If you’ve signed into Instagram recently, happy to scroll through your feed of friends’ images, but suddenly found yourself wondering, “Why are there ads on my Instagram?” don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many other Instagram users are wondering the same thing, and even though advertising didn’t simply show up overnight on the social media giant, it’s become thoroughly integrated in such a way that you might start to question if the ads that you’re seeing were there all along. Ad rollout on Instagram has been a steady, subtle thing on purpose, and even though we might not have noticed its slow growth on the platform, it’s actually been a fairly deliberate and transparent process. Read on, for details on Instagram advertising, why it isn’t bad, and how you can interact with it to shape your feed into a more “you” catered experience.
There’s a tried-and-true truth that holds water on pretty much every corner of the internet, including the space occupied by the mobile apps that we enjoy on our smartphones. If it’s free for us, then it’s making money somehow. The larger the entity, the more revenue that it needs to find a way to generate. This is especially true of social media platforms, where development and upkeep costs can easily skyrocket. Those costs aren’t vanishing into a limbo. Instead, they’re put towards ensuring that we have a stable, enjoyable experience on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Kik, and more.
Think about it for a moment–if none of these social media entities were free to use, would you still be using them? The answer to that question is most definitely, “No,” which leaves the people and companies responsible for developing these social media platforms having to turn towards other forms of revenue, in order to stay afloat.
More often than not, those sources of revenue are advertising. It’s become something of a maligned word in online culture, primarily because ads have a nasty habit of interrupting everything that we’re doing. They often pop up, block an article, cover the entire browser window, or begin playing distracting or annoying sounds from somewhere else on a particular website. While advertising has always been designed to grab our attention, the worst offenders online perform the equivalent of grabbing us by the shoulders and stopping us from doing anything else until they’ve had their say.
It’s no wonder that our default response to ads is to be annoyed, which is the kneejerk response that we’re seeing most often to Instagram’s advertising efforts. That said, Instagram (and by extension, it’s owner, Facebook) have approached advertising in a much more intuitive way than other online entities. In the following article, we’ll explore ads as they exist on Instagram and Facebook, show you how to manipulate them, and hopefully, by the end, shed some light on why these ads might not be all that bad.
Advertising on Instagram
Before we delve into the nature of Instagram’s advertising, it should be said up front that this sort of practice is both expected and necessary for the social media giant. The upkeep efforts on Instagram are undoubtedly enormous, and in addition to keeping the servers active and safe, Instagram’s developers are constantly innovating and bringing new features to those that we already know and love.
If Instagram wants to remain relevant, it has to grow and evolve. In order to do that, it requires revenue, and even though it hosts millions of free users on a daily basis (more than Twitter, now), that doesn’t necessarily do much to generate money for Instagram. Hence, advertising.
Facebook underwent the same thing, which is appropriate, considering that they’re also the owners of Instagram as of 2012. The case for advertising’s necessity ties to the fact that it’s a stable, reliable form of revenue for a company that’s very, very much dependent upon it. Additionally, implementation of advertising doesn’t require any monetary commitment from the social media giants’ existing users. Ads go up in Facebook’s and Instagram’s feeds and integrate themselves in the same way that a post from a friend you. You see it, you scroll past it, you carry on with your day.
The only obstacle is that inescapable feeling of intrusion that comes along with advertising, and what Instagram users are feeling is not particularly different from the same thing that Facebook users went through when the company first introduced the experience. You expect to see posts, images, and videos from your friends and contacts because you’ve agreed to do so when you began following them. Advertisements, on the other hand, are showing up without any welcome, without any warning, and no matter where you are on the internet or in real life, that sort of intrusion isn’t meant to feel good.
Thankfully, at the same time that Instagram brought in advertising, they also brought in a way to shape your ad experience, using well-honed lessons from what went right for Facebook.
Shaping My Ad Experience
Most of the time, online advertising is entirely outside of your control. The types of ads that show up aren’t up to you so much as they’re up to the advertising agencies or owners of a particular website, which means that it’s a hit-or-miss chance (usually miss) that you might actually be interested in what the ad is selling in the first place.
It’s not hard to see why such ire has built up towards the online ad industry.
Instagram and Facebook are in a unique position, however. Whereas many other websites have only limited access to your aggregate activity online, these social media entities actually have quite a few avenues to find out the things that you actually like. When you last saw an advertisement on Instagram or Facebook, was it at least tangentially related to your own interests?
Because you feature, share, and link to so many of your interests on social media platforms, Facebook is able to pull together a fairly accurate representation of what might appeal to you. The advertisements that it plays host to are sorted categorically, and then showed to the people that are most likely to be interested in them, based on the information that they’ve given over social media (and other third-party applications with ties to Facebook.)
It doesn’t end there, either. Even though advertisements on Facebook and Instagram have a pretty good chance of being at least related to your expressed interests, there’s always a chance that they’re not, and you end up with something grossly not you stuck in the middle of your feed. If it’s bugging you, then tap at the top-right corner of the add, and select the Hide This option.
Can I Block Instagram Ads?
When you’re browsing online, blocking advertisements isn’t particularly difficult to do. Third-party services like Adblocker do a fairly good job of keeping your browsing ad-free, in spite of the cumulative harm that this sort of behavior might inflict on those websites’ profitability and success.
Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, don’t have third-party software that allows you to escape their advertising tactics. Because of this, they’ve attempted to integrate that advertising into your social media experience as smoothly and subtly as possible, but it’s not always successful. A large number of users don’t want any form of advertising to show up on their feeds, simply based on principle alone.
Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, the ad and privacy settings for both applications are very simple. If you head into your Settings Menu, you can see more information by selecting Ads, as well as instructions that will show you how to opt out of the third-party lead generation that Facebook and Instagram use through other applications and services. Additionally, the app pays attention to the ads that you choose to hide, and treats them as a subject or area that you’re not interested in seeing advertisements for.
There is no way to block Instagram ads, which means that I’m the bearer of bad news for at least some of our ad-cautious readers. However, when compared to the advertising ploys that you find elsewhere online, the methods used by Facebook and Instagram are fairly innocuous. If you ask me, they’re a small price to pay for being able to have consistent, free access to such a robust set of social media tools. After all, both Facebook and Instagram could be charging by the month, right? Or, worse yet, we could be faced with something like “Facebook Plus” or “Instagram Plus,” and see all future features divided between paying customers and the millions who either don’t want to or can’t afford to.
The next time that you ask, “Why are there Instagram ads?” you should also ask why some games are free to download from the app store but are also accompanied by monetized pay walls. It’s because no app was ever free to develop and in the case of large social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, a source of revenue is necessary if we want to keep them free, keep them safe, and keep them growing.