Here we go folks. After months of rumours and an eventual concession last month that advertising would be coming to the service “within the next year”, Instagram has announced it will begin including sponsored photos and videos from brands in its users’ feeds.
In a blog post and photo shared with the 38-million followers of its official account, Instagram explained that in order to grow the app into a successful business (i.e. one that makes money), it would begin rolling out ads to users in the United States in the coming months. “Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow,” it said in the post. To get people used to the idea of seeing sponsored content in the app, Instagram says it will “focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community.”
Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favourite brands. After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favourite magazine.
In an attempt to prevent the backlash and confusion it saw when it tried to adapt its policies around advertising late last year, Instagram stressed in its announcement that users still own their photos and videos, a fact that the introduction of advertising won’t change. In a similar way to Facebook’s ad functionality, users will be able to hide ads as well as explain why they didn’t like a certain post, so Instagram can learn what users like as it goes along.
With 150-million monthly active users, the Facebook-owned photo app has already been adopted by major brands ranging from Nike and Starbucks to MTV, who have grown substantial followings on its service without any functionality or major assistance from Instagram itself. A recent study found that almost a quarter of the Fortune 500 companies now hold an account on the service, and Instagram is reportedly hoping to build on those relationships by adding features that brands would like to see, while avoiding cluttering up or detracting from the design and user experience of its app.
So far, its announcement has seen mixed reactions from users, many of whom are using its explanatory post to complain about the decision. Some of the more than 10 000 comments the photo has gained to date to suggest that ads would ruin the service, while others are asking for an ad-free subscription option or offering words of support for the move, as long as Instagram doesn’t make the ads “annoying”. To date, Instagram hasn’t generated any income from its popular (free) app, aside from the US$715-million it sold for to Facebook last year.