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Facebook's Instagram is rolling out a change that will let advertisers promote posts from "influencers," or users who work with brands to promote services or products. This will widen the reach of those "branded" posts beyond just an influencer's own following. And for consumers, that means you'll likely soon be seeing sponsored posts for influencers you don't follow.
Instagram announced the change in a blog post Tuesday. This comes after the platform discussed the upcoming update earlier this year at an event with businesses and influencers and said it has been testing the ads since last year, Ad Age reported in March.
The change comes as brands try to grapple with reaching consumers in a natural way that isn't annoying for them.
When the branded ads appear in the Instagram feed or in stories, other users will see a "paid partnership with" tag on the post. The company says branded content ads in-feed will be available for all advertisers in "coming weeks" and for stories in the "coming months."
A quote from Old Navy vice president of brand communications Liat Weingarten in the blog post indicated that the organic reach from "trusted sources who have credibility" has become "increasingly limited."
"Promoting content directly from an influencer's handle inherently gives the post more authenticity than coming from a brand handle, and we're seeing significantly higher engagement rates using this strategy," Weingarten wrote.
But even if a post has wider reach, brands still have to grapple with trust in a space where consumers are wary of the miracle benefits of the health supplements and weight-loss teas that are pervasive on the platform. A study released in May by media agency UM said 4% of respondents think that three-quarters or more of the information they get from influencers is true.
David Shadpour, CEO and founder of branded content platform Social Native, said in an email he expects the branded content ads to be effective at first because they're a new type of content in the feed.
"However, over time, their impact will decrease because over-saturation will train users to tune them out, just like they've learned to do with brand ads. In the future we could even see a tipping point, where ads overtake organic content on the feed, causing the value of the platform to diminish for consumers," he said.
He added that this will give brands more control over their influencer marketing strategy and give more metrics to gauge the return-on-investment of working with those influencers.
"Influencer marketing has already gained massive traction, and now brands can scale the reach and engagement of influencer posts to reach new target audiences. The downside though, is that posts are reaching people who didn't actively opt-in by following that influencer as a result of having similar interests," he said.