Instagram Ads and What it Means for Brands

A few weeks ago, Instagram announced that users would soon start seeing ads in their feeds. This announcement was met with some concern that the platform that’s known for organic content would be flooded with irrelevant, spam-like ads from brands. Instagram is hoping to keep the same natural look but give brands a way to expand their reach and engage with potential customers. It is important for both users and marketers to understand what they can expect from Instagram ads, how they will be targeted and what it means for brands.

What Users Can Expect from Instagram Ads

Instagram is slowly easing users into the thought of seeing these ads. Their first tactic is to send this sample ad (pictured below) to all of their 150 million users. This sample ad has the same look-and-feel as any other piece of content users would see when scrolling through their feed. The two key differences that set ads apart from organic content is 1) the ‘Sponsored’ label in the top right hand corner and 2) the options under the More (“…”) button on the bottom right. The More button will allow users to provide feedback on or hide the ad. This feedback will provide insight to both Instagram and the brand to see how ads are resonating with their audience.


Instagram Ad Targeting

Instagram has a large advantage, being the child of Facebook, which they intend on leveraging in terms of targeting ads. Facebook data, such as a user’s interests and other basic information will be incorporated into targeting considerations. If a user is not on Facebook, targeting options will be comprised of who a user follows on Instagram and the type of content they like and engage with. Instagram is looking to serve the most relevant ads to the user without overwhelming them with too much paid content. Determining the proper ratio of paid vs. organic content will likely determine the success of Instagram ads.

Instagram Ads and Brands

Instagram ads provide an opportunity for brands to increase awareness of their presence on the platform by reaching potential new followers and customers. For now, these ads are only available to 10 brands that have established large followings on the channel. A few of the brands that are participating in the soft launch include: adidas, Macy’s, Lexus, General Electric, and Michael Kors.

Instagram-Ads-Michael-Kors  Instagram-Ads-Adidas

As for now, Instagram has kept a lot of details about its ads vague. When will ads be available for all businesses? How much will they cost? What will the pricing model be? Just speculating here, but Instagram might run ads on the optimized cost per impression (oCPM) model that Facebook utilizes. One thing is for sure, even with the introduction of ads, Instagram wants to keep all actions and engagement within the platform. Links included in descriptions and comments are still inactive on Instagram. This makes it difficult to direct users to other content or to purchase.

Deciding on whether to utilize Instagram ads depends on your social media objectives. If you are trying to build your presence on Instagram and drive engagement on your content, then running ads would be good tactic. However, if your social media priorities are outside of Instagram, you will have to get creative on leveraging these ads to accomplish those objectives.


With the introduction of ads, Instagram is walking a fine line in its attempts to monetize the platform while maintaining the natural, organic feel that users love. Does your brand plan on incorporating Instagram ads into your paid advertising campaigns for social media?

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