After Instagram’s initial announcement that ads were coming to it’s social platform a few weeks ago, we didn’t hear anything more. Just that they were happening “soon”. Last week, we got our first glimpse into what they would look like.
Beyond the initial announcement and the first mockup of the ad, the whole event has been shrouded in secrecy. There’s been no word on algorithms or how Instagram ads work. And while I understand the hesitation of over-promising and under-delivering on Instagram’s part, I can’t help but have the following concerns when it comes to what we don’t know about sponsored posts coming to one of our most beloved social media platforms:
Will it dilute the Instagram experience?
It’s scary to think about, but I can see the day where you can’t continue to scroll through your Instagram feed until you stop and watch Levi’s 15 second Instagram video for their #MakeYourMark campaign, a la YouTube. When that happens, and users are unable to use their newsfeed the way that they want, the experience will be completely diluted. Really hoping this doesn’t happen (are you listening, Instagram Gods?!), but again, I wouldn’t be surprised…
What’s the difference between a sponsored ad and a regular uploaded ad?
I’m confused as to why Instagram would activate ads in the first place, since each image a brand uploads is already somewhat of an ad for that brand. Sponsored ads don’t seem to do much more than regular photo uploads (at least in these initial mockups we’re seeing). So what’s the value of doing them? Which brings me to my next question…
What’s the point?
How exactly do these ads help a business reach it’s goals via this platform. Really what I’m asking here is what’s the problem that Instagram ads solve? Right now, it looks like the only benefit is that brands get the opportunity to reach more users, according to their initial ad announcement (“Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow”). This is great for getting more eyeballs on your photo and maybe a few new followers. But after a user follows you on Instagram, that’s pretty much the end of the relationship. Which brings me to Instagram’s huge missed opportunity and it’s fatal flaw:
The inability to including functioning URLs within an Instagram caption!!!
Why has Instagram not implemented this yet?! URL’s STILL do not work in Instagram captions which is extremely limiting for all users, from bloggers to brands. What would have made this ad rollout significantly more valuable is allowing functioning links to be added to captions, so that when Burberry uploads a photo of it’s new winter trench coat, there’s a direct link to buy it (imagine the sharing capabilities here, as well!). If they had implemented this as a premium feature for brands choosing to advertise with them, companies would have been chomping at the bit to sign up – it would have been the proverbial “game changer” for Instagram. Instead, they’re charging brands to do exactly the same thing that all users can do, with the only added “benefit” being that they can reach more people. And while there is value in reaching more users, the purpose of doing so is rendered ineffective because the users can’t take any further action (like learning more about the product or clicking through to view the product) besides simply following the brand on Instagram. The way I see it, it’s a huge missed opportunity for the platform and seems like an ineffective way to monetize and maximize the ROI of advertising on the platform.
I’m curious to see whether Instagram ads take off or whether they’ll be a bust. Until then, look for the new ads in your Instagram feed, come back and tell us how you feel about them.