Marketers recently gained new digital territory courtesy of Instagram, who announced on Wednesday that the platform is in the process of gradually opening up the “Explore” tab to advertiser content.
About half of all users of the Facebook-owned social media platform use the tab to “explore” content on the platform beyond the accounts they actively follow, and now Instagram is starting to open that space up to advertisers as well. At first the ads will only promote Instagram’s IGTV feature, but will roll out to a handful of brands over the coming weeks.
If all goes well in a few months advertisers will be able to purchase Explore ad slots through the same Facebook ads manager and API they use to purchase real estate on feeds and stories today. When that happens advertisers will be able to choose whether they want sponsored content to appear in Explore as an extension of their Instagram ad spend.
The Explore tab has historically offered users an opportunity to discover new accounts and content that they might not have been otherwise exposed to. As Instagram’s director of business product marketing, Susan Bucker Rose, recently told TechCrunch, they’re already “in the mindset of discovery. They want to be exposed to new accounts, people, and brands,” making it an interesting new space for marketers to play in.
The ads, however, won’t pop up in the Explore page the moment a user engages with that section of the platform; in fact, they’ll have to wander pretty far before being exposed to advertisements, at least at first. Facebook says they’re keeping the main Explore galleries within Instagram free of ads for now, and will only serve them once a user clicks on a video and continues scrolling down. At that point users will be shown ads mixed in with suggestions for related content.
The move is just one more way for Facebook to inject ads into its properties, which also include WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. It also offers advertisers another way to follow user migration from personal news and photos towards other features as time on Facebook News Feeds continues to dwindle in favor of other parts of the social network.
According to Instagram’s head of business, Jim Squires, 80% of the platform’s users are already following businesses and brands on their own. Adding them to the Explore tab, if done gently, could potentially serve to enhance the user experience, while offering a whole new advertisement opportunity to marketers.