Facebook and Twitter are two of the most widely used social sites on the Web. Besides that, what’s another thing these two have in common? They both showcase a growing amount of advertisements on many of their page, all in the hopes of cashing in on their online success. Of course it’s no surprise that Instagram wants in on the action, and we’ve known this day was coming for awhile: Brace yourselves, ads are coming to your precious photo-sharing platform. And they’re coming soon – within the next couple of months.
The three year-old media-sharing platform that boasts of having more than 150 million users – all of which are part of a loyal community – is now ready to grow up and take a step into the world of making money by including ads in their marketing effort and yes, in your photo stream. If you happen to peruse your friends’ filter-enhanced snapshots in the next few months and see a photo posted by a brand account you don’t remember following, that would be an ad, also brandishing the popular heart icon you almost automatically click whenever you see something artsy and pretty. “Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow,” the blog post assured. “We’ll 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.”
Instagram has certainly come a long way from its iPhone-exclusive days. Today it’s an ideal platform for people to share images of the things they love; it’s aspirational in many ways, and there’s an element of living vicariously through other users’ photos. Naturally, various brands were quick to notice this and services that hope to make it easier for companies to tap into the rich Instagram market aren’t far behind.
Instagram has said time and time again it doesn’t want to rely on irrelevant ads that interrupt the experience (cough – Facebook – cough), and that it wants the forthcoming marketing content to “feel as natural to [the site] as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands.” But that’s assuming most users follow brands to begin with – what if you only follow your friends? A Nike photo – or for that matter, video – won’t go unnoticed.
To its credit, Instagram tries to assuage the potential outcry by guaranteeing complete user control over the ads that will appear: If you happen upon an ad that doesn’t appeal to you, you can hide it and tell Instagram why you didn’t like it.
Despite any concessions, the extremely active community behind Instagram is sure to have many thoughts and feelings about the impending changes, and how people will react to Toastered and Kelvined photo campaigns remains to be seen.