This story was edited on 17 January to reflect the announcement Instagram will also introduce live video broadcasting to its ‘Stories’ function.
Instagram is introducing advertising and live broadcasting to its ‘Stories’ function for the first time.
The ‘Stories’ function includes videos and photos users can upload to Instagram, which summarise the stories behind their day and appear at the top of a user’s feed. And Instagram is now testing advertising with brands including Asos, L’Oréal and Adidas.
The ads will not appear at the top of the news feed alongside organic Stories but will instead be shown as people watch or flick through Stories using a mid-roll format, similar to how TV advertising works (see the video above). Content will be labelled as ‘Sponsored’ to identify it as an ad and users will be able to flick past it if they don’t want to watch.
Instagram is also following in the footsteps of Facebook Live, with Instagram Live set to sit within the ‘Stories’ function. It will gives brands and users the option of interacting with followers live and aims to tap into Instagram Stories’ 150 million daily users. An impressive figure given Instagram has a total monthly audience of 600 million.
To go live, users simply swipe into the stories camera to toggle the ‘Live’ mode. There will also be a ‘Top Live’ menu in the explore page so users can catch up on the best and most relevant live Instagram broadcasts.
Crediting its competitors
For brands, both new features are an opportunity to reach consumers at a time when they are actively engaging with content on Instagram. However, Amy Cole, head of brand development in EMEA for Instagram says while brands will have targeting tools, they will have little control over what content is shown before or after their ad.
“Though it is not guaranteed what content is before or after each ad, we will give all businesses the same tools for targeting, so they can reach specific audiences through that,” Cole tells Marketing Week.
Instagram will test the ad format with 30 major brands around the world over the coming weeks, before introducing the feature to other businesses. Asos’ first Instagram Stories ad is expected to launch on the 24 January.
The Stories platform is one we see becoming more prevalent and being a new format on a number of platforms. We absolutely give credit to competitors.
Amy Cole, Instagram
Instagram says the move to introduce ads to Stories comes after “incredible adoption and engagement” with the format.
Instagram launched Stories in August last year in a move that was widely seen as a copy of an existing feature on rival Snapchat. And Cole “gives credit” to competitors for coming up for the feature but says the format is one that is only going to get more popular.
“The Stories format is one we see becoming more prevalent and actually being a new format you see on a number of platforms. We absolutely give credit to competitors and the Stories format is obviously one we are seeing from competitors, but I think we will see it more on multiple platforms,” she says.
“For us, it is about seeing how it fits within Instagram, thinking about how that fits in the community and thinking about the right products to build.”
Offering brands more metrics
Cole also claims Stories has seen strong adoption and interaction among brands and that 70% of people on Instagram follow a brand. And it is moving to provide new insights for brands with the introduction of tools to support businesses using the feature.
The business insight tools for Stories can be found in the same place as Instagram’s general insights feature and will show brands how their Instagram Stories posts are working, their reach and the number of impressions they have led to.
Over the coming months Instagram will work on adding additional objectives focused more on business results, such mobile app installations and the ability to add links to Stories.
Instagram’s owner Facebook made the headlines for all the wrong reasons last year when it transpired it had been miscalculating a number of metrics. When questioned on how this affected Instagram, Cole was typically cagey but did say the company is focused on being “transparent” with advertisers.
“We are making sure we are being transparent with advertisers, that we’re building the right metrics and building the right trust with advertisers is really important. That’s front of mind across the board and has been since day one,” she says.