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Are Marketers Ready for Instagram’s Open API?

Posted 21 August 2015 9:00 AM by Nisha Contractor @MoxieUSA, @nishdish

This month marked the long-awaited launch of Instagram’s open API (application program interface). Marketers are now free to plan and buy Instagram ads programmatically, utilizing the same targeting tools from Facebook.

According to eMarketer, Instagram is predicted to generate $595 million in advertising revenue this year, with the potential to surpass Google and Twitter with U.S. mobile and display ad revenues by 2017. 

While the announcement is an enormous breakthrough for brands and advertisers, some consumers aren’t thrilled by the idea of seeing ad units in their stream. After all, Instagram was one of the only remaining social platforms that hadn’t become overrun with branded messages. 

To mitigate user concerns and still keep brands happy, marketers will need to serve up content that doesn’t intrude on the experience that’s made Instagram so popular and successful. So before you jump into the API and invest in promoting that first post, here’s some advice to ensure your content will engage (versus annoy) your audience:

  1. Define the role and purpose of Instagram. How does it fit into your overarching brand strategy and — most importantly — tie back to your business objectives? A clear answer to this two-fold question will give your creative efforts equally clear focus. Anyone can post pictures of puppies and babies to garner high engagement, but will that have a positive impact on your overall business?
  2. Know how your audience is using Instagram. The way people consume and post content on Instagram is different than on other social platforms. In other words, simply repurposing imagery from another marketing effort will not cut it. For example, overly designed posts and text overlays might work for your brand on Facebook but will probably fall flat on Instagram. Create fresh and relevant content tailored to Instagram.
  3. Develop visual guidelines to ensure consistency and authenticity. The most successful brands on Instagram have paired unique storytelling abilities with a specific visual tone. Consumers know exactly what to expect from them. Even better, the content is equally relevant to the audience, platform and brand.
  4. Remember that it’s not all about the pretty pictures. Compelling copy and calls to action are incredibly important too. Challenge your team to create Instagram captions that are just as strong as the image itself. Experiment with trending hashtags and use emojis when appropriate. 
  5. Don’t forget about movement. Video can go a long way to catch a user’s attention in the feed. Use it creatively and strategically.
  6. Test Instagram’s different ad offerings. Based on the goal of each piece of content, work with your media team to determine which type of ad will deliver the results you seek. For instance, a Carousel Ad could help tell a story through multiple images, or a Sponsored Post with the Shop Now callout could help drive online sales.
  7. Optimize, optimize, optimize. Leverage the sophistication of the Facebook ad tool to continually improve your content and targeting on Instagram.
  8. Learn from brands who are doing it right. If you want to see some best-in-class examples of brands who are truly winning the Instagram game, check out Target, Airbnb, Ben & Jerry’s, GoPro and Chobani.

There you go — just some friendly Instagramming advice from your friends here at Moxie. You can find even more tips, case studies and best practices at Instagram for Business. Good luck, and happy Instagramming!

About the Author:

Nisha Contractor (@nishdish) is a Director of Strategy in Moxie’s Pittsburgh office. Her personal Instagram feed says a lot about her and consists mainly of delicious food, epic karaoke videos, re-grams of her adorable nieces and embarrassing throwbacks from her childhood.


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