Why Instagram’s new "branded content" ad format should increase brand loyalty on the channel

In recent months, influencer fraud and authenticity concerns have consumed the influencer marketing landscape. In this context, it’s positive that Instagram took steps to enhance pre-existing promotion processes for brands and influencers – and in a way that will engage consumers further with brand-sponsored influencer content.

Instagram’s ‘Branded Content’ ad format launched last month, and is set to help reduce influencer fraud and alleviate industry concerns, using two key features.

Firstly, all influencers can now apply to have the Branded Content Ads feature, which allows brands to boost content that influencer have tagged brands in - straight from the influencers’ profiles. Secondly, it will allow brands to see the key performance metrics of these posts within their own ad interface. The accessibility of the performance metrics will benefit brands by giving them direct access to the real reach and engagement metrics of the influencers’ posts, ultimately helping to improve transparency and trust within the industry.

Widespread adoption
When the Branded Content feature launched on Facebook, the assumption was that it would be extremely popular with brands, however we haven't seen this expectation become a reality yet. One of the reasons for this is that ‘brand boosting’ wasn’t widely available for all influencers’ posts. Only those posts which directly tagged the sponsors rather than using a branded hashtag could be boosted, and unfortunately for brands the latter is still more commonly used. Instagram has a bigger potential. Widely regarded as the home of influencer content and the most competitive market for it, the positive brand outcomes of the format should be greater on Instagram than we’ve seen so far on Facebook.

More authentic content
The Instagram format is encouraging for a lot of reasons, not least because it will inevitably result in more compelling content for a brand’s followers. Branded Content Ads mean brands can promote sponsored content on its official feed, aligning influencers more closely with the brand itself.

As such, consumers will be easily able to identify branding within influencer marketing campaigns, and sponsored content will be a more authentic and honest endorsement of a product as well as promoting a more genuine brand-influencer partnership.

Transparent metrics
With an increasing concerns around fake social media engagements and scandals such as the well-documented failure of Fyre Festival, public scrutiny of Instagram marketing is more intense than ever. The addition of the Branded Content functionality on Instagram is an opportunity to make the influencer marketing process much more transparent for consumers and brands alike. The ability for brands to align more closely with influencers will hopefully help to tackle preconceptions around brands and influencers misleading their followers, something which has become even more important following recent pressure from the CMA to make influencers label their ads clearly. Meanwhile, the ability for brands to directly access post data will ensure they have a better understanding of influencer marketing ROI within the marketing mix.

With regards to ROI, small and medium sized brands could be the ones that will benefit the most. This is down to the fact that most larger brands already have dedicated teams running their paid social activities and are therefore more capable of running, analysing and optimising influencer marketing activity. Giving these small and medium brands access to influencers’ audience impressions, provides huge potential for them evaluate their activity’s impact. However, managing the promotional boosts at scale could be a challenge for smaller brands, as it represents a huge expansion of some small brands’ influencer marketing capabilities, and they will almost inevitably require external help.

Branded Content Ads on Instagram are a clear and positive steps to help brands and agencies work with Instagram influencers in a way that mutually benefits the consumer, influencer and brand.

Written by Adam Williams, CRO of influencer marketing platform Takumi

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