After the initial announcement that Ads were on their way, back in 2012, Instagram have now made it public that a handful of U.S. users will soon start to see ‘beautiful, high quality ads from brands they don’t follow’. While this news is not out of the blue, it will be interesting to see how Instagram users respond to the reality of their beloved platform becoming a commercial landscape.
Instagram are assuring users that they will have the option to ‘hide’ any ads that ‘don’t feel right’ (I assume this is a euphemism for the words ‘irrelevant’ or ‘offensive’). They have also confirmed that users will continue to own any photos and videos they upload to the site. The photo-sharing network is well aware that their users are not open to ads and as a result have made the decision to roll them out gradually.
“Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands.”
This does raise the issue of disclosure. If the ads feel so natural they look like organic photos and images, how prey tell, will we know the difference? The worst thing Instagram can do is to try and hoodwink users into viewing ads that they think are normal images posted by other users from the community. Let’s hope they have thought this through…
Facebook acquired Instagram for $632m in April 2012 when the T&Cs were immediately ‘tweaked’ to allow for the roll out of paid advertisements. Considering the latest research has shown that 25% of fortune 500 companies are using Instagram, we can assume there will be no shortage of brands queuing up to try the ad service (which now reaches 150 million users). What will be interesting is exactly how the platform is used by brands and what are the benefits of putting dollars behind PAID ads VS a standard Instagram brand profile.
Facebook tweaks algorithm
Meanwhile, Facebook have announced that they have changed their newsfeed algorithm to deliver more relevant ads to users. I’m not sure if this was coincidental timing or a genius PR strategy to prove (amid the Instagram announcement) that ads can indeed be relevant on social platforms.
Hong Ge, Facebook’s engineering Manager for the newsfeed described the imminent changes via a recent blog post:
“When deciding which ad to show to which groups of people, we are placing more emphasis on feedback we receive from people about ads, including how often people report or hide an ad.
That means people should see ads that are increasingly relevant to them, and fewer ads that they might not be interested in.
For marketers, this means we are showing ads to the people who might want to see them the most. For example, if someone always hides ads for electronics, we will reduce the number of those types of ads that we show to them.
This means that some marketers may see some variation in the distribution of their ads in the coming weeks. Our goal is to make sure we deliver the most relevant ads, which should mean the right people are seeing a specific ad campaign. This is ultimately better for marketers, because it means their messages are reaching the people most interested in what they have to offer.”
I don’t know about you, but the Facebook ads I see in my own newsfeed range from being so relevant they feel a bit creepy, to being completely irrelevant and irritating. I’m not sure how Facebook are getting it so right and so wrong at the same time, but perhaps the new tweaks will iron out some of the disparity.
On the subject of getting it too right – I would argue that there is something disconcerting about ads that use behavioral targeting and are almost too relevant. When you’re being served ads just seconds after searching for a product, you end up feeling a like your privacy has been compromised and the irony is that the very relevance, is what switches you off. I find this to be especially the case when searching for really niche products. It’s tough to maintain the balance between being relevant enough, but without leaving users feeling like they are being constantly ‘watched’ by corporate advertisers. Let’s face it; no one wants to feel like they’re being stalked.
I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience with creepy over-targeted Facebook ads?
Image Source: Agbeat
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