Since 2017, #sponsored posts on Instagram grew by almost 6x. Similarly, #ad posts have more than doubled (2x). Just in 2019, sponsored posts increased by 800,000 to 3.3 million total sponsored posts from 2018’s 2.5 million.
While most Instagram users will recall seeing sponsored posts by celebrities like the Kardashians (or their favorite pop star) for beauty or fashion-related products as early as 2016 — in 2020, even politicians have jumped in the fray to market to millennial and Gen Z demographics via popular meme accounts and social media influencers.
Democratic presidential candidate, Mike Bloomberg, made news with his #sponsored political posts on popular meme accounts @fuckjerry, @tanksinatra, and @kalesalad. Previously, Bloomberg had spent upwards of $1 million/day on Facebook ads and Business Insider estimated that he spent between $1-1.5M on the Instagram meme campaign.
In line with the growth and spend of influencer marketing, #ad and #sponsored posts have prodigiously increased on Instagram. At the start of 2017, #ad and #sponsored posts numbered ~3,442,000 and ~626,000, respectively. Fast forward to 2020, these have increased to ~11,389,000 (#ad) and nearly 3M (#sponsored).
Mediakix tracks this through the total mentions of the hashtags #ad and #sponsored. Additionally, it’s important to note that these numbers may be slightly inflated as some influencers spuriously post #ad or #sponsored to try to inflate interest in their accounts (but no one knows the extent of this activity).
During this time period, the FTC made several changes governing the proper way to disclose sponsored social media posts made by influencers and celebrities — namely, the use of #ad and #sponsored as approved means of disclosure. Other previous hashtags (e.g. #sp or #spon) were deemed improper use.
There are a few ways to advertise on Instagram. Primarily, advertisers can 1) either make use of Instagram’s native ad offerings or 2) work with influencers, meme and other Instagram accounts to create #sponsored or #ad posts both in the Instagram feed and in Stories.
#Ad or #Sponsored posts on Instagram are photos, videos and/or Instagram Stories/IGTV posts created and posted on a social media influencer’s channel promoting the sponsoring brand or advertiser’s product/service.
To create #sponsored or #ad posts (including photo, video, and Instagram Stories/IGTV posts) with influencers, brands or advertisers will oftentimes work with an influencer marketing agency to strategically and creatively craft content that will perform well with an influencer’s audience or following.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the growth of #ad and #sponsored posts on Instagram. At the start of 2020, mobile and tablet accounts for nearly 55% of global market share (vs. desktop, 45.39%). Similarly, time spent on digital has far surpassed traditional media at 395 minutes per day vs. 315 — June 2019 marked the first time people spent more time on phones vs. watching TV. Certain audience segments skewer even more towards digital making social media advertising a must to reach Millennials and Gen Z.
Time spent on Instagram is second only to Facebook at an average of 53 minutes per day. #Ad and #Sponsored posts on Instagram have increased due to both their viability and efficacy. While Instagram gives users an option to hide its native ads, #ad and #sponsored posts from social media influencers, meme, or accounts followed are frequently seen as regular posts especially if they are accounts users frequently visit or interact with.
Beyond their viability and efficacy, #ad and #sponsored posts with social media influencers, memes or feature channels function as today’s word-of-mouth and/or relationship marketing. Many of today’s millennials and Gen Z consumers look to and follow social media influencers, meme, and feature accounts to stay up-to-date on news, must-haves, and the latest products and services.
#Ad and #Sponsored posts can come from influencers of all different sizes and categories — from nano-influencers to micro-influencers to mega-influencers. Each type has their pros and cons and can (should) be leveraged differently and strategically for effective sponsored posts that drive engagement, likes, follows and/or sales.