online casino on a series of Instagram Stories, but she is not able to respond to questions from followers because she needs to focus on the current season. With the new Branded Content Ads feature, advertisers will be able to respond directly to such questions without having to consult with the player or get access to her account.