Friday, March 06, 2015

Instagram's New Carousel Ads

The one problem that I have always had with Instagram was its inability to swipe through photos when viewing a user’s account. This issue will now be (partially) fixed following Instagram’s newest launch of “carousel ads”—a slideshow-like ad format that lets advertisers include up to 4 photos in an ad, where the ads are being sold on a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) basis. The carousels also allow advertisers to insert a “learn more” button that links to their website, creating more opportunities for direct-response ads. Because it is an in-app web browser, users cannot navigate directly to websites unless there is a link to those sites on the advertiser’s page that opens from the ad.

Instagram started selling ads in late 2013, which started with sponsored images and gradually evolved to sponsored videos. However, there have been limits to Instagram’s growth due to the hands-on nature of the company with its advertisers: it works closely with brands to ensure their content aligns with the platform, which features stylishly filtered photos and videos. With this clickable carousel, advertising on Instagram will appeal to a wider range of companies and will quickly ramp up its revenue. For Instagram’s advertisers, this new feature will allow them to know not only if someone had seen, liked, or commented on their ad, but also if people swiped through multiple photos and clicked through to their site. Yet, the flip side to this feature is that too many links and carousels could dilute the Instagram scrolling flow, which goes against the initial culture of the app.

Right now, the carousel option is only available for advertisers, and Instagram does not have immediate plans to extend the feature to its 300 million everyday users and non-paying brands. It is a shame this feature is rolling out first to brands because the idea of photo sets will definitely be a popular feature that the average users crave. Not only is this feature hugely popular on Tumblr, it has also been adopted by Twitter more recently. Additionally, it would also help address my least favorite use of Instagram: the “unfiltered feed” problem where oversharers I follow drown out people I care most about. With photo sets, users’ flurries of excitement can be neatly organized into a single carousel rather than spamming their friends’ feed.

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