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Social media for brands just got better with Instagram Carousel Ads

Whilst most of the country is talking about whether or not that Los Angeles court ruling was right to decide Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up for their smash hit, Blurred Lines, here at Manchester’s finest award-winning public relations agency we’ve had more press matters to contend with.
Namely the latest news in social media for brands- Instagram’s all new Carousel Ads. A name that makes sense, because that’s exactly how this functionality performs. Here’s a video that explains the concept far better than our words ever could:

For those who aren’t used to standard Instagram, the difference between how things were and how they can be now is simple- rather than a company only being able to post individual images, they can now upload a group that will be showcased, Carousel-style, to a potential audience of 300million users.
Clearly this opens up a huge number of additional possibilities when it comes to storytelling. Although not impossible before- a company, or indeed individual, could convey a coherent narrative through a series of images linked through subject, location or theme- realistically this new option is going to make it easier for people to ‘read’ that yarn. And as anyone who knows Smoking Gun PR knows, we love storytelling.
Critically, these Carousel Ads are clickable, meaning a fashion brand can show a new collection, with links embedded within the images taking users directly to a page where they can buy the product. Which sounds great, and will definitely (obviously) be of huge interest to any firm using the network- whether they sell clothes and shoes or not.
How the public will respond is, unfortunately for Instagram, open to some speculation. As the ability to use any social network for profit becomes greater, so too does the number of brands using that social network for profit. And there lies the irony- the more brands using a social network for profit, and the higher the chance of people becoming fatigued by the number of brands using that network for profit.
We’ve seen a huge increase in bad sentiment surrounding the likes of Twitter and Facebook as advertising has become not only more commonplace, but more invasive too, and that’s not good for longevity of popularity.
So, what can brands do on Instagram to ensure they don’t irritate the public?
Well, for starters Instagram’s overall format is very different to Facebook or Twitter. For starters, there’s a much higher degree of quality control in place; Instagram is about sharing beautiful pictures of beautiful things, beautiful people and beautiful places. Or at least great shots of interesting stuff. This means that, in a similar way to Vogue or Another Magazine, the advertising can be part of the overall product.
A great, although perhaps unrelated example of this in publishing, would be digital magazines native to tablets. Titles that are innovating in their advertising offering can turn commercial space into far more than just a simple brand promotion-  for a travel outlet, national tourist boards can create bespoke videos showcasing the destination in depth, which begin when people pause on that page for a pre-determined amount of time. Static panels can slide aside to reveal fact-box style nuggets of information, and so forth.
In short, advertising that isn’t disruptive of the concept so much as integrated successfully within the platform, has less chance of being seen as something to get past, increasing the likelihood of making an impact. Although Instagram isn’t as far down this road as the tablet-magazine example, the idea of only using aesthetically pleasing ads is definitely working in the network’s favour.
This doesn’t mean that so long as a photo is good companies are out of hot water, mind. A key thing to remember is that incentivising interaction with advertising is a must in order for people to feel the ad is providing a two way service (i.e. to them and the brand) rather than simply selling something. A great way to do this on Instagram is through discounts and exclusive offers for those clicking through from the network, and Carousel Ads extends this opportunity by allowing for more complex information and deals to be communicated in one fell swoop.

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