Instagram’s Paid Partnership feature allows your brand partners to turn your organic posts into paid ads. We commonly refer to this as ‘branded content’.
Brands have the ability to collaborate with creators and amplify the reach of your content by serving it to their entire audience across Instagram and Facebook. This means your content will be seen as an ad by users who don’t follow or know you, so their response to the content will differ from how your followers would consume or engage with the post.
This extended reach is why you need to create your branded content with Instagram’s best practice advice in mind, while making sure it still feels authentic to you and your aesthetic. This will help ensure that both sides of your audience – your current following and the users you’ll reach when your content is turned into an ad – can enjoy, interpret, and be truly influenced by your content.
To help you create content for brands that’s entertaining and effective, we’re sharing the latest best practice advice directly from Instagram. Think of this as your ultimate branded content guide for Instagram.
We’ll be breaking down our guide into three parts:
Part 1: Ready – Get started by reviewing the brief and aligning with the brand.
Part 2: Set – Tips for effective branded content.
Part 3: Story – Storytelling ideas that work.
But before we begin, let’s quickly remind ourselves of how to use the Paid Partnership tag and answer your most frequently asked questions about this Instagram feature.
What are the advantages of using Instagram’s Paid Partnership tag?
More followers: Your content will be seen by new audiences that you’d otherwise be unable to reach. That’s good news for your follower count! Instagram creators see a spike in followers when a branded content ad campaign features their post. On average, more than 80% of these new followers still follow the creator 30 days later. (Source: Global study of 1,966 UK and US Influencer followers, report from Innovation Insider 2019).
More insights: The Paid Partnership tag grants you access to more analytics, so you’ll know what works, and what doesn’t. That leads to better, more effective content creation in the long run. The brand you’re collaborating with will also gain access to your post’s insights. So wave goodbye to endless screenshots and long email chains discussing your performance.
More integrity: The Paid Partnership tag shows both advertisers and followers that you’re being paid to promote the product you’re selling. This transparency results in increased trust. When commercial intent is clear, 75% of respondents reported intent to take a positive brand action. (Source: “Branded Content Research” by Kantar (Facebook-commissioned online study of 15,003 people ages 18+ across US, GB, DE, KR, BR), Q4 2019. Research findings do not guarantee future performance.)
Paid Partnership tag FAQs
Q: I know I need to have a Business or Creator account to use the Paid Partnership tag. Does the type of Instagram account you have affect your ranking in the algorithm?
A: Whether you have a business account, creator account, or even a personal account, your account type will not affect your visibility in other people’s feeds. We debunked this myth when we went live with Instagram.
Q: Does Instagram downgrade branded content?
A: The short answer is no! The algorithm doesn’t negatively affect branded content distribution on the basis of the Paid Partnership tag. We also debunked this myth when we went live with Instagram.
Q: My followers won’t want to see so much branded content on my feed! What should I do?
A: That’s okay because they don’t have to! When your brand partner boosts one of your posts as an ad, you can choose to ‘dark post’ it, meaning it won’t appear on your own feed.
Now that you’re well versed in Instagram’s Paid Partnership tag, let’s jump into Instagram’s guide to creating impactful and effective branded content.
Part 1: Ready – Get started by reviewing the brief and aligning with the brand
Before you start creating any sort of content for a brand, it’s important you collaborate together to agree on the direction of the creative brief.
Having a great brief to work with that clearly outlines the creative process to follow, will ensure you give your content the best chance at succeeding. Talking through the brief with your client will give you the opportunity to clarify any questions, as well as iron out any issues in advance.
Instagram’s briefing checklist is a great tool to use to make sure you’re being briefed correctly. It ensures your client provides you with:
- A written brief with clear objectives.
- Assets needing to be incorporated, including logos or brand colours.
- Timings for approvals, revisions, and content live dates.
- Payment terms & usage rights that are clearly set out and transparent.
As part of that dialogue, you can then ask your client some further qualifying questions:
- Why me? Ask why they like your work so you can give them more of what they want.
- Key messages. Ask for clarification on the messages and keywords they want you to use (and which they don’t).
- Creative process. Agree on a work style for how you’ll collaborate together. Would it help to narrow down a specific story? Would a moodboard help them visualise things?
Instagram has also provided these additional, creator-approved tips:
Take time to look for inspiration. Before you start creating, spend as much time as you can planning out your ideas. Look for inspiration in as many places as you can. Build a scrapbook if that helps, or scribble it down if that’s more your thing.
Find that product and lifestyle fit. Make sure you know the product inside out, then think about how it fits into your lifestyle. This will make for more relatable content.
