Emily White, Director of Business Operations at Instagram, dropped the a-bomb on the Wall Street Journal this weekend.
White confirmed that Instagram will begin selling ads within a year in an effort to finally start generating revenue. This means that Instagram has one year to find a way to incorporate ads without isolating or annoying users.
Social networks are like Pokémon– and not just because marketers gotta catch ’em all. They start out young and free, and then evolve in an effort to monetize. In the same way that a pubescent teenager develops acne, social networks roll out ads.
Dear Instagram, please do not follow the path of Facebook in regard to ad integration. Follow the path of Tumblr instead.
Instagram and Tumblr are both social networks for young people. Anyone older than 21 is considered a grandparent on Tumblr and Instagram banks on the teenage popularity of posting photos and video. While both Instagram and Tumblr have started to see success with brand accounts on their sites, Tumblr just recently stepped it up a notch with advertising.
There have been many times on Tumblr where I’ve laughed at a reaction gif, comic, or meme and then checked to see who posted it. More often than not, when I see it’s a brand account I’ll try to remember when I decided to follow Home Depot or Ruffles – only to discover that it was paid ad.
This is the recipe for successful Tumblr ads – and hopefully the future of Instagram. Almost anyone can look at their Facebook newsfeed and differentiate between a status by a brand that they follow and a sponsored story. Furthermore, the difference between a sponsored story versus an advertisement is monumental. This is why people start griping and complaining that Facebook has too many ads. They’re basically all over the page.
The brands that succeed – on Tumblr, on Facebook, even on Twitter and LinkedIn – are the ones that make users wonder if they’re already following that company or if it’s a paid post. These are also the types of posts that make users convert and follow the brands so they can see more content like the sample provided in the ad.
Think of online ads as the sample cups you try at the grocery store. They’re little tastes of what your audience can get if they continue to interact with you.
It sounds so easy doesn’t it? Brands have been trying to do that for years with kids by creating cartoons and games in ads. Lucky Charms and Trix create games where kids chase the leprechaun or rabbit to get the cereal. Is it a game or an ad? It’s about time companies applied this same concept to adults.
The generation that uses Tumblr and Instagram the most is the generation that grew up with banner blindness. They grew up with ad blockers. They know what ads look like and know how to ignore them. That’s why the future or advertising isn’t more ads shoved into every square inch of white space, it’s smarter content in better places.
Take note, Instagram. Facebook may be your parent company, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow its lead.