Social Media

Post by Dan Malachowski, Marketing Director, and Nonie Carson, Marketing Specialist with insights from Christine Hickey, Senior Media Manager

Instagram recently announced a new ad unit available to select advertisers called carousel ads. A carousel ad hosts four high-quality images that users can swipe through.  The final image includes a clickable “Learn More” link which drives to the brand’s website.  This product update from Instagram is significant because it’s the first opportunity for advertisers to link outside the social platform, to their own webpages.  Instagram is a growing area of interest for brands as it now has more monthly active users than Twitter.  With 50% user growth in 2014, the 300 million Instagram audience is largely untapped by advertisers.

Initially, the ads will be branding-focused (e.g. a “Learn More” button vs. a “Buy Now” button), and Instagram will evaluate all ads to ensure they fit within the platform and don’t turn off users.  However, on the external landing page, brands can employ more direct-response calls-to-action, as seen with a “Donate Now” button below for the Pencils of Promise charity:



More images combined with the ability to link to an outside product page gives brands new opportunity to engage users and drive conversions:

  • Richer Media: Advertisers gain the advantage of building a more compelling brand story with carousel ads, as it allows for four images instead of just one- Instagram notes the additional images are “bringing multi-print campaigns to mobile phones.” This is a unique opportunity to enhance a brand’s story and better showcase a product or different utilizations of the product (e.g. an apparel retailer brand can demonstrate the versatility of a product for both formal occasions and casual nights out).
  • Conversion Focus: While the carousel ad is meant to drive product awareness as it supports a “Learn More” call-to-action, advertisers should take full advantage of the opportunity to link to an outside product page. Brands should create a seamless path-to-purchase mobile experience from the product’s “Learn More” page, meaning a “Buy Now” or “Purchase” option should be highly visible on the landing page.
  • Test & Learn: The ability to link to an outside (owned) page gives advertisers more opportunity to test, learn and optimize for conversion. Leverage your on-site analytics to uncover insights around the relationship between various Instagram images/copy and conversions on the landing page.  Employ conversion optimization tactics on the landing pages to maximize conversions.


Currently, carousel ads are available only to a limited number of advertisers.  Because the new product is rolling out on a limited basis, different ad formats are still being tested based on performance and user engagement.

But performance-based, direct response advertisers are hungry for more conversion-focused, highly measurable ad units on social media. Over the past year, we’ve seen the social networks release more ad units aimed at driving direct response actions for advertisers, including:

In the future, we’d love to see additional calls-to-action on Instagram, like a “Buy Now” button, which we think would drive more advertising dollars to the platform.  Additionally, Instagram could increase the visibility of the calls-to-action.  Currently, users can only click on a product link once they have swiped through the entire ad; this decreases click-through rate as some users will drop off after one or two swipes.

Instagram will need more robust measurement and analytics to track performance for its ad units as more advertisers look to invest in the platform. In order for brands to get a true sense of ad performance, they need additional support to fully measure actions from Instagram users- currently, the photo-sharing platform doesn’t allow 3rd party tags or support their own conversion pixel.

For more info on Instagram carousel ads, please contact your performance account team today.

March 18, 2015

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