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APAC is a big focus of ours: Instagram’s Jim Squires

  • More than 400 mn monthly active users with more than 200 mn daily active users
  • 75% of Instagram users are from outside the US
  • Average Instagram user spends 21 minutes per day in the app
  • Ad recall from sponsored posts on Instagram recorded 2.8x higher than Nielsen’s norms for online advertising
  • Over 40 billion photos have been shared on Instagram

2015 has been a huge year for Instagram. Not only did it complete five years and hit the 400 million users mark, the image sharing platform from Facebook graduated from being just a social media network to an advertising-enabled social media platform globally.

The platform first introduced advertising with a few brands such as Michael Kors, General Electric, Levi’s, Lexus in October 2013. By October 2015, it had launched fifteen second video ads as well. In April 2015, the platform introduced a new format of ads – carousel ads, which was followed by call-to-action ad formats in June 2015. But it was on September 30, 2015, that the Instagram Ads platform opened to all businesses, everywhere. In November 2015, the platform announced its Partners Program which will help it monetise advertising.

About 75 per cent of Instagram users are from outside the US and people upload more than 80 million photos per day, with more than 3.5 billion likes daily on Instagram.

In a conversation with Digital Market Asia, Jim Squires – Director of Market Operations, Instagram, explains how important it is for brands to move on from just having a presence on the platform to paid media. He points out, “Over the last month, we expanded our ad products globally. We had started over the previous 18 months, where the advertising started for brand advertisers to drive awareness and message association. Now we have expanded that product to all advertisers for all objectives. The early results on our platform are very promising.”

Instagram has aligned with Facebook’s Power Editor and leverages Facebook ads for targeting and following benchmarks in creating powerful mobile platforms. “For the seamless advertising experience through the Power Editor or the Ads API, there are partners that brands can purchase through as well. At the backend, we have tied this together, so that brands can outline which objectives they want to achieve and we can get make sure we get the right ad out to the right person at the right time across Instagram and Facebook,” Mr Squires highlights.

The APAC focus
Among the last 100 million to join Instagram, more than half live in Asia and Europe. The countries that added the most Instagrammers include Indonesia, Japan and Brazil. Instagram’s community in Indonesia, South Korea and Japan has grown a 100 per cent year-over-year.

In APAC, Instagram worked with over 35 launch partners across verticals. There is a significant marketer demand in areas like e-commerce, CPG, travel, tech, telco, entertainment and retail. “APAC is very important – it is a big focus of ours and a big part of the global launch. There is a massive shift to mobile around the world, and APAC is more mobile. Advertisers are really excited about the new products that we are offering now. APAC is one of the fastest growing regions for the platform – specifically, Japan and Indonesia are two of our fastest growing countries in the world,” Mr Squires noted.

Sticking to its foundational ethos
As Instagram is a very visual platform, it was important for the team to ensure that the creative aspect of the content is maintained. “The experience for the creativity that we inspire, that is a core value for the people as well as for our advertisers. There are a number of new tools that we provide to our consumers to inspire creativity – from the hyperlapse and layout apps to allowing landscape photos and longer videos too now. This has allowed more creative flexibility to showcase great work on the platform and also to be able to use the creative on both Facebook and Instagram.”

Mr Squires emphasises that the community is the primary focus while introducing organic and advertising content on the platform. To ensure that the quality of the content on the platform is maintained, the team has taken a few steps. “We have enabled a greater targeting functionality so that when advertisers design their campaigns, they can define who they want to reach and who is going to be most relevant for the creative that they have put together, so that relevance component is an important component of forming the platform. This is done so that we can continue to raise the bar of quality and create wonderful experiences for the people on our platform,” Mr Squires explained.

“We are also looking at a variety of signals from the community to refine and create the best experience. So for example, people have the ability to hide an ad, if they deem it to not be relevant or interesting to them – so we take that signal back and that will affect the delivery of that ad, so we ensure that we are getting the best ads to the people,” he added.

The ads performance

Paul Webster

Paul Webster

Paul Webster, Brand Development Lead, Instagram Asia Pacific also highlighted that according to a few early results by Nielsen, the ads in APAC have seen a 23 per cent lift in conversions from the exposed group that saw the ads on Facebook and Instagram. Ad recall from sponsored posts on Instagram recorded 2.8 times higher than Nielsen’s norms for online advertising according to Nielsen Brand Effect – measured globally across 475 campaigns. About 97 per cent of campaigns on Instagram have generated significant lifts in ad recall according to Nielsen Brand Effect.

Tsuchiya Bag, a Japanese fashion brand known for its quality leather goods, ran an ad campaign on Instagram to raise awareness. With imagery portraying the owners’ affection towards the carefully handcrafted bags, the brand achieved a significant lift in ad recall and drove up brand awareness by six points.

Getting advertising right
What should be the best practices that brands should follow for their campaigns on Instagram? The first one, according to Mr Squires is, having a mobile-optimised landing page. “Instagram is all mobile, so when people interact with the advertising, wherever your site should send them, it should be optimised for the mobile environment,” he said.

Another best practice is using the Facebook conversion pixel tool. Mr Squires explains, “With the tool, you can really understand how people are consuming the advertising and how people are interacting and converting. People might see an ad on Instagram and they might convert later when they are on the desktop – and the Facebook conversion pixel allows you to do that.”

The third best practice, especially for direct response kind of advertising, is to run an ad campaign across Instagram and Facebook. “This allows us get the right ad to the right person at the right time across these platforms to best meet your objectives,” Mr Squires concludes.

Shubhi Tandon

Shubhi Tandon is the Assistant Editor at Digital Market Asia. Fascinated by the evolving digital media industry, she has focussed on tracking developments in the Asia Pacific market since 2014.