Topping 150M Users, Instagram Promises Ads Within The Next Year

Instagram Director of Business Operations Emily White told the Wall Street Journal that Instagram will begin selling ads within the next year. Are users ready?

White comes to Instagram from Facebook, and has been tasked with turning the revenue-free Instagram into a moneymaker for Facebook, which purchased the photo-sharing app in April 2012. She said that Instagram’s future ads could potentially include the Discover tab, where the Popular page and the Search page reside.

Presumably, brands would be able to promote their own content, or maybe even advertise using keywords in search. According to the WSJ interview, Instagram is hesitant to give brands the opportunity to link to their own websites from within the app.

Brands are already quite active on Instagram, champing at the bit to engage with its 150 million monthly active users. According to Nitogram50, 13 of the top brand accounts on Instagram have over a million users each.

Many campaigns ask for user submissions under a certain hashtag, with some sort of award or special use of the image. For example, RedBull sent participants a can of their new color editions for submitting creative photos under the hashtag. Those photos were then used in collage ads around the UK.

Other campaigns are more about a broadcast that deepens the relationship with the customer, as seemed to be the case with Starbucks’ “Behind the Scenes” campaign.

However, there are still a few obstacles to native advertising products on Instagram. The most crucial issue will be potentially upsetting users who have enjoyed a free, ad-free environment for years now.

Instagram launched back in 2010 as not the first, but the best and most simple photo-sharing app. For the first time, the app gave users the ability to use their camera phones in a meaningful way. Photos that were once too blurry or too dark or too grainy soon became beautiful with Instagram’s filters and a little help from the iPhone. The ability to share directly to Facebook and Twitter was a delightful cherry on top.

On the other side, users learned to love Instagram for being a wonderful time sink. It’s a visually stimulating feed of your friends’ real-time experiences in snackable, beautified form.¬†Ads that interrupt any part of that will likely be overwhelmingly unwelcome.

Instagram users have already shown an aversion to certain forms of advertising, as proven by the revolution that followed Instagram’s changed terms of service, allowing users’ photos to be used in advertisements.

And remember when Twitter and Facebook introduced promoted content? People really didn’t like that.

White claims that the move toward advertising is being handled with caution and clear guidance from Facebook, who has weathered the storm from ad-free to ad-filled already.