Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform Instagram has opened up advertising on its platform.

Advertisers will now be able to buy and manage ads on Instagram, through a new Instagram Ads API, as well as through Facebook’s ad buying interfaces.

What’s different?

Before this, the only organisations who could buy adverts on Instagram were huge brands with equally huge budgets, that Instagram deemed worthy of advertising negotiations. When this new development rolls out, buying ads on the platform will be available for a wider range of marketers, with a wider budget range. Before this, the only brands that could hope for mass audiences on the platform had to invest a huge amount of time and effort in building a big audience organically.

This has been a while coming. Earlier this year, Facebook opened up its ad targeting tools to Instagram advertisers, meaning that ads that were bought by major brands could be very specifically tailored, according to the interests listed on their Facebook profile, rather than just by age, gender and geographical location, the previous limitations. It also introduced carousel ads and clickable links this year, meaning that advertisers (and only advertisers) could post a set of images in one post, along with a direct link to another site.

What does this mean for Instagrammers?

News that Instagram was introducing ads in 2013 was met with indignation from users accustomed to an ad-free platform with high creative values. The latest news has been greeted with no less trepidation, with worries that the ads will be an annoyance Instagram will become more of an ad platform that a place to share and discover photography. However, the introduction of specific tailoring should mean that this can be avoided, as long as efforts are made by the advertisers to ensure that the ads will appeal to those who see them.

Ads are now open to a wider variation and bigger number lot more organisations and not every advert that appears is now going to be run past Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, as used to be the case. However, Instagram have been careful to assure their users that ads will still be governed by their strict guidelines, focused on aesthetic integrity, with possible cost sanctions. Users will also still be able to hide ads they didn’t like, and provide feedback.

What does this mean for advertisers?

Media outlets have been quick to jump on this latest news, declaring that it will transform Instagram into a ‘major advertising business, of the likes of Twitter and even Google.’ Ad revenue from the platform has even been estimated at reaching $2 billion by 2017.

Whilst it’s too early to confirm such assessments, there are definite reasons for brands to be excited. The two main new developments - a self-service biddable platform, and improved targeting, are only going to make life easier for those attempting to market on Instagram.

Instagram is ideal for those targeting young people, as it boasts over twice the number of young (16-24) year olds as Facebook, whose popularity is waning amongst millennials. The opportunity to appeal directly to users with certain interests is extremely valuable on Instagram, where trends in lifestyle, food, and fashion are born and thrive.

Even the Instagram guidelines, that says posts have to be engaging and visually pleasing, form more of a way into the platform for brands rather than a restriction - a focus on ads that meet the high aesthetic values of Instagram users, fit smoothly into the target audience's feeds and resemble native posts, mean that brands are more likely to get a follow in the anticipation of more high-quality posts.

However, at first, the Instagram Ads API will only be open to a select group of Facebook Marketing Partners, to test the system. Instagram have stated that they ‘plan to expand globally throughout the year’ - for advertisers, now is the time to prepare.

How your brand can wield the power of Instagram The second of our pieces on Instagram; a quick guide to utilising the flourishing network.
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