Instagram is growing in popularity, with 300 million monthly active users photographing whatever’s out in the world and sharing it with each other. It has what some believe to be untapped marketing potential, and advertisers are eager to explore the opportunities that lie before them. Today, the doors have been opened for a group of companies to enter this creative world and leave their mark.
In June, Instagram announced the creation of an Ads API, a new offering which allows businesses to produce marketing campaigns for the photo-sharing network. Instagram is now making it easier to buy ads on the platform. An undisclosed number of companies have been granted access to integrate their offerings into the popular application, which will likely become a blossoming ecosystem for marketers. This is just the first round of companies — more will be announced in the future.
Just as we saw with search engine marketing, native advertising, and of course Facebook ads, this new development will undoubtedly shape Instagram’s continued evolution. An abundance of third-party services are already eager for marketers to produce their campaigns on the network.
“The Instagram Ads API will help us make ads more relevant to the community, serve more diverse business objectives and make buying on the platform easier for advertisers,” an Instagram spokesperson told VentureBeat. “We started working with a group of Facebook Marketing Partners a few weeks ago, and they’ve brought great experience and technological savvy onto the platform. We’ll continue to build upon the Instagram Ads API in the coming weeks and months.”
Since their debut in 2013, ads have become Instagram’s main source of monetization but, until now, advertisers have needed to go through the company to place an ad — if they were one of the lucky ones, that is. Over time, Instagram has added multiple tools and updates to its advertising offering, including account insights, ad insights, staging, the roll out of carousel ads, and a Shop Now button.
“Advertisers have been eagerly awaiting the chance to bring their content to Instagram,” says Brand Networks CEO and cofounder Jamie Tedford. “Now, Instagram is bringing on experienced Facebook Marketing Partners to help brands use the same advanced Facebook targeting tools to create and deliver relevance-driven ad campaigns that increase ROI by reaching the right audience, at the right place and time.”
Tedford’s company is a social marketing platform that recently received an innovation award from Facebook. It utilizes data to help advertisers better reach their target segments through optimization, automation, and analysis. It will be giving its customers the ability to quickly distribute and edit live Instagram ads en masse for large social campaigns while also creating specific targeting guidelines that can be re-purposed for later campaigns.
Brand Networks says that its customers can also tap into Instagram ad units such as link ads, video ads, and mobile app install ads. The company will be expanding additional features to the photo-sharing platform in the future.
“Marketing and visual storytelling have been synonymous from the days of full page ads in newspapers and magazines, to full color billboards and television,” says Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Scott McCorkle. “In the digital and mobile world, there has never been a channel at scale to rival TV in its ability to powerfully engage consumers with the beauty of the visual image.”
This thinking changed with Instagram.
Salesforce’s integration enables marketers to leverage its services to engage with customers on Instagram. The cloud-based software provider is letting marketers use Social.com to manage their advertising campaigns, Active Audiences to sync their customer relationship management (CRM) data in Salesforce, and Social Studio to publish content, assist in customer service, and provide analytics.
For marketers, the floodgates are now opening to third-party services, specifically those that qualify under Facebook’s Marketing Partners program, allowing them to build up an ecosystem of tools and applications for brands to tap into. It’s worth noting that companies had previously been able to run marketing campaigns on their own accounts, at least in some MacGuyver-like fashion. If nothing else, brands have been able to post photos to their account to encourage users to pay attention to them. Today’s Ad API development will loosen the binds that tied their hands and perhaps encourage the use of more creative strategies.
And while users will be concerned about the sanctity of their social network, it’s worth waiting to see how well Facebook executes this monetization strategy. Users are rightfully fond of the current user experience and don’t want it all destroyed by advertisements everywhere. And, whether they believe it or not, Facebook is promising to do right by them.
During the company’s quarterly earnings call, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg repeatedly promised that Facebook won’t rush through things and will be strategic about the transition: “Our highest focus is on the consumer experience on Instagram,” she said at the time. Now the company will have to prove that it means what it says — will brands turn this world of creative and personal photography into one saturated by corporations who are looking to sell you something every time you open up the app?
This won’t be the last step that Instagram takes as it continues to monetize itself — Sandberg commented last week that more things are in the works. Most likely, additional ad tools and types are being planned. One thing for certain is that companies eager to advertise or run marketing campaigns on Instagram will jump at the chance to become Facebook Marketing Partners, each looking for a chance to tap the unblemished environment known as Instagram.
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