Do you want to get more out of your influencer content?

Do you have any questions about how to use the Instagram Branded Content Tool, whitelisting, or dark posts? 

If you’re using UGC in your performance ad campaigns, you might have some questions about how to get the most out of your relationships with the creators you work with. While creators and advertisers are, theoretically, on the same team, they actually each have very different goals. 

Generally, creators want: 

  • To increase their following
  • To get compensated for the work they do
  • To create content that builds their personal brand

Advertisers, on the other hand, want: 

  • Lower CPA
  • Higher ROAS*

*And all the other great engagement metrics along the way like CTR, Video Watch %, etc.

The beauty of this situation is that even with disparate goals, everyone can get what they want. In order to achieve that symbiotic business relationship with your influencers you’ll need to create some structure around their content and your ad campaigns. 

Luckily, there are a few tools available to you to do just that. 

In this post, we’ll cover the primary ways advertisers can collaborate with influencers—Facebook’s Branded Content Tool, dark posting, and whitelisting. We’ll define each of these tactics, break down the pros and cons, and provide some insight into which may be right for you depending on your use case. 

Let’s get started!

What is Instagram’s Branded Content Tool?

Facebook introduced the Branded Content Tool in 2016 as an effort to add transparency to paid collaborations between creators and brands. Influencers with verified Pages are allowed to tag the brands they’re working with in the creators' organic posts, while the brands are then able to promote the content that influencers approve with paid advertising and see engagement metrics. In 2017, this policy was updated and the branded content tool was made available on Instagram. 

You can read more about Facebook’s policy here and Instagram’s here

Reading between the lines, this feature appears to have been created for Facebook and influencers to disclose their paid partnerships for the benefit of their audiences and increase the ease of collaboration.

Branded Content vs Whitelisting on Instagram
Branded Content on Instagram

The actual business functionality of this tool is limited, and it’s actually worth a closer look.

4 Limitations of Using the Branded Content Tool

The Branded Content Tool severely limits how marketers can optimize influencer content in a few key ways: 

1. Campaign Objective choices - For those familiar with Facebook Ad Campaign objectives, you know you can optimize an ad for conversions, video views, clicks, and several other choices. With Instagram Branded Content ads, you’re limited to “Boosting” the post, which defaults to optimizing for Engagement (Reactions, Comments, and Shares). 

2. Audience Targeting - Paid promotions through the Branded Content Tool are limited to the brand’s owned audiences and what they can create through Facebook’s interest-based audiences. Advertisers are not able to take advantage of the creator’s audiences, or Lookalike audiences based on the followers of their influencers. 

3. Ad creative and editing - Ads run through this method will look as-is, meaning that you cannot add CTA buttons, headlines, or captions after the influencer has posted the content. You can’t edit any of the post copy after it’s gone live or create different copy variations for A/B testing. Additionally, Branded Content Ads only support the 1:1 ratio Carousel format in the feed and some creative elements are not available for ads that run in Stories.

4. Posts must be approved by influencers - With Branded Content ads, you can only promote posts that influencers have previously approved for you. When creating an ad and clicking the “Use Existing Post” feature, you'll see the list of available branded content posts and Stories in the Creative section. These are the only posts you’re allowed to advertise. This is not only limiting, it’s also an extra step for your collaborators to approve these posts in advance. 

If you’re reading this and thinking it sounds a bit limited, don’t fret—there is a great alternative to collaborating with content creators! 

Let’s explore. 

What is Whitelisting?

Whitelisting on Instagram is the process of an influencer giving limited account access (not your login) to an advertising partner through the Facebook Business Manager. The purpose behind whitelisting is to allow marketers to utilize increased functionality in order to get more results out of the influencer content via advertising. If the influencer and the brand are aligned in terms of their goals with the partnership, whitelisting is the preferred method of collaboration on Instagram for everyone involved. 

Related reading: What is Whitelisting on Instagram?

The technical process for whitelisting can be tricky, however. In theory, it can be done simply in Facebook Business Manager, however in practice, it can actually be quite a challenge. For starters, some influencers will not even have a Facebook Business Manager, so they’d have to create one and connect all their assets (such as their Instagram account) before giving you access. 

