Beginner’s Guide To Instagram Branded Content Ads

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Sam Hackett

Last Updated: May 24, 2021

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With the announcement of Instagram branded content ads in June 2019, Instagram upped the ante on the services it provides for businesses. Now, businesses can connect with potential customers in a way that doesn’t interrupt the user experience with intrusive ads. 

With around 1 billion users on Instagram, understanding how to properly utilize all the tools available on the platform is essential to staying competitive in today’s markets. With the release of branded content ads on Instagram, businesses now have a new set of tools to master. 

In this guide, we’re going to break down the ins and outs of branded content ads on Instagram, from what they are and how to use them to their impact on brands and creators.

What Are Instagram Branded Content Ads?

Instagram branded content ads allow brands to advertise through paid partnerships with influencers. Essentially, brands that pay for sponsored posts from influencers can pay to promote those posts and include them in other Instagrammers’ feeds. 

In short, you can think of it as a way to add rocket fuel to your influencer campaigns and help them reach more people, faster. 

branded content instagram campaigns

There are two types of Instagram branded content ads available:

  • Branded content feed ads are sponsored posts that will show up in users’ feeds, just like normal posts. 
  • Branded content stories ads are sponsored posts that will appear when a user is browsing through stories. 

Compared to regular in-feed ads, branded content ads can come across as a bit more authentic since the ad content itself comes from Instagrammers, not brands. As a result, the ads are less intrusive for users and are more easily mistaken for organic posts. This is why 93% of marketers make use of influencer marketing. 

By appearing like organic content, users are (theoretically) less likely to immediately filter them out while scrolling through their feed, and are more likely to engage with them. Since branded content ads on Instagram are fairly new, there isn’t much data to draw strong quantitative conclusions from. 

Additionally, branded content ads allow businesses to measure their influencer campaigns in ways that were previously not possible. By treating influencer posts as ads, brands can now analyze sponsored posts just like regular sponsored Instagram ads.

Who’s Eligible To Use Instagram Branded Content Ads?

To use branded content ads, you need to have either a creator or a business account on Instagram. 

Once the proper permissions are set up (we’ll cover that in the next section), both account types can promote their posts as ads. So, creators can promote their own posts, and business partners can promote them as well. 

Examples Of Branded Content Ads

To get a taste of what branded content ads on Instagram look like, here are a few examples.

branded content instagram sponsored ads

This post from @sereinwu was used as an in-feed ad. It features a product demo of the Always Pan. 

Here, @mrs.happygilmore’s sponsored post is used as an in-feed ad by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day.

branded content instagram stories

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean day also used this story from @mylifewellloved as a branded content ad. 

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How To Get Started With Instagram Branded Content Ads

The setup process for branded content ads differs for advertisers and content creators. Here’s how to get started with both.

Steps For Advertisers

The first step in the setup process is allowing content creators to tag your business in their posts. 

To do this, go to your Instagram settings, and tap Business. Next, choose Branded Content and toggle on the Require Approvals option. This means that creators will only be able to tag your business with your approval. 

Now, it’s time to approve some accounts. Tap Approved Accounts and search for the content creator’s Instagram handle. Select the account when it appears, and you’re all set. Now, that creator will be able to tag you in their posts. 

To be able to promote posts, however, the creator will also need to select Allow Business Partner to Promote, which we’ll cover in the next section. 

When you’re ready to run your campaign, open up the ads manager and create an ad. Set an objective, and then pick where you’d like the organic post to appear (stories, in-feed, or in explore). 

branded content instagram goals

You can select the post you’d like to promote using the Use Existing Post section. After selecting Select Post/Change Post, navigate to Branded Content, where you’ll see a list of all the posts the creator has allowed you to promote. 

Finally, the last step is to view the preview of your ad and press confirm if you like it. 

Steps For Creators

Creators can use branded content ads on Instagram by:

  • Creating a new post
  • Using an existing post
  • Creating a new story
  • Using an existing story

However, unlike branded content ads for advertisers, creators don’t promote the content themselves — they just allow their business partners to promote it. 

Creating A New Post

Start by uploading your post as you normally would. Before you finish your upload, select Advanced Settings. Then, tap Tag Business Partner. 

