Should Your Brand Be Advertising on Instagram?

If UK Instagram users thought that their favourite social network being owned by cash-generating behemoth Facebook was enough to keep them safe from advertising, it's time to think again. The photo sharing network has announced that sponsored images and videos will soon be rolling out in users' feeds.It follows a successful trial in the US which started this time last year. The trial saw positive results, with one sponsored post from Michael Kors gaining 36,000 likes and another from Ben & Jerry's reaching 9.8 million people over an 8 day period. The UK launch will follow the same pattern - a test period with a select group of advertisers, in this instance Starbucks, Cadbury, Channel 4, Rimmel London, Sony Music, Estée Lauder and Waitrose - before a full scale roll out.As with the US roll out, the approach will be native. Ads will look identical to a normal Instagram post apart from a 'Sponsored' tag. Users can hide individual ads if they wish to and have the ability to submit feedback too. The aim is to create an experience similar to magazine advertising, where the aesthetics of the ads enhance rather than detract from the medium.Should premium and luxury brands be jumping at the opportunity to advertise on Instagram when it formally launches to all? There are reasons to be positive.Firstly, there's Instagram's scale. The photo-sharing apps boasts over 200 million active monthly users and although the US provides the bulk of the users, 65% live outside the States and the UK ranks in the top 5 by user volume.Then, there's the profile of the users.  In short, they’re young and premium. The median age of an Instagram user is 27, with usage highest amongst the 18-39s. The premium-ness comes from the legacy of originally launching as an iOS app.- iPhone and iPad Instagram users are still in the majority and Apple device usage is a good proxy for affluence in our experience. In short, they're a potentially great market for fashion, jewellery and accessories brands with beautiful products to showcase.Finally, there's the higher engagement levels of Instagram's audience. A recent Forrester report which studied the official social profiles of Interbrand's top 50 global brands found that on average Instagram images generated 58 times higher user engagement per follower than Facebook posts and 120 times higher engagement than tweets.The only fly in the ointment is cost. A one month campaign in the US was reported to be priced at $1m. This is usually the pattern with social network advertising - exorbitant fees early before things get more accessible at a later stage. However, if any network is minded to keep its rates high to maintain the aesthetic standards of its ad offering, it's Instagram.So, in summary, for brands to whom a young, affluence audience appeals, Instagram advertising could be a real opportunity - particularly for those already active on the platform and who understand what works and what doesn't in terms of engagement.  It's likely that pricing will rule out all but those with the deepest pockets initially but the likelihood is it will become more accessible as time moves on.