The Facebook Business Manager allows various levels of access to lots of different assets, which can create complexity in the whitelisting process. What ends up happening if you try to give somebody instructions via email is that you often end up without the required access due to the maze of buttons they have to press and checkboxes they have to fill out. It’s generally best to schedule a live, 30-minute session with your influencer partner to do this, which of course can be tricky due to time zones and scheduling conflicts. 

Note—At Insense, we actually provide a much simpler whitelisting process for our users so you can bypass this part. If you’d prefer to use Facebook Business Manager, you might want to look at bundled partnerships requests

Once your access has been granted, you can now take advantage of all the benefits of being whitelisted on your creator’s Instagram account!

5 Benefits of Whitelisting for Advertisers

Whitelisting allows you to get a lot more results out of your influencer content campaigns in a few key areas: 

1. Ad Types - As opposed to being limited to simply Boosting their posts for engagement, you now have the full power of Facebook Ads Manager at your disposal. This means you can change the ad type from Single Image to Video to Carousel, change the Campaign Objective, and generally use their content in a more sophisticated manner. 

2. Social Proof - There is a HUGE difference between running an ad campaign with influencer content from your brand’s Instagram account vs. the account of your influencer. By having the ad originate from a creator’s account, you have some built-in social proof because the message is coming from somebody else besides your branded account. And of course, you can actually test and measure whether or not the account origination affects your outcomes (CPA, ROAS, etc.) If you’re working with multiple influencers on the same campaign, this will also show which account is most conducive to sales. 

Traditional Post vs Branded Content

3. Dark Posts - A “dark post” is content that comes from an influencer but never appears in their organic feed. Basically, the post is designed to be an ad from the start. This can be helpful for the brand if they want the post to be more specific—such as promoting a sale or new product—that the influencer wouldn’t normally post organically. Additionally, because it will be supported 100% by ads, the brand has more control over who will see the content. You can read more about dark posts here.

4. Audience Targeting - Again, instead of relying on the limited targeting options that Boosting a post offers, brands now have access to more sophisticated targeting. This can include access to the influencer’s own audiences, depending on the level of access negotiated in the whitelisting process. 

5. Measurement - By utilizing campaign objectives like Conversions or Catalog Sales, advertisers can get actual ROAS data on their influencer campaigns, as opposed to surface-level engagement metrics only. This makes a huge difference in your ability to evaluate the overall effectiveness of your ad campaigns. 

As you’ve likely noticed by now, there are far more benefits to whitelisting as opposed to using Instagram’s Branded Content Tool for collaborating with influencers. If you’re ready to collaborate with your team of content creators via whitelisting, here are some tips for getting them to buy in. 

Branded Content vs Whitelisting on Instagram

3 Tips for Getting Your Influencers On Board with Whitelisting

In order to gain all the benefits of whitelisting, first you’ll need to gain access to the assets of your content creators. This can be tricky, both from a technical and trust perspective, so here are some tips to help you explain the benefit to your influencer partners. 

1. Explain the added exposure they’ll receive - Influencers can always use more followers, and your paid ad campaigns will expose their accounts to new audiences. As you likely know, even if your campaign objective is set to Conversions, any account running Instagram ads will likely increase its follower count as a side effect of the ad campaign. Let them know how large of an audience they’ll likely be exposed to through your ad campaigns. 

2. Stress the convenience of Business Manager - Most influencers would rather focus on the creative aspect of social media rather than the nuts and bolts of Facebook Pixels, A/B tests, and other details that media buyers need to pay attention to. Whitelisting via Business Manager allows ‘hands off’ collaboration between brands and creators. 

Pro tip—Schedule a 30-minute screenshare to walk through the whitelisting process with them so you only have to do it once and never have to worry about access again. 

3. Get them on board with your mission - A big part of whitelisting is trust. Influencers are more likely to feel comfortable giving you increased access to their assets if they’ve bought into your vision and know what you’re trying to accomplish. Make sure to work with influencers who align with your brand values and vice versa. 


In terms of which method you should choose to collaborate with your influencers—whitelisting vs. Instagram’s Branded Content Tool—we feel the better option is whitelisting. Whitelisting offers far more utility to marketers while also being way more convenient for content creators. This is a win-win for both parties. 

If you’re looking for more insight on whitelisting, check out our free eBook: Drive results with Influencer Whitelisting