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With 150 million active users, Instagram confirms ads are on the way

Instagram

Wondering when that little photo sharing app Facebook paid almost a billion dollars for is finally going to start making some money? We may finally have an answer: according to Instagram’s director of business operations Emily White, advertising is coming to the app within the next year.

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In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, White confirmed the long-anticipated news, hinting that brands may soon be able to pay for a spot in the app’s Explore tab, either on the default popular page (which highlights trending photos) or through the search function. She said that Instagram is also considering Pinterest-style functionality, which would allow users to tap on a brand’s image and be taken to their mobile site where they could purchase the item or find out more about a product. However, because Instagram is primarily a mobile app (although it has been adding functionality to its desktop website recently), White is concerned that some brands may not have the high quality mobile-optimised online stores or websites that would be needed for this ad product to work.

Bringing ads to Instagram won’t be an easy task, if the backlash to last year’s attempts to change the terms of service are anything to go by. In December, Instagram backtracked on some of its planned changes to its policies, tried to clear up misinterpretations of its alterations and placate users who were concerned their photos could be sold as adverts. At the time, co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in a post to users that “Going forward, rather than obtain[ing] permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.” White’s comments suggest that time may soon be approaching.

Instagram has also yet to introduce functionality to aid brands which are already using the platform to communicate with substantial numbers of followers — which includes companies ranging from MTV to Coca Cola, Nike, BMW and Levis. For example, its app and website do not allow multiple sign ins to help social media managers switch between accounts, or provide any analytics or insights into follower growth, the number of users who have seen a post, or the performance of the account over time. These are features other social media platforms ranging from Facebook to YouTube have, and which could prove a crucial factor in making it easier to incorporate Instagram into digital strategies and convincing brands (which want to see a definite return on their investment in exchange for parting with their cash) to advertise. But White suggests the team is working on how to integrate the features brands want while still maintaining the app’s uncluttered design and avoiding upsetting its users.

However, with climbing user numbers, brands are only going to become more interested in running campaigns on the photo sharing service. Instagram announced today that it now has more than 150-million monthly active users — an increase of 50 million in the last six months, and up from 90-million in January this year. It’s nowhere near Facebook’s figures, but it suggests Instagram is definitely climbing the ranks — the last self-reported figures we’ve seen from Twitter and Google+ suggest the services have 200-million and 100-million monthly active users respectively.

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