Nothing on the internet is truly free. If you look at the behavior of platforms, websites and apps with this fact in mind, the things they do make a lot more sense. Whether they’re harvesting your data, bombarding you with popups, or asking for donations, it’s important to remember these online entities are businesses. If they’re letting you use their services for free — that means you yourself are the probably the central product to their business model.
We all know Facebook earns big money through the collection and selling of user data, but what about its second, more glamorous platform: Instagram. Due to being an image-sharing platform primarily, there isn’t much room for data collection. That’s why ads earn the majority of the money on Instagram — drawing eyeballs and clicks from a diverse pool of users.
Current Instagram users are already familiar with the presence of ads. Even though they’re tailored to your interests and browsing habits, some users argue that they take away from the social network’s core experience. Well, Instagram users may want to prepare themselves. The platform has announced even more ads are coming to your feed — and people aren’t all that happy about it.
Why is Instagram putting more ads in my feed?
In its current form, the Instagram feed is the main place on the platform to view content from users you follow. If you’ve used Instagram before, you’ll know that you occasionally see a post from someone you don’t follow — usually an image of a product, a service, or even a movie poster.
These posts will always say “sponsored” near the username, which tells you that the content in question is part of an ad.
Sponsored posts make up a good deal of the browsing experience on Instagram, but according to a new post from the platform’s blog, a new kind of ad will soon be joining the ranks. These ads are called “Branded Content,” and they’re designed to engage users with the help of another one of Instagram’s staples: influencers.
If you’re not familiar, influencers are profiles on Instagram with a high volume of followers. Usually, these influencers specialize in a field of knowledge like fashion, video games, or movies. Many of them receive free promotional material from the brands they discuss, and some brands will even pay them to endorse a product in front of their massive audiences.
Seeing this ecosystem as an opportunity, Instagram is introducing Branded Content as a way for companies to promote material they create with influencers. This means these posts appear on more users feeds than they would organically — effectively adding a second kind of ad in addition to sponsored posts for users to navigate.
According to Instagram, Branded Content will give businesses “…an opportunity to tell their brand stories through creators’ voices, reach new audiences and measure impact.”
As a part of the new program, all Branded Content will be clearly labeled in the post as “Paid partnerships” with their respective brands. This is similar to how sponsored posts are labeled as such, which will keep the process transparent and clear for the users who experience the ads.
That’s not the only place Instagram plans to place more ads, however. In the coming weeks, this Branded Content will appear in users’ Instagram Stories as well, meaning that ads are now deeply integrated into two of the most frequently used parts of the platform.
What are users saying about these new ads on Instagram?
Needless to say, users of Instagram haven’t been taking the news too well. A number of profiles have taken to Twitter to voice their complaints on the matter, with many of them claiming that the platform is already too saturated with ads. Some are even arguing that the move would be enough to convince them to leave Instagram altogether.
Instagram: Do we place too many ads?
Instagram: Oh you don’t like them?
Me: Hell No!!!!
Instagram: Ok let me keep adding more ads for your pleasure.
— Darius Parker (@darius324000) June 7, 2019
I see more ads on Instagram now than peoples pictures
— Caine_Draper (@Caine_Draper) June 7, 2019
I’ve been seeing wayyyy more ads on my @instagram feed lately and it’s really annoying
— Madame Minerva (@ecentricat) June 6, 2019
Every 5th post on my @instagram field is a commercial. It’s funny how the brain learns to ignore them and yet I feel that I noticed that they started to show up more often.
I wonder if I will notice when they post ads every 4th post.
— Ciprian Mierea (@ciprianmierea) June 5, 2019
Pretty sure I’m going to let my @instagram account go. Engagement’s dwindled, my feed refuses to show me 90% of the art accounts I follow (but it shows me all the corporate accounts I follow), it’s just not the fun place it used to be any more?
— Sara Talmadge (@Charapoo) June 5, 2019
Even though marketers and influencers are happy with the change, the consensus among Instagram’s user base is decidedly more mixed.
Although influencer marketing has proven a formidable force in the world of advertising, their authenticity as trusted voices is the key to their success. Take away the authenticity, and you may end up with just another form of advertisement for users to scroll past.
That said, it probably wouldn’t make a difference either way. More ads mean more business — and on Instagram, business is booming, indeed.