NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Coming soon to Instagram feeds everywhere: more sponsored advertisements from "influencers."
While this may be good news for users with large followings who make money promoting products, for the rest of us, it could mean wading through more unwanted ads in our feeds.
On Tuesday, Instagram, a Facebook-owned platform known for photos that inspire envy and ire, announced changes to its advertising strategy that would allow brands to promote influencer-created content in people's feeds, even if those people do not follow the influencer's account.
"One of the biggest requests from brands to date is the ability to incorporate branded content posts into their advertising strategies," the company said in a blog post.
"With branded content ads, businesses have an opportunity to tell their brand stories through creators' voices, reach new audiences and measure impact," the statement continued.
"Using the tools available on the Facebook ads platform, businesses can reach targeted audiences beyond the people who follow the brand and creator accounts."
The ads will look similar to those already found in Instagram Feed and Stories but will be labeled "paid partnership."
The move, according to the company, is in response to brands' desire to better target users and offer a more organic ad experience.
"Promoting content directly from an influencer's handle inherently gives the post more authenticity than coming from a brand handle, and we're seeing significantly higher engagement rates using this strategy," Liat Weingarten, vice president of brand communications for Old Navy, said in a quote included in Instagram's announcement.
The company has been testing these ads since last year, according to Ad Age.
Evan Asano, chief executive of MediaKix, an influencer marketing company, said big brands were clamoring to work with influencers and were "not afraid to drop US$500,000 for a spot with Kim Kardashian," the reality TV star who has nearly perfected the art of monetising social media.
And now there are kidfluencers, nanoinfluencers and captionfluencers.
"Influencer marketing is blowing up," Asano said. "And Instagram wants a piece of that pie."
According to Instagram, 68 per cent of its regular users say they come to the platform to interact with "creators."
Instagram has about 1 billion monthly active users, according to a company spokeswoman, who declined to share how much influencer marketing is worth.
Other social media platforms have become inundated with ads as of late.
Last month, Twitter acknowledged it had been running experiments with the frequency of advertisements. As a result, users' timelines became cluttered with junky ads and at least one malicious campaign, according to BuzzFeed News.
Although Instagram's revenues are still largely generated by advertising, the company wants to create new revenue streams, and has recently introduced a tool that allows users to buy things without leaving the app.
Most of the ads currently on Instagram are for "smaller brands you've never heard of" that sell things like zero-gravity beanbags or generic T-shirts, Asano said.
"It's possible," he said, "that change signals that Instagram isn't monetising ads in a way that Facebook wants it to."