In its first effort to generate direct revenue from its largest acquisition to date, Facebook will begin advertising on Instagram, the popular image-sharing service it purchased in 2012.

The move is testimony to Facebook’s confidence to monetize the fast-growing mobile marketplace. But it also points to a tough challenge ahead, not only for Facebook but other mobile vendors, as they test their customers’ patience levels. How much advertising will turn out to be too much? And even if mobile users respond well, will they respond to ads often enough?

The Mobility Revolution Comes to Advertising

As reported at Bloomberg News, Facebook’s move to put advertising on Instagram comes amid an online mobility revolution. Users are switching in droves to their mobile devices as their primary way to go online. And they are doing it an astonishing rate. In the second quarter, mobile accounted for 41 percent of advertising revenue, up from 30 percent in the previous period. As mobility becomes the new standard, an attention-getting mobile presence is a must-have, which is why Facebook acquired Instagram in the first place.

But Facebook remains far behind Google in the mobile ad market, says research firm Emarketer. Hence the new push for advertising on Instagram. Facebook claimed in an Instagram blog post that the service will run “a small number” of pictures and videos from companies the user isn’t following.

The company also promises that its ads will “be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.” Which will test the resolution and color quality of even the latest-generation smartphone screens.

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At the same time, however, mobile advertising has a lot going for it — because it can reach users just as they’re walking past the store. Or messaging friends who are already customers. The rocketing growth of mobile advertising isn’t just because people are going mobile — advertisers are eager (read “desperate”) to reach them.

Moreover, services such as Facebook are under pressure to turn their huge user bases into a revenue stream. Which means that more ads will be coming your way, probably a lot more. Advertising on Instagram, and every other mobile-centric service, will become a game of testing users’ patience. How many ads will mobile users put up with before they go looking for some other app that doesn’t have as many?

Even trickier for the advertisers: Will mobile users respond to the ads? Advertising on the wired Internet has been a disappointment. Will mobile users be more responsive?

Get ready to find out.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons




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