Search for and select your business partner. Then, return to the Advanced Settings page and make sure that Allow Business Partner to Promote is toggled on. 

Then, post the content.

Using An Existing Post

Navigate to the post you’d like to use. Then, click the three dots at the top right and select Edit. 

Select Add Partner and then Tag Business Partner. Search for and select your business partner. Then, return to the Advanced Settings page and ensure that Allow Business Partner to Promote is toggled on. 

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Creating A New Story

Start by uploading your Instagram story as you normally would. Then, select the link icon to open More Options. 

Next, tap Tag Business Partner search for and select your partner. Then, return to the More Options screen and toggle on Allow Business Partner to Promote. When that’s toggled on, you can post the story. 

branded content instagram add business partners

Using An Existing Branded Content Story

Start by finding the story you’d like to use. Then, select the link to open More Options. Then, tap Tag Business Partner and search for and select your business partner. 

Then, toggle on Allow Business Partner to Promote, and you’re all set. 

Measuring Your Branded Content Ad’s Performance

When you run a branded content ad, you can track the performance of your influencer content like any other traditional Instagram ad. This gives you an unprecedented amount of control over and data about organic influencer posts. 

You can view the performance in the Ads Manager, just like any of your other ads. From there, you’ll be able to see insights into your ad’s reach, performance, cost, and ways to optimize it. 

The Impact Of Branded Content Ads For Brands And Creators

Branded content ads on Instagram bring three important benefits to the table: authenticity, targeting, and better analytics. 

Since branded content ads are essentially promoted organic posts, they can come across as more authentic than regular Instagram ads. The benefit of influencer campaigns is that they can often appear more like recommendations from a friend than an ad from a big business. Branded content ads allow brands to promote sponsored content in a way that blends in with other organic content and doesn’t interrupt the user experience. 

Additionally, branded content ads can be targeted just like regular Instagram ads. This means that you can reap all the benefits of influencer campaigns without limiting your reach to the influencer’s followers. 

Finally, you can also use the full suite of analytics tools that comes with Ads Manager to analyze and optimize your branded content ads. 

branded content instagram influencers

Branded Content Ads Success Story

In an attempt to reach a broader audience in South Korea, ecommerce platform Brandi turned to influencer campaigns and branded content ads on Instagram. 

After partnering with several South Korean fashion influencers and promoting the content with branded content ads, Brandi saw a 12% higher return on ad spend, 11% lower cost per purchase, and an 8% lower cost per landing page view (all compared to the ads it ran on its own account). 

Brandi noted that branded content ads helped its campaign by offering a way to leverage the connective power of influencers with analytics and targeting.

Five Creative Ideas For Branded Content Ads

Since branded content ads are essentially just influencer content that you can promote, the same tactics that work for influencer posts will work for these new ads. Here are some ideas to get you started.


Giveaways are always a favorite because very few people will say no to free stuff. If you run a giveaway, you’re almost guaranteed some solid engagement. By promoting it as an ad, you’ll add fuel to it and bring it to a larger audience. 

branded content instagram giveaways

Product Demos

This is a classic tactic because product demos get right to the heart of what your product can do for your customers. By having an influencer demonstrate the benefits of your product, Instagrammers are more likely to view it as a recommendation from a friend. 

Branded Hashtags

Branded hashtags can encourage user-generated content (UGC) and help content go viral. With the added help of promoted content, it’s easier than ever to make content catch on like wildfire.

TikTok Style Videos

TikTok is popular for a reason: the short, loopable videos paired with music are addicting and are a hit with the younger generations. Promoting an eye-catching video with a catchy song in the background can help you reach a large audience quickly and make your content stand out.

Discount Codes

Discount Codes are hugely popular because, like giveaways, they offer your audience instant value. Brands that promote these posts are likely to get significant engagement. 

branded content instagram discount codes

Branded Content Ads On Instagram

Branded content ads are a new type of paid advertisement that straddles the line between paid and organic content. 

All branded content ads start as organic content that’s then promoted by a business. In this way, businesses can simultaneously leverage the authenticity of influencer ads with the precision, analytics, and speed of paid ads. 

At this point, you’re all ready to start planning your first branded content campaign. If you want some more ideas, check out our Instagram influencer campaign cheat sheet.  

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