Instagram's decision to welcome advertisers with open arms has industry observers buzzing.
There have been highs and lows for businesses this past week in social media marketing. Facebook began supporting animated GIF images, which broke an already delicate, post-Caitlyn Jenner Internet. Consumers rejoiced at the updated capability they were already enjoying on Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit, but brands looked on silently, as the function is still unavailable to the brand-managed feature, Pages. Yet before a business-wide state of FOMO could take over, Instagram announced yesterday they’ve begun taking the steps toward opening their wildly popular photo feed to all advertisers. And just like that, the virtual velvet rope has been pulled back for businesses to proactively engage this party of 300 million users.
Instagram broke down its goals for an advertising strategy into three key areas for The New York Times: “Expanding ad offerings to include action-oriented formats, enabling more targeting capabilities, and making it easier for businesses large and small to buy ads on Instagram.”
“We’ve worked hard to focus on building a quality experience for businesses and people alike, listening and learning from both our community and our partners,” the company went on to say.
And while the dedicated consumer community may not be thrilled at the prospect of big and small business ads clogging up its photo streams, no one can pretend this is a surprise. Ever since Facebook purchased the platform for over $1 billion in April 2012, “monetization” was an ever-present word, always lurking in the shadows. Now that projections have been made on Wall Street that Instagram ads could bring in additional revenue annually of $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion, it seems the parent company will be moving the process along quickly from here on out.
Just as consumers will revel in the ability to post animated photos of “Elf” and “Game of Thrones” to punctuate every public thought on Facebook, businesses will no doubt be gearing up for a major push as targeting and preference capabilities increase. Instagram will begin testing a type of ad that allows viewers to click on a link to buy a product or install an app that is advertised, a function the younger, click-happy Instagram demographic is sure to jump on. Brands that have already capitalized on their ability to visually tell a story in terms of brand awareness and acquisition are looking forward to turning their carefully curated content into dollars and cents.
“Visual storytelling for brands has more resonance. People remember it more,” said James Quarles, Instagram’s global head of business and brand development. “But we want to make sure the ads they see are for things that matter to them.”
While it remains to be seen whether Instagram will come through on its intention to keep its ads more sparsely populated and meaningful than Facebook’s, for now brands are just happy to keep their place at the table in the ever-evolving social marketing conversation.