Why and how marketers should be using Instagram’s new Branded Content tool

Aaron Brooks shares how marketers can get better results from influencer marketing campaigns by using Instagram’s Branded Content tool. 

Brands are dedicating more of their marketing dollars to influencers every year. According to an annual report from Linqia, 57 percent of brands said they’re planning to increase their influencer relations budget in 2020. The upward trend is more than bandwagon jumping – the channel is working hard. Eighty percent of the marketers surveyed said influencer-generated assets performed the same or better than brand-created assets and 61 percent of 18 to 34 year olds have at some point been swayed in their decision-making by digital influencers.

But brands still want more. They want to know they’re reaching the right people. They want to test which pieces of content are engaging – and of course, they want to see a return on investment and have the ability to measure business results consistently. The problem is, that while the amount of brands investing in the channel is increasing, only 18 percent of marketers say they are able to integrate influencer marketing into overall digital marketing ROI calculations.

That’s why I believe more marketers should be paying attention to Instagram’s Branded Content tool. The platform’s latest offering to boost reach, improve targeting, aid measurement and enable frictionless social shopping.

The problem is, not many know what it is or how it works.

Social advertising evolution

In 2017 you might remember that Instagram introduced the Paid Partnership tag. This was something influencers could add to the top of their Instagram post or Story, to let their followers know they were taking part in a paid collaboration with that brand. There were two aims here: firstly to bring greater transparency to sponsored content on Instagram and secondly to improve consistency.

Last year Instagram stepped it up a gear. For brands and influencers that were using the Paid Partnership tag, they offered a new service – Branded Content ads. This allowed brands to turn those influencer posts into ads. It meant that brands could easily amplify their branded content beyond a creator’s organic following. The tool enables them to promote their branded content on Instagram straight from the creators who post it. The best way to look at it is an influencer marketing add on that will take your campaign results to the next level.

Branded Content ads look a little different to normal Instagram ads. Normal ads will say ‘sponsored’ and the profile picture is that of the brands. Meanwhile, the branded content ad feels more native. Instead of the brand’s handle you see the influencer’s handle and profile picture, so the user has the same ‘influencer marketing experience’ as if a creator is sharing something with you. It still says sponsored and there is the Paid Partnership tag at the bottom, which lets the user know that this is, in fact, an ad that they are being targeted with. So transparency remains intact. 

The benefits of Branded Content

Why would marketers invest in Branded Content? Let’s look at reach first. If a brand invests in branded content they – understandably – want people to be able to experience it. Branded Content ads can scale a creator’s post to reach a creator’s followers – and then some. While influencer marketing relies on organic reach, Branded Content extends beyond that and gets your brand into the feeds of people who don’t follow that particular influencer.

Then there’s targeting. As a brand, you will have a target audience in mind (their age, gender, and geography) and so it’s unlikely an influencer’s following will match that identically. This means content may only be reaching part of its intended audience, limiting your ability to achieve your goals. Branded Content ads can be targeted with precision, helping you reach more of the people that matter to you. With this option, brands are free to choose influencers who create the very best content, without being preoccupied with their reach. 

Finally, thanks to shoppable tags, it enables a frictionless shopping experience. The rise of mobile and social commerce is changing the way people shop. If a user sees something they like, they want to tap and buy. No redirection, no waiting. Branded Content ads give brands the opportunity to turn a browser into a buyer seamlessly. The majority of influencers can’t make their posts shoppable just yet but Branded Content ads take that same relatable, aspirational content and make it entirely shoppable. 

Make it work for you

While early adopters of this tool will reap the benefits, they may also find the process to be more manual than other more established ad options. There are things you can do to streamline the process:

 1. Set a transparent brief

When briefing influencers, be sure to let them know you intend to use the Paid Partnership and Branded Content options, so they know what’s happening from the get go. This will ensure that crucial steps in the early days of the campaign go smoothly. For example, if you intend to boost Instagram Stories, they’ll need to be free from gifs and hashtags.

2. Streamline your Ads Manager

Another helpful preparation is uploading your influencer list to your Facebook Ads Manager before they create content. That way, when the influencer adds the Paid Partnership tag, you won’t need to manually approve each influencer.

3. Have a clear goal in mind

Branded Content is perfect for driving conversion, whether that’s boosting sales or app downloads. When setting out the objectives for your campaign, think business metrics over vanity metrics (like engagement), so you can measure its impact and ROAS effectively.

4. Learn from organic performance

If you’re running an influencer campaign first, use the influencer’s organic post performance to learn which pieces of content are highest-performing and worthy of boosting. While it’s not a fool proof science – as different influencers will have different engagement rates – a high-performing piece of influencer content could hint what will resonate best in the Branded Content phase.

Aaron Brooks is the Co-Founder of influencer marketing and content platform, Vamp.