Ads are coming to Instagram next year. That fact is confirmed in a Wall Street Journal article that offers a profile of Facebook’s Emily White (now Director of Business Operations at Instagram) in which the subject of advertising on the app is broadly discussed.
The piece conveys that she’s functioning as the Sheryl Sandberg of Instagram, the effective COO. She’s been asked to develop a business and monetization plan that doesn’t alienate Instagram’s legion of teen and tween users.
There are scores of companies and brands already using the site as a promotional tool now. The question for Facebook is what sort of ad product will get them to open their corporate wallets?
In the profile White acknowledges that Facebook early on developed too many ad types and confused advertisers. The company is now simplifying and streamlining its ads. Potential ad-unit types mentioned in the article include search ads but also potential Pinterest-style links to products:
What might paid Instagram ads look like? Ms. White’s team is looking at the possibilities around the app’s Discover feature, which promotes popular content, as well the search function, which allows users to look up images or themes. Ms. White said some retailers also are interested in ad products that will allow users to click on pictures of products that link to a retailer’s own site. But she expressed reservations about such a system because many mobile websites need improvement.
When Instagram finally does start rolling out ads I suspect the company will do it in a cautious, thoughtful way that doesn’t alienate users.
Ads on Instagram will be another potentially lucrative source of mobile revenue for Facebook over the long term. We might also think of Instagram’s relationship to Facebook as very similar in many respects to YouTube’s relationship to Google.
Instagram has more than 130 million monthly active users and more than 16 billion images on the site/app. Those numbers were announced in June when it launched video.