How Can Instagram’s Organic & Sponsored Content Boost Your Brand?

Simon JonesGeneral, Social Media

A tectonic shift has taken place at Instagram over the past two years. In 2014, Facebook, owners of Instagram since 2012, started rolling out sponsored content on the platform. Come late 2015, this advertising power was extended to all businesses using the platform, and advertising revenue for the company skyrocketed. Instagram is expected to take $2.8 billion through advertising in 2017. This equates to 14% of the total Google takes in ad revenue.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Demographic is paramount to the success of Instagram. 90% of the half a billion users on the social networking site are under the age of 35. This millennial market is more likely to spend money and retain loyalty to a particular brand. Users are 10 times more likely to engage with brands than on Facebook, and 84 times more likely than on Twitter.

But how do I tap into this lucrative market?

There are two strategies you can employ, and they’re not dissimilar to a Google marketing campaign. You have an ‘organic’ path and a ‘sponsored content’ option. Any well-run campaign will seek to incorporate both.


An organic Instagram campaign starts with creating awareness around your brand. Before implementing a paid strategy, it’s important to increase your follower base, as this lends a degree of trust to your profile. There are several steps that you should follow to achieve this. There’s more to it than these 4 pointers, but they should give you a good platform to begin with.

1. Upload decent content, consistently and often. In the case of Instagram, this will be attractive pictures, potentially with an ‘inspiring’ message attached. Make it unique and interesting. It doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your actual product, but you should incorporate the occasional relevant post. Include captions and locations – statistics show higher engagement levels.

2. Hashtags – attach as many as possible in the caption, have a few generic (f4f – follow for follow, igers, etc. For some unknown reason this will attract a few random followers, but this should end up snowballing). Include hashtags relevant to your business too, this should attract your target audience and potential customers.

3. Follow others, and engage with their content – You have to give a little to get a little, follow influencers, personalities and businesses relevant to your industry. The number of followers isn’t indicative of quality so don’t worry about following someone with a few hundred. Those few hundred could generate more sales than several thousand. Those who engage more with their audience are more likely to inspire brand loyalty than those who ignore them.

4. Brand values – Millennials are picky. They can afford to be, they’re so adjusted to exposure to adverts, both traditional and new form, that they only engage with those that they deem to share their values. Generally, the millennial is concerned about the environmental and ethical impact of brands they use. They also want a quality item and are willing to pay for it. The zeitgeist at the moment is anti-capitalist, therefore being a small, independent business should work in your favour.

Sponsored Posts
Once you’ve established a small following, around 500-1000, you should start to look at using sponsored content to create more awareness, and maybe begin pedalling your product. Sponsored content refers to the specific adverts that are created through Facebook Business. However, money can also be well spent on influencers in your niche. Sending them a few pounds for a mention and call to action to their many thousand followers is a very safe investment. You might want to offer them a free sample of your product, but try and make sure they don’t include a hashtag of ‘sp’ (sponsored) or ‘ad’ (advert) as these tend to encourage less engagement.

There are three types of sponsored post you can employ:

1. Photo – This is similar to posting one of your images, but with the added benefit of being targeted at a wider, untouched audience. Has the benefit of including a direct link to a specific web page of your choosing, something not on offer for purely ‘organic’ posts.

2. Video – You should use this creatively. Here are some good examples of how. Note also which audience they’re trying to appeal to, and how content might differ depending on target audience.

3. Carousel – Carousel represents the most interesting opportunity for sponsored posts given its 3-5 image limits. Essentially it works as a slideshow for the images you want to include in your advertising campaign. Instagram incorporated video into the carousel format this year, offering an exciting opportunity for businesses looking to use creative content to sell products. This means that you could showcase the value of your brand in a five step guide to something. See this example from Tesco, who effectively encourage the user to keep swiping through a relevant series of images.

What Not To Do On The ‘Gram
A person’s social media network is like an extension of themselves. It’s where they keep memories, communicate with friends, and share their achievements. As such, if they feel like a business is damaging this experience, they won’t hesitate to remove you from their eye line. Inversely, if a user feels like you’re adding value to that experience, then they are much more likely to engage with your content, and following that, your business.

If you want to guarantee disengagement, then produce spammy, uninspiring content. Around 8% of accounts are fake, don’t make them think that you’re one of them. Post personalised and friendly images that purvey who you are as a business, and what values you hold. Be relevant to their situation, engage with the topics that are being discussed at that particular time, ask the opinions of your followers. Creating dialogue between your business and your followers, i.e. potential customers, encourages a relationship between the two. Avoid jargon, and don’t incessantly post promotions. Highlight deals and offer incentives to your followers but don’t overdo it. Otherwise, you may come across as a low-end brand that can’t shift goods at retail price.

As always, start your campaign with an aim. What do you want to accomplish with this particular round of sponsored content? Know your audience, and personalise the post to them.
If you’re selling a tangible product, now is the perfect time to engage in some Instagram marketing. The festive period is a huge opportunity for small businesses. Make sure you stand out and reflect the brand values as described above.

If your business needs help with their social strategy drop us a line, and see what we can do for you.