Instagram is at it again! If you’ve been following our blog, you know Instagram is going through a lot of changes as it deals with newfound attention and a deluge of marketing tactics. One of the latest changes is particularly interesting because it shows a new path for social media advertising – and you may have mixed feelings about it.

The Subtle Changes of Native Advertising

Previously, Instagram included small bar ads at the bottom of images/videos: People can click on them to be whisked away to a shop or product page. When someone first visits a post, the ad matches the Instagram background and easy to skip by. After several seconds, the ad turns to a bright blue, immediately drawing attention to itself.

The new version Instagram is putting into play still changes the ad bar color, but now it automatically changes to a color that matches the image directly above. In other words, the ad will still shift colors, but in a less noticeable way that blends into the page more easily. You can take a look at the difference here. We’re seeing this more frequently in native advertising: It’s becoming more important that ads blend in with the rest of the content on the page – so they look more official and don’t clash too much with the page layout.

This approach works well on blogs or zines, where the ad can look more like a real article and hopefully get more clicks this way. It’s interesting that Instagram is taking this approach though, indicating that the services want ads to start looking more like posts…and that leads to a couple conclusions.

What This Means for Social Media

It probably means more ads, especially for apps like Instagram. Ads are a sore spot for social media services right: Many older social sites are still desperately trying to monetize in a rapidly changing digital world, and one of the big hurdles is that social web pages just aren’t designed for ad space. You can’t slap up a bunch of banner and sidebar ads on Facebook or Twitter without users revolting – and yet, ads are necessary to bring in revenue.

Unsurprisingly, native advertising is seen as a solution to this issue. It allows ads to quietly pop up in search feeds as “sponsored posts” and similar objects without being too offensive to the people scrolling through. If Instagram can get away with making ads less obtrusive, then you can easily bet they will be including more ad space per page, and more ads in general.

What You Should Do About It

  1. Consider Your Instagram Advertising: We wouldn’t advise making any immediate changes to Instagram ads, but it’s definitely worth a note on your mental whiteboard. Note that ads won’t be as noticeable, but that they will tie into images more easily. Your ad content, particularly the text and tone that you use, should match this understanding. Native advertising generally works best when it offers something of value or interest like the content around it.
  2. Start Adjusting Your Social Media Ads: This Instagram change is also a test to see how well these tactics perform. But as it appears that Instagram and Facebook (and probably others) are embracing more native advertising, you should do the same. Think about your current social media ad strategy: How could it be more native-friendly? What will help your ads stand out from other posts if they visually look the same? Should your target audience parameters change as a result? Ask questions like these!

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