The Explore tab in Instagram is opened by half of Instagram’s users each month to discover the newest content and creators. The Facebook-owned app is now being asked to carry its weight by introducing ads into the Explore tab for the first time.
Instead of bombarding users with marketing as soon as they open the tab, Instagram will only show the ads after a user has tapped into a post and started scrolling through imagery. This feels like a respectful way of monetizing Explore without greatly annoying users or reducing the visual quality of the space users have come to love.
Seeing that people already come to the Explore tab to discover something new, Instagram believes the ads will be a natural fit.
The ads slots will first be tested by Instagram to promote their IGTV features before launching to other brands. Both small and big advertisers looking to drive reach, video views and conversions will be included in the full launch.
Ads slots can be purchased through the API and Facebook ads manager used to buy Instagram Stories and feed space. Advertisers will first have to opt into placing their ads in Explore, but the default will eventually be that advertisers must opt-out.
Instagram has described the ad introduction as slow and thoughtful, making it sound as if the volume of ads will increase over time.
Explore was first launched as a combination of the “popular” and search tabs, with the goal of using algorithms that used your existing interests to help you discover new people and themes to follow outside of those you’d pick up in your own social circles.
It has had some additions, such as topic channels, hashtags, and Stories, but through all of those different revamps of Instagram, it has stayed away from advertising and the Explore page. The idea behind Explore is that the content every person sees is individualized. The algorithms detect the kinds of photos, videos, and topics you want to see the most. It seems as if browsing this kind of content is something Instagram didn’t want to discourage.
From the other side, until now, this has meant that brands and individuals couldn’t proactively pay or request to show up in any specific Explore tab. Of course this hasn’t stopped users from smartly hacking the situation using reputable companies like Buzzoid to buy followers, likes and other Instagram engagement. They give you the option of buying targeted followers who can get you more screen time in the Explore tab.
Injecting ads into the Explore page makes sense. After all, there are shoppable links, sponsored content and feed advertising that’s used by businesses and brands to reach users. Now, instead of googling how to get on the Explore page, people can just buy ad space.
With the usage of Facebook’s News Feed in danger as attention is shifted to Stories, the company is leaning on Instagram to keep revenue rising. Facebook just has to careful not to suffocate their cash cow with too many ads.