Instagram has announced it is to roll out advertising on the platform in the UK.

The Facebook-owned social media network started trialing ads in the USA last year and is reporting great results for display ad engagement rates.

As marketers start to rub their hands at the thought of sponsored Instagram posts, here is a guide to Instagram for brands.

The Key stats:

  • 150 million monthly actives
  • 60% international users
  • 16 billion photos shared
  • 1 billion likes per day
  • 55 million photos uploaded per day

Businesses of all sizes across all industries are increasingly finding they can drive marketing success through Instagram because the platform is highly effective for achieving branding goals such as:

  • Driving awareness for your brand or products
  • Shifting or reinforcing brand perceptions
  • Creating associations with celebrities and partners


When shaping your strategy on Instagram, start with your business objectives and then explore how elements of the platform can help you meet them.

Creating content on Instagram

Content is central to the Instagram experience. It’s why tens of millions of people visit the app every day–to view beautiful, interesting imagery in their feed and to post their own unique photos and videos. The sharing of this visual art is what makes its community so dynamic and engaged. Your brand’s content should add to and enhance that experience for your followers not intrude upon it.

Guidelines to creating content on Instagram:

1. Identity & voice: Develop a framework for bringing your brand’s identity to life on Instagram, based on your business objectives. Identify words that reflect your brand’s voice and tone; the feelings you want followers to associate with your brand; and the role you want your brand to play in their lives. This framework will inform your content, and in turn the experience that followers have when viewing your images.

2. Content themes: Establish regular content themes, or pillars, that are authentic to your brand and fit the Instagram platform. Ensure that your posts adhere to these pillars. This allows for a diversity of content that also remains consistent over time. Followers will know what to expect from your brand on Instagram as you reinforce key brand associations.

3. Image subjects: Post photos and videos of unexpected and behind-the-scenes moments that feel authentic and immediate. Candid, insider access is what people love about Instagram. We recommend avoiding overly promotional images or those that are simply repurposed from other channels. These images appear out of place on the platform and detract from establishing a clear and differentiated brand identity and voice.

4. Image enhancement: Adjust your images with filters and other tools available through the Instagram app. These effects give images that unmistakable “Instagram” look that people respond to.

5. Text: Keep captions short and fresh. Incorporate hashtags where relevant, but not so many that they detract from the simplicity of the post. (Refer to section on hashtags for more guidance). Ask questions in the captions of your images to engage with followers.

6. Location & people: Include the location of your photo or video when it helps tell the story of the image (i.e. it was taken at an event, roadshow, retail location, company headquarters). Use the Add People feature to tag accounts in your image when they will help you reach a broader audience and you have permission (i.e. partner brands, celebrity spokespeople, etc.).

7. Timing: Moderate the number of posts you make per day to ensure a consistent but non-intrusive presence. We recommend anywhere from 1-3 posts per day. Experiment with posting at different times of day by monitoring engagement. If posting content from a live event, consider creating a separate account to avoid annoying your followers by taking over their feeds.

There are many ways to let people know you have an Instagram account and encourage them to follow it

Guidelines for Building awareness for your account on Instagram:

1. Announce your Instagram account on other platforms like Facebook or Twitter with a link to your account. Posts on Facebook can be sponsored to reach a desired target audience.

2. Notify people about your Instagram account with signage at your retail locations, a link on the homepage of your website, and in communication like emails, postcards and delivery boxes.

3. Run contests or encourage people to post content that relates to your brand, including relevant hashtags and/or adding your official account to the post using the Add People feature.

4. Make the content you post discoverable by adding hashtags, people and location. However, it’s not enough to just let people know you have an Instagram account. The best way to gain and keep followers is to create high quality, on-brand content that they want to see in their Instagram feed.

It’s easy to follow and unfollow an account on Instagram. Many people are open to following new accounts, but if they don’t like the content, they may be just as quick to unfollow.

Creating strong content also increases the likelihood that your account will be discovered by non-followers on Instagram, because your posts may appear on the Explore tab (which uses an algorithm to surface interesting content) or News tab (where people see that the accounts they follow have liked your posts).

Brands often run contests to inspire people to post photos or videos of their brands’ products and locations to increase awareness of a product, campaign or initiative.

Guidelines for Video/Image Competitions:

1. Use a unique hashtag. This helps to ensure that the account intended to submit the photo or video for your contest and reduces the amount of moderation needed.

2. Create a photo or video to share on Instagram to introduce the campaign. Share it on Facebook and Twitter to promote the campaign to your followers on those platforms as well.

3. Have a few examples ready to display immediately when you start the campaign. This gives people some direction as to the type of photos or videos they should submit and encourages higher quality and creativity in the submissions.

4. Display a curated set of the photos or videos somewhere (on your website, on a Facebook tab, highlight some in your Instagram feed, etc.). Displaying a gallery shows people that others are participating and will encourage them to do the same.

5. Do not choose the winner based on the number of Instagram likes a photo or video receives. This tends to trigger bad behavior on Instagram (spam comments, auto-following, etc.) rather than encouraging good quality content.

Case Study – Ben & Jerry’s Sponsored Ads

When Ben & Jerry’s took to Instagram, they kept their objective very simple: use the photo and video sharing platform to spread the word about the joy its ice cream inspires and drive awareness of its new product-line, the Anchorman-inspired Scotchy Scotch Scotch.

Here’s what they did:

Over an 8-day period they posted 4 sponsored images, including ice-cream as a vision in the clouds. They targeted the pics at 18-35 year-olds in the US and, critically, managed the posts so that users only saw the images no more than three times on average and each image was only inserted onto a user’s feed once.

And the results were very strong:

  • Reached 9.8M people (ads targeted age 18-35)
  • Received 20,000 organic Instagram posts
  • 33-pt lift in ad recall, an increase of 3x over control group
  • 17% more people became aware of the flavour Scotchy Scotch Scotch and associated it with Ben & Jerry’s

Meagan Bickerstaff

Meagan Bickerstaff


Meagan Bickerstaff is Digital Media Manager at Carat.