The Huge Effect Instagram Ads Could Have on Small Businesses

Instagram ads are on the horizon. Is your business ready to benefit from this possible game-changer?
June 05, 2015

Instagram’s recent announcement that it’ll soon open its photo feed to all advertisers has many small-business owners celebrating. Until now, Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, kept the social media site nearly ad-free, but that will change. Small-business owners can soon target ads to the social media platform’s 300 million users.

“The onset of ads inside of the Instagram feed is an overdue and very welcome addition,” says Amanda Vega, founder and CEO of Amanda Vega Consulting Inc. and 3 Peas Baby Product Marketing. “The reality is that a brand’s audience spans multiple networks, and the ability to reach them via Instagram has been nearly impossible unless you were already a well-established brand. This recent change opens up the playing field.”

Previously, the only way to get exposure on Instagram was to find individuals with a huge following to promote your product or service, adds Courtlandt McQuire, president and executive creative director of Green Advertising & Vidpop Productions. “This was a lengthy and expensive process that usually didn’t pan out. Now, however, with Facebook’s data and platform injected into the tight knit Instagram network, I think we can expect higher conversions yielding higher advertising earnings.”

Vega agrees. “Instagram will give small businesses an opportunity to capture market share in areas where they can’t compete in the traditional space due to budget constraints,” she says. “In Instagram, much like with all social networks, the agility that small businesses have that larger brands don’t gives them a huge advantage. For instance, whereas a large company would have to get 10 layers of approval on one photo and its message before posting it to Instagram, small-business owners can move much more quickly, because their ad creation process has less constraints.”

Big Advertising Profits Expected

Marketers and investors anticipate lucrative profits from the ads directed at Instagram’s users, who are a young group that likes to share, click and comment.

“If you are a small business looking to benefit from Instagram advertising, you’re in luck,” McQuire says. “Instagram users are an ardent culture of creators and influencers. These users generate their own content, rather than propagating others. They're individuals with opinions and key influencers in millions of micro cultures within society. This is exactly what advertisers want: people who create consumer change.”

Instagram plans to launch ads later this year, including testing ones that allow viewers to click on an advertised product or app, rather than the current route they must take that involves pasting a product into a website browser or searching the site. Such click-to-buy advertising will allow small-business owners to track how ads are performing, a convenience that could increase the click-through rate.  

How to Take Advantage of Instagram Ads

Considering the changes are coming soon, you should consider developing ad strategies now so you can proceed quickly once the platform is open to advertising. Keep these tips in mind.

  • Do a dive of your audience specific to Instagram. “Brands don’t always have the same demographics of following on Facebook as they do on Instagram, and no, they don’t necessarily align with the overall demographics of the network either. So use tools that dive deeper for real data,” Vega says. “This will help you better target you audience in your ads.”
  • Create varied messages that are aligned with traditional Instagram posts. “Do not take an ad you use in print or on Facebook and throw it up on Instagram,” Vega says. “The cadence and voice on Instagram is vastly different in many ways than other social outlets.”
  • Test multiple ads in content and imagery. And test different delivery times. Start with small campaigns of $50 to $100 to test the waters. The results you gather from such attempts will give you valuable information on how to make larger campaigns pay big dividends. "Whatever you do, don’t wait for your competitor to test it for you," Vega says. “Be brave and be first.”
  • Don't feel pressured to stay with Instagram ads if they aren’t working for you, even if they are working for a competitor. Do your due diligence, but stop if after a while you’re not seeing results.
  • Be patient. The rollout of ad availability on Instagram will probably be slow, so take advantage of the downtime to make sure your ad strategy is ready to attract new business.

Read more articles about social media.

Photo: iStock