Hiding Behind Twitter IPO News, Instagram Talks About Ads

Pay no attention to what they’re doing at Instagram today. Don’t look over there. Focus on the Twitter IPO instead.

12_07_12_edit_2Instagram has decided to tip-toe its way into the advertising pool to avoid scaring away users or inciting another revolt:

In the next couple months, you may begin seeing an occasional ad in your Instagram feed if you’re in the United States. Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow.

(Emphasis my own)

Don’t worry Instagram, this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve seen all kinds of social networks incorporate advertising into their feeds and we still use them. If anything, we’re surprised it took you this long to start rolling them out.

While most users are accepting Instagram ads as a part of life along with death and taxes, the New Yorker is taking this news very hard. In an article titled: Advertising and the End of Instagram’s Sincerity, Matt Buchanan calls out Instagram on its PR-speak regarding paid posts.

For users, there are effectively two kinds of content on ad-supported social networks: real content and ads. What generally distinguishes the two for a user is whether or not a post comes from someone or something that he or she cares about. If they care about it, it’s content; if they don’t, it’s an ad.

As we say in the South, “A cat can have kittens in the oven, but that don’t make ‘em biscuits.” You can dress your ad to the nines and have your marketing people assure you that it’s “engaging” and “relevant to the target demographic,” but the truth will always be that users don’t want to see it.

Speaking of cats:

image (22)TechCrunch pointed out that the nature of Instagram’s feed makes ads incredibly disruptive – or at least considerably more disruptive than Facebook’s feed. On Facebook, users see multiple posts at a time, even on the mobile app. Instagram has based its success on showing large photos that take up most of the screen. Scrolling past ads – especially if they’re irrelevant or boring – will have a stronger negative effect on users than when they’re on Facebook.

Multiple news sources have been playing off the good cop/bad cop mentality that Instagram and Facebook seem to have.  Some act as if the almighty hand of Facebook is reaching down and serving up ads, while others assure readers that Instagram’s ads will never reach the level that Facebook’s have.

Come on guys, it’s not going to be as bad as well all fear. Ads were bound to happen, and if they’re done right they might actually increase engagement. No, they’re not content, but they might encourage users to like new brand pages to follow their content. Yes, they’re going to take up the whole screen, but the minor disruption won’t cause users to delete their accounts en masse. We can cope with ads, we always have.

About the author

Amanda Dodge