As we reported a few months ago, there are ways that ecommerce sites can use Instagram but they are through third-party affiliate sales platforms that don’t exactly scream user-friendliness or best practice.

The fundamental problem with Instagram for marketers is that it doesn’t allow links on images in the way that Pinterest does in order to drive traffic towards ecommerce. 

You can place relevant URLs in the comments underneath posts when someone makes a specific enquiry, but they aren’t clickable. In fact up until this month the only place you can place a clickable link is within the description on the profile page.

However there has been a change of heart in the Instagram camp.

Instagram has listened to marketers who wish to tell sequenced stories in “beautiful, compelling ways that lead to meaningful results for their businesses.”

The network also claims it has received feedback from its user community that they are interested in learning more about a brand or product after they have been inspired by a sponsored photo or video.

The result of this feedback is carousel ads, a way for brands to share more images with people interested in their post, in much the same way as a multi-page print campaign.

Users can swipe left on am optimised image to see additional images and… here’s the very important development… a link to a website of the brand’s choice.

It’s very savvy of Instagram to use the example of a charity to highlight how this format can do some good in the world, but it does has a point. The storytelling possibilities of the carousel could easily lead users to make the journey to donation. This powerfully persuasive method could also work for non-charity brands and retailers. 

As for the user, well personally I’m a daily Instagram user and since they were introduced six months I have yet to see a single sponsored post, so marketing has yet to ‘invade’ my experience. I still control the content on my feed, I follow the brands who I want to follow.

With the carousel, a user can still scroll straight past the single image and ignore it if they don’t like it. 

This is a point I’ve made before but it bears repeating, I think as soon as marketers realise that Instagram is an incredibly powerful tool for driving brand equity, creating and building relationships, improving loyalty and raising customer lifetime value, rather than the less nebulous metrics that are easier to measure, then the happier we’ll all be.

Read the following to find out how your brand can be brilliant at Instagram.