Well, it was fun while it lasted. Instagram's free ride is official coming to an end. Users will start to see paid advertisements in their feed over the next couple weeks as Instagram introduces its "sponsored" photos.
Ads will take the form of full-sized photos in your stream, the only indication that an image is a paid ad will be a "sponsored" label on the top right corner. A few of the brands that will be the first to purchase Instagram ads are Ben & Jerry's, Burberry, General Electric, Lexus, Levi's, Macy's, Michael Kors, PayPal and Starwood.
Instagram will let you curate your ads like you did your feed. Like on Facebook, if you don't like the ad, you can tap the "..." icon and choose to remove it. This way, Instagram can directly target you with ads that you find to be least annoying (or most effective, depending on how you look at it.)
Instagram explained the changes in its blog:
If you’re in the United States, you’ll see the sample ad above sometime in the coming week. This is a one-time ad from the Instagram team that’s meant to give you a sense for the look and feel of the ads you will see.
[...]Our focus with every product we build is to make Instagram a place where people come to connect and be inspired. Building Instagram as a business will help us better serve the global—and ever growing—Instagram community, while maintaining the simplicity you know and love.
[...]As always, you own your own photos and videos. The introduction of advertising won’t change this. If you have other questions about how advertising on Instagram works, you can learn more here.
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