Instagram is about to give its users even more advertisements as the photo-sharing website steps out of its experimental ad model into a full-blown money-making model akin to Facebook, its owner.
The photo-sharing website has been dishing out ads since 2013, but those have so far been limited to big brands who mostly want to stay in the minds of the people who use Instagram, mostly high-income teens and people in their 20s who have veered away from Facebook which is being taken over by middle-aged mothers.
On Monday, Instagram announced in a blog post that it is taking its ad-based business to a whole new level by opening it up to all kinds of advertisers, from multinational companies with household name brands to local mom-and-pop stores targeting users in their locations.
"We're focused on three key areas: Expanding ad offerings to include action-oriented formats, enabling more targeting capabilities and making it easier for businesses large and small to buy ads on Instagram," Instagram says.
Soon, Instagram users will see these ads thrown into their news feeds, which are recognizable through the direct-response buttons that only advertisers may include in their photos. For instance, ads may include a button to visit a website and sign up for a newsletter with one's email address, download an app or buy a product.
Instagram says users will not be taken out of its website, as the photo-sharing service is serious about having users stay on the site. That means these direct-response ads will feature a mini-window which closes after the user has done what he wanted to do.
"Instagram is not an index or collection of the web where syndicated links matter; it's about photos people take. You're not retweeting, regramming or passing a link on," says James Quarles, Instagram's global head of business and brand development, speaking to TechCrunch. "In these cases where there are businesses, we think that it's a very lightweight experience to go into an in-app browser and then come back to the app. We're staying true to the values of simplicity."
In the coming weeks, users will also see more ads targeted to their specific preferences. Currently, what little Instagram ads are available are targeted to users based on broad factors, their age, gender and country. However, Instagram will work with Facebook to pull from the massive trove of information that Facebook collects from its users to allow Instagram's partners to target users based on their likes, dislikes, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc. As it is on Facebook, advertisers will soon be able to target their ads directly to middle-aged single women who like cats and hot yoga.
And to make ad-buying easier for advertisers, Instagram will roll out an application programming interface (API) that will allow them to buy ads using automated software. Advertisers who have decided to become early partners include Brand Networks, MediaVest, Resolution Media, Salesforce and Social Moov, but all 2 million Facebook advertisers will also have the chance to reach out to Instagram's young demographic in the future.