Instagram took a big step forward as a marketing tool today, giving advertisers the ability to link out from Instagram posts for the first time.
As reported on Marketing Land, the functionality is part of a new carousel-based ad unit that the company introduced today. The ad format features multiple images that users can view by swiping left within the mobile app. In a blog post announcing the new wrinkle, Instagram compared the ad format to splashy print media campaigns.
One way to look at it is carousel ads bring the potential of multi-page print campaigns to mobile phones – with the added benefit of taking people to a website to learn more. For instance, a fashion company could use the carousel to deconstruct the individual products in a ‘look.’ A car company might share an array of different features of a vehicle and provide a link to learn more about the new model. Or, an advertiser could showcase how multiple ingredients come together to make a delicious meal.
The ability to link to other sites will certainly be a welcome change for marketers, at least those given access to the ad format. One of Instagram’s shortcomings as a promotional tool is that there’s no way to include clickable links within posts. Because of that limitation, Instagram has long been considered a place for businesses to build their brand and plant their flag rather than drive traffic back to their websites.
Some businesses have resorted to workarounds directing users to businesses’ Instagram profiles, the only place on the network that has live outside links.
Instagram typically moves deliberately with new advertising features and this is no exception; the company said carousel ads are being introduced on a limited basis. “In the coming weeks,” the blog post stated, “you may see carousel ads and might notice variations of the format as we learn what people are most interested in and what performs best.”