How Good an Opportunity is Instagram Advertising?

After a 6 month trial in the US, Instagram has announced that advertising on the photo sharing platform is coming to the UK in the next few months. Is that something that premium and luxury brands in the UK should be looking forward to?There are plenty of reasons to get excited.First of all, there's the audience. It's substantial - eMarketer estimates that 27.3% of internet users in the UK use the platform. It's also young - the median age of an Instagram user is 27, and usage is highest amongst the 18-29s and 30-39s. We'd also argue that it's premium - certainly more premium than the ubiquitous Facebook. Instagram started as an iPhone and iPad app and its audience is still more likely to be iOS-based - a good filter for premium-ness in our experience. For fashion brands in particular, with a highly visual offering and a younger, affluent client base, it's a perfect fit.Secondly, there's the high engagement levels of Instagram's audience. Forrester recently studied the official social profiles of Interbrand’s top 50 global brands across the biggest social networks and found that on average brands’ Instagram images generated 58 times higher user engagement per follower than Facebook posts and 120 times higher engagement rates than tweets. This is likely a reflection of how 'uncluttered' Instagram is compared to other platforms - it boasts just 200m followers compared to Twitter's 255m and Facebook's 1.28bn - and the higher engagement generated by visuals when compared with text.Finally, the results from the US trials seem to be encouraging. Instagram reported "positive results" which in "some cases were above the ad industry's average". That's a little vague but some more specific results have leaked out into the public domain - like the fact that a Ben & Jerry's campaign reached 9.8m people over an 8 day period and that one promoted post from Micheal Kors (see image above) received over 36,000 likes.It's no wonder that Instagram have already signed a guaranteed advertising deal with media buying giant Omnicom worth a reported $40m (if you're using an Omnicom media agency, expect to be pushed Instagram advertising whether you want it or not!)However, the cautious nature of Instagram's ad rollout will mean that the UK launch looks set to reflect the US one - a limited trial with a select group of blue chip, high spending brands. In fact, even when the platform becomes more widely available, cost may rule out many prospective advertisers - a monthly campaign is reported to cost close to $1m.We'd recommend that those brands for whom Instagram's audience is attractive and for whom images can tell part of the brand's story, start using the platform sooner rather than later if they're not already. At present, like Twitter, Instagram feeds are chronological and unfiltered by a Facebook-style algorithm. As the volume of content - both user and brand generated - increases, this is likely to change and those astonishing engagement rates might start to look decidedly more ordinary.The same applies to advertising, if and when it moves into the realms of affordable. Those that move early are likely to achieve the best results. That's not only because a higher volume of ads will inevitably be battling for share of users, but also because nobody knows where the tipping point will be when it comes to user backlash. Instagram users have proven to be very sensitive to commercially-driven changes to the platform and a reaction to an increased volume of sponsored posts is a possibility.Instagram advertising: Potential? Plenty. Affordable? Not initially. If the audience and the visual nature of the platform appeal, get on it (if you're not already) and see what works and what doesn't. Keep a close eye on your own engagements levels. if they're still outstripping Facebook and Twitter then if an affordable advertising opportunity comes your way, it's going to be worth pursuing it.If you'd like to find out more about how social media advertising can work for your brand, contact Neil at Cream.