The Facebookization Of Instagram Continues – And Everything Else Is Next

InstapartnersInstagram announced Tuesday that it’s opening up its advertising Partner Program to a new category of member: media buyers.

The program today is comprised of a set of about 50 vendors certified for Instagram’s ad tech, content marketing and community management services.

Bringing media buying services into the fold is the natural next move for Instagram as it tracks in Facebook’s footsteps, said George Manas, CEO of Resolution, an Omnicom-owned performance marketing agency and a newly minted Instagram ad program partner.

Since Instagram shifted from a direct buy model to a self-service, biddable model, Resolution has “been in touch not just with agency support teams, but product teams, their research group and adjacent services to make sure we had a grasp on the complexity of it all,” said Manas.

Not long ago, the image-sharing platform presented more of a top-of-the-funnel branding opportunity for advertisers.

But Instagram has quickly evolved to the point “where it has a bunch of solutions to address the middle and top of the funnel,” Manas said, pointing to new formats, like video and product ads, and new ad tech services, like retargeting.

“The key will be figuring out which part of that journey Instagram is best poised to support with which audiences,” said Jay Wilson, Gartner’s research director for social media. “Thus far, that’s meant mostly awareness, but as targeting capabilities improve via Facebook, Instagram ads could play a role across all stages of the journey.”

In a sense, Instagram is an extension of Facebook, but for now it’s more like a prosthetic than a natural limb.

Although marketers are beginning to approach Facebook and Instagram with a single platform strategy, it still “comes down to the particular strategy at hand,” Manas said.

While a video campaign aimed more at upper-funnel branding can leverage Facebook and Instagram simultaneously to maximize the reach and frequency of user targeting, the closer an advertiser gets to performance metrics like direct-response or a commerce-oriented campaign, the more it makes sense to be “channel-specific,” Manas said.

That said, Facebook has run a mirror-image partner program for years, so why not just integrate Instagram advertising partners through the pre-existing platform initiative?

“Because Instagram is a distinct ecosystem with its own acquired marketer skill sets,” said Manas.

The platforms that are “simplifying” matters by absorbing scale and tech stack capabilities are also, somewhat counterintuitively, the ones introducing massive new complexity, he said. “It’s the same with Google or Amazon. You can push into more of the funnel by adding other platforms. With more scale, data and tech there are just more levers to pull.”

Manas described it as an indirect win for agencies, which have discovered a strong selling point to brands as a necessary way to coordinate across these “walled gardens,” though he prefers not to use the term.

And as with all empires, there are always more borderlands to tame.

The sutures are still coming out of the hybrid Facebook-Instagram advertising operation, but nobody’s stopping to rest.

“The next opportunity on the platform for us is commerce enablement and what we’ll be able to do with Facebook Messenger,” said Manas. “From what we’re seeing [around] the customer engagement and relationship management, there is an exciting prospect if it can be tied in.”

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