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Instagram ads are the newest kid on the promotion block, and, as such, face relatively little competition. That’s good news for advertisers.

And while user reaction to the recent increase in ad frequency on the photo-sharing social network is somewhat caustic, there’s no doubt that the platform is becoming a popular destination among e-retailers.

But when you have an online store to run, how do you find time to build and launch a campaign?

To answer that question, Kit — the artificially intelligent CRM that helps you run your ecommerce store via SMS messages — has launched its new Instagram ad builder today.


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Michael Perry, CEO of Kit CRM, gave me a sneak preview of the new Instagram ad builder in San Francisco recently. Appropriately, we met in a small, local bar in North Beach — exactly the kind of business that could benefit from these highly visual, and apparently engaging ad units.

As with other operations in Kit — which we’ve covered before — you simply contact Kit via SMS, telling it to build an Instagram ad for you. Have you taken a great photo of your product, or a scene that relates to your brand image? Great. You’re a text message away from using that as an advertisement on Instagram.

Since a picture paints a thousand words, here’s a four thousand word gallery that illustrates how Kit-built ads appear in the stream.

Kit also builds video ads in the same way. And if you’ve already uploaded content to your Instagram account, Kit can easily promote that post for you by turning it into a sponsored photo or video. In fact, Perry told me that it can run a campaign for you, from a source image, on both Instagram and Facebook simultaneously in four, short, SMS-powered steps. All e-retail business owners need to do is answer Kit’s text messages.

Kit integrates with stores powered by Shopify, Big Cartel, Etsy, Bigcommerce, and Tictail, and provides email marketing, store management, and ad creation for business owners that use those platforms. The SMS-based “prompt and respond” solution works in most major countries, but for those not supported via SMS, Kit recently added support for Telegram, a secure instant messaging app.

I guess those dreams of being able to run your business from a beach in Puerto Rico with a piña colada in hand are not so far away.

The Instagram ad builder has been in closed beta for some time. So what sort of engagement is Perry seeing with Instagram ads, and how much of that is due to the recency of the platform?

“Instagram Ads are performing phenomenally well,” Perry told me. “In my opinion, Instagram ads are the biggest bang for the buck right now. Impressional costs have been much cheaper than what we’ve seen on Facebook or Twitter. The click-through rate (CTR) isn’t as consistently high as what we’ve seen on Facebook, but the impression pricing has been so much cheaper that the percentage change in CTR is irrelevant, because you are getting much more reach for your dollar.”

That’s as I’d expect right now, and seems to echo the thoughts of other Instagram ad commentators.

“Newness plays a huge role on affordability since it is still a small pool of media buyers compared to those buying on Facebook,” Perry said. “I imagine that will eventually change, but maybe not by much.”

So why did Kit pick Instagram as the next platform to create ads for?

“We work with tens of thousands of businesses across 18 countries, and we get asked daily ‘what about Instagram?’,” Perry said. “Kit’s ability to post on Instagram or run ads on Instagram has been a top wish list item from our users virtually since day one. The second we had the opportunity to build Instagram ads, we re-prioritized our product road map, and immediately started building it out. It was the easiest product decision I’ve made in 2015.”

But with a negative user-reaction to the recent increase in ads on Instagram — no doubt to keep up with the recent demand — is Perry worried about a backlash?

“Instagram is a product I truly love, so I really go back and forth between being sad and, oddly, being excited,” Perry said. “Since its targeting is using Facebook’s data, I can only hope I start seeing better ads, since a lot of things I am being served right now are off target. I think Facebook will get it ‘dialed in’ and it will be less overwhelming over time. Right now, seeing an ad every 5 photos feels like too much and we see people online complaining, but I remember when Facebook started putting sidebar ads on photos, and everyone was irate! It’s fully normalized now in our user experience on FB, and I’d imagine in time ads on Instagram will create a richer experience than a negative one.”

Instagram ads within Kit CRM are a Pro feature, available today as part of a plan that costs $25 per month.

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