Part 2: Set – Tips for effective branded content
Paid ads work a little differently to organic content on Instagram and Facebook. Most users don’t seek out ad content, so the advertising needs to find people and forge a connection. This means your content needs to cut through the noise and engage the brand’s target audience meaningfully to improve the performance of the ad.
Here are four tips from Instagram to help you achieve just that:
Show the product early. Showing the brand in the first three seconds drives 44% more brand interest compared to when you show it at the end. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to show the brand’s logo, it could just be visible product placement based on what you’re promoting. (Source: “Branded Content Creative Meta-Analysis”, Facebook-commissioned lab study by MetrixLab with 100 US participants, August 2018.)
Creatively weave in the brand. There are plenty of ways to integrate a brand thoughtfully into your content. From your outfit choice to the colour picker text tool, or even the background of your content. This will ensure the brand’s presence lands with your audience, but doesn’t dilute the authenticity of your message.
Design for sound-off. This will not only improve the accessibility of your content for those who either listen with sound off or have a hearing impairment, but it will also improve the performance of your ad. Ads designed for sound off drive 38% more brand interest. (Source: “Branded Content Research” by Kantar (Facebook-commissioned online study of 15,003 people ages 18+ across US, GB, DE, KR, BR), Q4 2019.)
Keep it short and sweet. According to tests run by Instagram, video ads that go for 15 seconds or less, provide optimum results for the brand. Ads that use mobile-first best practices saw twice the brand awareness compared to non-optimised ad content. (Source: Analysis of 35 lift studies with 34 advertisers in North America and EMEA across 10 verticals (24.09/2018 – 18/12/2019)
Part 3: Story – Storytelling ideas that work
When your content is boosted as an ad, it has to earn the right to be in someone’s feed. So it’s important to showcase the product in an entertaining and engaging way. One approach to how you achieve this is through storytelling.
Instagram confirms that when creators use storytelling or ‘demotainment’ in their paid partnership content, the ad tends to lead to more conversions for the brand. There are plenty of different ways you can tell a story through your content. But all of them should follow ‘storytelling structures’ to help your audience follow along easily.
Different examples of storytelling structures could include:
- Product in action.
- Product in real life.
- Product as entertainment.
To further help you understand each different structure, and how to implement these in your own content creation efforts, below we dived a little deeper:
Product in action:
Problem, solution, result. Break it down into three simple steps. Explain the problem, including how the product is addressing that issue. Then show the solution and how the product caters to it. And finally, provide the results by showing the benefits of the product.
Transformation tales. What’s the (possibly bad) alternative to NOT using this product? Start with that, and then work backward to show how the product you’re promoting can avoid it. Show the product in use and then the great results you experienced.
Show and sell. Name the product you love in the first three seconds, then explain why you love it by showcasing the benefits.
Product in real life:
A day in the life. People are drawn to creators because of their authentic take on things. Consider a ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into your life as a way to further connect with your audience. Then show how the product fits into it as you go, whilst keeping it real and relatable.
Your natural habitat. Sometimes, it’s just all about the vibe. Inviting your audience into unscripted, everyday moments with the product can be enough to capture attention. Think about the time of day people might use the product you’re selling. What could the mood be? And what activities would complement the product? Then capture those small moments to try and evoke a feeling.
Guest starring. Social users know that most creators aren’t mega-celebrities leading perfect fairytale lives. So when your video gets photobombed by your cat, we can all relate. If you want people to relate to your ad, involve other people (or pets!) as your supporting cast. Try involving your family, friends, pets – whoever makes regular cameos in your everyday life.
Product as entertainment:
Trend translator. People will recognize behaviors and trends from their feeds if you use them. That means they’re more likely to connect with your message when your content taps into the latest social trends. Also, think about whether there’s a platform-native behavior (like transitions) that you can use to tell your story.
Expect the unexpected. Your content needs to capture attention in-feed. Using unexpected ways to showcase your product can stop users mid-scroll. Figure out how your product is ‘usually’ sold, then do something entirely different – even if it feels counter-intuitive or uncomfortable.
Be the brand. If you’re falling short of inspiration, see if you can find ideas in the actual product you’re selling. Does the brand have any famous advertising you can reference? Do they use mascots or logos you can play with? Or maybe there are colours and imagery you can incorporate within your video.
Instagram’s final words of advice? Have fun with it! Not many people can say their job is as exciting and creative as yours. So always remember to enjoy yourself when working with brands. This will then shine through to your content and create an even more entertaining and effective ad.