- Instagram debuted a feature Tuesday that lets advertisers turn influencer posts into paid ads that can reach a wider audience. Influencers who create posts using the image-sharing app's "paid partnership" tool will see an option that says "Allow Business Partner to Promote," Instagram announced in a blog post.
- The feature gives brands a chance to appear in the feeds and Stories of a broader group of Instagram users, even those who don't follow the influencer or brand. Before the change, brands were limited to reaching only the followers of a particular influencer with a sponsored video or image.
- According to the company blog post, it appears that brands Lululemon, Old Navy and Benefit Cosmetics are piloting the feature at launch. Instagram said the service, which it calls "Branded Content Ads," was one of the most requested features from businesses. The new ad format will be available to all marketers in the coming weeks, the company said, and for stories over the coming months, though The Drum reports that the feature will be available to all June 17.
Instagram's branded content ads give marketers more flexibility in their social influencer campaigns. Instead of reaching followers of a single influencer by paying for their social content, sponsored posts can be targeted to a wider group of Instagram users, helping to boost discovery of both brands and influencers on the image-sharing platform.
Influencer marketing has quickly become mainstream as brands continue to work to cut through ad clutter and consumers seek more reliable advice and information from trusted online sources. Influencer marketing spend on Instagram, the most popular influencer platform, was forecast to surge 31% this year to $1.7 billion, according to social media marketing platform Mediakix.
Instagram also wants to make sure that sponsored posts are transparent to users by including a "Paid partnership with" notation on each of the new branded content ads. Such disclosures are necessary to avoid consumer complaints or possible fines from regulators like the Federal Trade Commission. The agency has published several guides to help brands avoid violations of consumer protection laws.
For Instagram's parent company Facebook, the addition of branded content ads is another way to further monetize the image-sharing app. Instagram not only has sought to boost ad sales, but also drive e-commerce revenue as it continues to add features that encourage shopping and direct purchases. The social giant last month created a special account called @shop to bring together posts from online merchants that sell products on the platform. Instagram in March rolled out a native checkout feature with 23 U.S. brands that let shoppers pay for products without leaving the app, and extended the tool to 55 creators and five publishers for testing in April.