Instagram has been telling advertisers directly to start treating the platform like Facebook, down to using the same creative in ads on both platforms — and to rely less on free, organic reach in the age of the algorithm.
“We’ve seen the Instagram pitch to clients twice now in the last month,” said an agency executive, who didn’t want to be named. “It is basically the Facebook pitch: Everything should be promoted, and there’s no point in doing organic.”
The pitch from Instagram comes in the wake of two major changes: It fully integrated with Facebook’s automated ad technology last October, and it recently announced that it will move to a Facebook-like algorithm to determine what photos its users see, potentially stifling free organic reach for brands.
As a result, Instagram is now telling advertisers to approach the platform the way they do Facebook, which owns the photo-sharing app. This is a shift from what Instagram was telling advertisers even just a few months ago.
“If you look back at [the end of ] 2015 when they first launched Instagram ads for all partners, they were really saying that Instagram ads had to be created for the platform, and even before that when Instagram ads were in the alpha-beta stage, they wanted really, really high-quality creative, and it was created specifically for Instagram,” said Jeanne Bright, vp of social at DigitasLBi. “What we’re hearing now from the Instagram team is that the ad creative still has to be of a very high quality, but that high quality also needs to translate to Facebook.”
Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, and it has since grown to more than 400 million users. Since Instagram began piggybacking on Facebook’s ad technology, 200,000 advertisers have used the platform. However, more advertisers meant lower-quality ads, a departure from Instagram’s early insistence on finely crafted images.
The emphasis on using the same creative for Facebook and Instagram is meant to raise the level of the ads on both platforms and lessen the presence of overly promotional posts that define a lot of Facebook’s advertising style.
Instagram does caution that re-using the same creative is not the right strategy for every brand, just that it can be effective. “Instagram is a place for visual inspiration, and Facebook is a place for personal discovery. When we see Instagram and Facebook work well together in driving business results, we share that insight. It may fit some clients’ campaigns but not others,” an Instagram spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.
Also, even before the algorithm announcement, paid was becoming an increasingly important part of how advertisers reached Instagram. “We’ve found that people miss, on average, 70 percent of their feed content. We are doing this [algorithm] to make sure people see the content that matters to them, and that includes content from people and businesses,” the Instagram spokesperson said.
Earlier this month, Instagram was touting the success of campaigns that ran across both platforms and said that some of them used the same photos and videos. Mobile app UGO Wallet, for example, saw a lower cost per install on ads that used the same creative on both platforms versus ads that were designed differently for Facebook and Instagram.
The new same-ad strategy, however, is a departure from how many social media advertisers have been taught to think about creating content for multiple platforms. They’re building vertical for Snapchat and using short video on Twitter and magazine-style images for Instagram.
As a result, not everyone is convinced that what’s going to work on Facebook will work on Instagram,] or that the same creative should go on both.
“People are using both platforms, often at the same time, so they’ll open Facebook and then Instagram,” said Chris Gomersall, founder of Atomized, a creative startup that helps brands craft content strategies. “If a brand is showing the same thing on both, it is missing a huge opportunity to tell a slightly different version of the same story to hit people in different ways.”