Without a one-size-fits-all guide to influencer ads, it’s difficult to know where to get started. In a world where social platforms are flooded with ads, how do you know what a “good” instagram influencer ad looks like? Or more importantly, what influencer ads truly are and how to create them? Although each brand and campaign is different (and therefore your influencer partners and creative concept may need to change depending on your target audience), we’ve analyzed aggregate data across millions of influencer ad impressions to pin-point practices that have consistently driven results for Instagram influencer ads. These examples of instagram influencer ads and proven best practices won’t give you all the answers, but should help guide your influencer ad strategy in the right direction.
First things first: in the wild world of influencer marketing, one thing’s for certain - whitelisting is necessary. Influencer whitelisting allows you to combine paid social with influencer marketing, turning your influencer assets into sponsored posts and a tool for brand growth. It’s worth noting that in each example provided below, the brand took it upon themselves to make sure every influencer in their campaign is whitelisted prior to their campaign running.
What whitelisting does for you:
If you’re looking to have optimal control of your influencer assets, your best bet is to whitelist EACH content creator you’re partnering with. Disclaimer: if you choose not to whitelist your influencers, you may not be able to test our Instagram influencer marketing recommendations below.
We’ve found time and time again that high performing influencer ads consistently optimize one or more of these five variables:
Now, let’s explore exactly how high performing brand ads have optimized these five things in their social media marketing.
Just as with brand sponsored posts, we’ve seen how important it is to test different content formats when running influencer ads. In fact, our data findings show that using one format across the board isn’t the correct answer. Depending on the industry you’re working in, you may have more success posting a single image over a carousel. We’ve found that there’s more value in posting a carousel over a single image if you work in Beauty & Skincare or Health & Wellness. Fashion & Apparel industries appear to be, well, the opposite. This makes sense when you consider HOW active users buy Beauty & Skincare products. Odds are, you need more information than a single product image when shopping for a new eye cream - you may want before and after photos, testimonials, product benefits, and so on before making a purchasing decision. Fashion & Apparel product ads, on the other hand, can be convincing with a single image and much less information. See our comparison of influencer ad performance across different content formats, below.
Just as important as testing content layout is how you’re targeting consumers. Below, Rent the Runway demonstrates how to seamlessly retarget customers using a variety of content. Take notes here, folks. This is one strategy that undoubtedly strengthened their campaign.
Rent the Runway used data they received through their whitelisted influencers to retarget abandoned carts, excluding existing customers. This is an excellent example of what an influencer ad campaign should look like - utilizing audience information to retarget website visitors to combat ad fatigue and improve ROI. Heavy audience overlap can be what weighs your campaign down. Just think about it - the same consumers are getting hit with the same content from the same campaigns repeatedly. Using influencer handles (identities) allows you to say something in an Instagram post your brand can’t, and retarget the same Instagram users with different influencers, content, and messages. Influencers can deliver a new, relatable perspective, and maybe offer an exclusive discount (whether it’s actually exclusive or just appears to be that way).
As stated above, having a variety in content drastically strengthens your influencer campaigns. Influencer ads perform best when ad sets include a minimum of 3 influencers and 5-8 pieces of content. Having this variety allows you to run a thorough testing phase and figure out the ad creative and placements that perform best, just as you would with traditional advertising. You can see in the examples below how Rent the Runway used a variety of social media platform placements, in addition to bloggers and CTAs, to keep their influencer ads interesting. Through testing different placements on Instagram and Facebook, they were able to recognize Instagram stories as their strongest ad placement and leverage their campaign.
Just as important as the influencer images/videos themselves, copy can make-or-break an ad. Editing + testing copy gives you maximum marketing campaign results. You can even reuse the exact same content, but curate it to different target audiences through copy adjustments (i.e. speaking to a stay at home mom vs. a working woman in her 20s). Not only that, but testing different copy variations for each target audience allows you to see what’s motivating each audience to click or buy.
In our example above, you can see how quip worked with @adoredbyalex to ensure the brand is mentioned upfront. Although this may seem like a small detail, it’s a game changer. When sponsored content has copy that clearly calls out what the ad is for, traffic tends to be higher quality because consumers are fully aware of what they’re clicking into.
Another copy recommendation is making product benefits and/or problems clear. Putting this information front and center for the consumer builds trust, and gives you an opportunity to implement incentive or a discount. See how Rent the Runway used this strategy to offer what looks like an exclusive discount from their paid partnership with Society Social, below.
This influencer marketing strategy by Rent the Runway is one to keep in your back pocket. The influencer post above communicates a sense of urgency to consumers through an exclusive, personalized discount code (made specifically for the influencer’s audience).
A great influencer ad uses its headline to bring attention to key product benefits. There’s a lot of power in a good headline - it can be what ultimately catches and maintains the consumer’s attention. Headlines are also a great way to tell consumers what you want to do next. For example, this is a great place for you to call out a discount or deal. Putting the call to action is a strong approach, as it intrigues the customer and is transparent (meaning you’ll get higher quality leads).
Above, you’ll see how Plated used a discount call-out in their headline to improve their CPA by 34%. Same images, same caption, but the eye-catching headline is what drove further consumer interest.
One of the biggest benefits of whitelisting your influencers is having greater control over audience targeting. Having the ability to target influencer audiences and influencer lookalike audiences directly diminishes the uncertainty of reach via Instagram’s algorithm. Even more notable, using influencer and influencer lookalike audience in targeting makes your influencer’s follower count irrelevant. Custom audience targeting provides you with the ability to reach more of the people you know are interested in what you’re selling.. so round up your micro-influencers! Their niche audience and content creation could be even more valuable for your campaign than a macro-influencer. The trick here is to focus on each influencer’s engagement rate - do their followers trust what they have to say? Do their followers value their content and opinion?
Above is a visual of how Lumanu uses custom audience targeting to zone in on users we know are interested in what we have to say. Because custom audience targeting increases reach considerably, it’s also a wonderful strategy for driving brand awareness. Through implementation of this strategy in our influencer marketing campaigns, we’re able to speak to Instagram accounts we never would have been able to previously. Ultimately, this gives us higher engagement rates and more out of our marketing budget.
Although the influencer marketing world is still somewhat an ‘anything goes’ industry, the above practices have consistently provided brands with success. Every campaign is different, and each will succeed with different optimizations. With that, we must stress the importance of implementing a thorough testing phase into each campaign. Pinpointing exactly which image, placement, copy variation, and CTA is driving results will transform your sponsored ads into a rockstar campaign. It’s time to start approaching influencer ads as you would traditional advertising. With that, you’ll understand the immense value they can bring to your brand.