As you may have heard, Instagram has revealed how its ads – or “sponsored posts” will look in users’ timelines.
The example given by Instagram looks reassuringly similar to the posts you’d normally see on the platform, but with the ‘sponsored’ banner, obvious enough that you wouldn’t mistake them for user generated content. The ads will initially be rolled out in the U.S. this week to give users “a sense for the look and feel of the ads you will see”.
It’s certainly a positive start for Instagram’s monetisation drive. But while it has stated that it’ll start rolling out ads slowly, with selected brand partners, this is clearly not a strategy for the long term.
While Instagram has revealed it’ll be using users’ Facebook profile and usage data to target ads (if they’ve linked their Instagram account with Facebook), it isn’t yet clear on how many ads its users will be exposed to. As is always the case with social networks, as the proliferation of ads increases, it’ll need to make sure there’s a careful balance between sponsored and organic content, or risk alienating users.
It’s also not an advertising platform that brands should jump right into without careful consideration. Instagram’s users will not be forgiving of content that isn’t ‘beautiful’, in line with what they’re used to seeing, so replicating print ads just isn’t going to cut it. Instagram is supporting this position (after all, the last thing it wants is for users to be turned off by bad content), saying it’s encouraging advertisers to be creative and engaging with their posts, stating that ads will will remain in ‘the spirit of the community’.
This is a development that we all knew was coming, and so far, Instagram seems to be handling it well – but this is the easy bit. Now, it will need to keep a close eye on both the content produced by brands, and the quantity of ads appearing in users’ feeds.