How publishers are using Instagram to promote commerce content


Instagram might not be the best platform to drive site traffic, but some publishers are seeing the value that the platform can bring to their commerce and advertising businesses. New York Magazine, Food52 and PopSugar have started using both in-feed and story ads to drive readers to their commerce content.

New York Magazine’s commerce vertical, the Strategist, has seen more success with converting shoppers on its commerce posts on Facebook, rather than on Instagram, according to Camilla Cho, svp of ecommerce. However, she said Instagram offers more flexibility with establishing brand awareness, particularly to those who are unfamiliar with the brand.

Recently, The Strategist, which has 134,000 followers on Instagram, did a three-month-long brand awareness campaign that consisted of a mix of out-of-home advertising and digital promotion, including a significant focus on paid social posts on Instagram. The campaign has 10 to 12 ads, but with the variations made in language and design, there were over 100 versions of the ads promoted.

During that time, the brand pushed some commerce stories with the hopes to drive purchases, but the main initiative was on building brand awareness ahead of the holiday shopping season.The campaign has generated 8 million unique impressions.

For Food52, which has 2.4 million followers, two-thirds of the company’s revenue now comes from commerce, according to Grace Ouma-Cabezas, vp of digital marketing at Food52. Because of this, the company has been investing more in the platforms where it can promote commerce content, like paid social and search.

Ouma-Cabezas said that since investing in the platform three years ago, Instagram has become an important distribution platform for commerce content. Because of that, she said that 25% of the money the company spends on digital marketing is on Instagram specifically.

 “We’re now generating more commerce sales from our Instagram ads than our Facebook ads,” said Ouma-Cabezas. “Two years ago we closed the gap between Facebook and Instagram.”

Most of Food52’s Instagram ads are in-feed ads, however Ouma-Cabezas said that approximately 30% of the ads bought are in Instagram Stories. Though it’s a small portion, she’s seen the most growth in terms of engagement from this type of ad, particularly with the “swipe up to buy” feature.

Food52 is currently running a paid social campaign for a French oven by Staub — its campaigns tend to run about six to eight weeks in total– and it has driven 85% of Food52’s Instagram commerce sales in the past week alone.

“Brands and publishers sharing equity on Instagram is, in essence, social affiliate marketing and we are seeing strong signs of this driving positive performance and transactional behavior,” she said,” said Wah-De Dennis, paid media manager at social media agency We Are Social.

Geoff Schiller, CRO of Group Nine, said that PopSugar uses its Instagram presence to both sell advertisers access to its 1.3 million followers, and promote its own commerce offerings.

“Instagram Stories more frequently has become a go-to format. Generally speaking, it’s appealing to brands because it’s an organic way to reach our followers,” he said, continuing that the interactiveness of a story ad, like using “swipe up” or quizzes, is particularly intriguing for the brand’s clients. However, “if the editorial staff is hosting the stories, it translates well for the viewer.”

The women’s lifestyle brand recently launched a fitness commerce platform called Glow, which sells video exercise classes, meal plans and PDFs in partnership with internet-famous fitness instructors. Schiller said that both the in-feed posts and the Stories “swipe up” posts perform well with converting viewers to the buy pages, but the swipe to shop functionality is the most quantitative of the metrics the publisher has. Because of that, advertisers have been leveraging PopSugar’s Stories posts six times more than paid in-feed posts.

Schiller also said that call to action messaging, like “Take the 30-day challenge,” is something he said is uniquely effective within Instagram ads.

Dennis said that the reason why brands would be looking for social placement on publishers’ channels is because it allows them to reach new niche audiences and leverage the reputation of the publication.

“Newer brands or challenger brands with less budget can really benefit from their ability to help establish brand credibility alongside trusted publications,” said Dennis.

This article first appeared in

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