For those of you who follow social media advertising, you’ll be aware that since launch, Instagram ads have only been open to approved ‘managed’ partners (500 brands so far). That’s all set to change in Autumn 2015 with the ad platform becoming available for businesses of all sizes across the globe. Jim Squires, Director of Market Operation at Instagram gave emarketer.com an interview about the changes, which I’m going to pull the key nuggets from…

Why now?

  • They’ve spent 18 months establishing the model with large brands
  • Now they want to ’empower’ businesses of all sizes

How will the targeting work? (historically it’s been very wide – gender, age and geography)

  • It will mirror the targeting options currently offered by Facebook (owners of Instagram)
  • This will include custom audiences, which will allow advertisers to add their own data to the mix (as you can currently do with Facebook)

How will the ads look and what will the key functions be?

  • Ads will follow guidelines and policies similar to those in place on Facebook
  • An algorithmic approach will ensure a ‘high-quality’ experience for users – factors such as negative feedback, ad engagement rates and comments are fed into the system
  • Ad will have ‘Direct Response’ options – people can take an action from within the ad – buy a product or download an app for example
  • The current image, video and carousel ads will still be on offer

You can read that full interview over on emarketer.

My thoughts on the application of this

While Instagram claim there will be quality control in place, they can only take this so far if they want to really build this. Instagram is purely a visual platform – text should hardly feature at all, and I can see brands at a certain level struggling to adopt this creative, visual approach. The Instagram user-base is going to revolt against this in a big way – the response to ads so far has been generally highly negative and the opening up of the platform is only going to lead to more ad in people’s feeds. Instagram has to make money like everyone else, but that can be hard to swallow for many that have been used to a lovely ad-free platform.

I also have a concern that many businesses will throw money at this and see very little in return – they won’t think enough about the forward path from the ads and will end up spunking a wad of cash just to be seen to be active on the platform. I see Instagram ads as more of a branding play than direct response, but do believe they can work well as part of a wider social/digital campaign. My advice is to tread very carefully and hold back – watch how other brands use it and learn. Here’s an example of a bad Instagram ad from Tesco.

Are you an avid user of Instagram? How do you feel about this? If you work in marketing, do you think these ads are something you’ll be trying out?

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