Ever since Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1 billion back in 2012, the photo sharing site has been in an enviable position. With the economic support of Zuckerberg’s social media empire behind it, it has been able to grow and develop without the immediate pressure of having to monetise the attention of its 150 million+ dedicated users.
Nothing good lasts forever, though, and the time has come for Instagram to start turning its attention to the uncool issue of revenue generation. That spectre has been floating around the app for about a year now, since Instagram started inserting ads into users’ feeds back in late 2013. Additionally Facebook leaked their Snapchat rival bolt via an Instagram banner ad last month, so users have had plenty of time to get used to the idea of beautifully filtered photos trying to sell them stuff.
Now it seems as though the app is starting to get serious about appealing to marketers. It’s rolled out a suite of deeper analytics to allow advertisers greater insight into how their campaigns are performing and being shared – or not, as the case may be. Although the service has been selling ads for a year, it’s been difficult for those investing to have any real ideas about the returns they’re getting. So far the system has relied upon the Instagram team manually updating advertisers on how their campaigns are getting on, which is good for building relationships with marketers but not so great if clients want a more data-heavy idea of how they’re doing.
While the new system will allow advertisers to see how their campaigns are doing in real time, they won’t be able to make adjustments with the same flexibility; for example, by making increased on-the-fly investments in campaigns which are garnering unexpected levels of attention. Presumably this won’t be long in coming, however.
On a functional level, businesses will not only be able to see how their investments are working but will be able to plan and execute them via a dashboard interface on their desktop – previously advertisers have had to operate via mobile along with the rest of Instagram’s users.
When it comes to encouraging marketers to see their site as a viable option for investment, developers have two ways to go. They can alter the experience of using the app to make it easier for advertisers to get greater access to users, as Twitter have done in their recent decision to insert favourited tweets in people’s Timelines, even by people who the user doesn’t follow. The problem with this, as Twitter have discovered, is that people don’t like having unwanted content shoved in their faces for sake of appealing to marketers.
The alternative, which is the route Instagram seems to be following (for now), is to set up a sophisticated set of tools for marketers behind the scenes so that they can best manipulate the platform as it is. The main advantage of this, of course, is that since users don’t see anything they don’t have anything to complain about, apart from a sneaking sense of discomfort as posts which seem to prominently feature Coke products start to crop up more and more.