Why Instagram is Selling Ads like Hot Cakes

Instagram is an online photo-sharing app that lets you share your life through photos with friends. I use the app to snap and post random photos throughout my day. I also use it to look at fashion and design inspiration from brands and personalities that I follow. Scrolling through my Instagram feed has become an enjoyable mind-numbing habit that I often do right before bed and when I wake up. While scrolling through my feed, one thing in particular has stood out to me – advertisements.

Typically, internet ads are just a nuisance. They are brightly-colored, loud, annoying, and get in the way of reading a great article or watching an interesting video. According to Business Insider, by the end of 2016, 615 million devices had installed ad blockers. 29% of the people who have installed ad blockers stated that their reason for installing ad-blocking software was because of “interruption.” However, Instagram ads are not the typical internet ad. I actually like these ads because instead of interrupting my experience, they add to it.

In October of 2010 Instagram was released to iOS phone users. From the beginning, it was Instagram’s intention to have an ad-free experience. Instagram feared that introducing ads would turn people off and send them away. Shortly after Instagram was released to Android users in April of 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram. In 2013, sponsored ads were introduced to the app as an exclusive offer to select brands. Instagram expected that there would be some push-back, however, when the app released the announcement of integrating ads, they said they’d “start slow” and only feature a couple of high-quality photos and videos from well-accepted brands in the Instagram community.

Today, the app is slowly but surely warming users up to a brand new ad experience. Not only does Instagram observe their users’ activity on both Facebook and Instagram to better target ads, but the app also promotes an ad design that reflects a “seamless experience.” Instagram’s goal is for ads to blend in and appear like beautiful photo content. Instagram stated, “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 favorite brands.” You can check out Instagram’s ad design guidelines here.

Instagram’s ads not only look beautiful and blend in but they add to the overall experience. Instagram acts just like a magazine where you would flip through the content and run across a beautiful photo of a designer shoe in an ad. However, the time it takes to purchase the shoe is a lot shorter through an in-app experience compared to a magazine experience. With a magazine, the user would have to tear out the page of the shoe ad and search for the shoe on the brand’s website or find it in-store. The in-app experience is an interactive journey where the user could tap on the shoe ad which could link directly to an online product page ready for purchase. What could have taken about 30 minutes to purchase a shoe now only takes about three minutes.

There’s even numbers to back up the success of these ads. According to Business Insider, “The total number of impressions on Instagram served via Brand Networks in August 2015 was 50 million. In September that doubled to 100 million. But, by December 2015, the figure was 670 million. That’s more than a 13 times increase.” eMarketer states that “By 2017, Instagram’s global mobile ad revenues will reach $2.81 billion.”

I believe that Instagram’s ad experience is the starting point to creating better internet ads – ads that are interactive, helpful, and enjoyable for the users. Perhaps we can learn from Instagram’s success and truly think about the experience that we are providing our consumers.

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