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Alex Blakelock, Account Director

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Alex Blakelock

Account Director

It’s not unusual to see brands advertising on social sites, from suggested posts on Facebook to promoted accounts on Twitter. So it’s no surprise that Instagram – home to more than 15 million active users - is the latest channel to launch brand ads, and the first batch going live for fashion brand Michael Kors on 1st November.

The adverts have had a notable impact on the brand followers - each one driving 54,000 new followers and considerably more likes per post within 18 hours of going live - however, they didn’t get a positive reception from everyone. Understandably, users felt frustrated that another social feed was being hit by sales posts they didn’t choose or ask to see.

Instagram ads work in much the same way as other social ads, showing those which are deemed relevant to the user based on who they follow and their basic personal information. They also pull useful information from parent company Facebook. Users who find an ad irrelevant can choose to hide future ads from the brand, helping to ease frustrations and refine the feature moving forward.

The current downfall is that brands can’t include links in their ad posts, making it difficult for brands to promote a product and see a direct increase in web sales or revenue.

Instagram is yet to offer any official data on its first batch of ads, but Emily White, Instagram’s director of business operations, said that they’re more about branding than inspiring immediate transactions.

“There’s a lot of value in impressions and views that may not be captured in likes or comments. Instagram will guarantee a certain number of impressions initially, which will vary by campaign. This is a premium brand advertising product. Success is brand lift over a longer period of time.”

Despite the initial negativity towards the ads, users seem to have accepted the new addition to their feed relatively quickly. The first Michael Kors ad received more than 800 negative comments – about half the total – but this soon dropped off.

The channel is currently working with selected ad partners who it says are “already great members of the Instagram community”, including Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Burberry, Lexus and PayPal.