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Instagram’s New Explore Ads Launch

Instagram Dips Its Toe Into Search Engine Marketing With Explore Ads

Instagram has this week announced the launch of the latest addition to its rapidly growing ad business… Explore.

With over 500 million Instagrammers using Explore monthly, it was only a matter of time before the ads rolled out.

In fact, SMK blogged on the probable launch two months ago and has featured Explore heavily in courses and Live-streams throughout 2019.

Instagram Explore will be available as an ad placement within Facebook Ads Manager in the coming weeks/months.

As is often the case, it may be available as an ad placement on some ad objectives first, rather than all

A Search Engine By Another Name

Explore is, in a manner of speaking, Instagram’s visual search engine.

The gateway into finding engaging content, outside of those ’Grammers a user follows.

Although these days, industry folk prefer to talk of it as Instagram’s discovery feature.

Something repeated within other channels like Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.

To be fair, given Google’s dominance of ‘search’, redefining the category seems a sensible move.

Marketers like shiny new things and Social Discovery has a nice ring to it…

Instagram Explore Ads Won’t Be In Your Face

Explore drives 20% of Instagram app usage, according to Mark Zuckerberg, therefore opening up for commercial opportunities seems a smart move for all involved.

The launch strategy for Explore ads is an interesting one, with the platform resisting the temptation to shove ads directly into the Explore grid.

Instead, when a user opens the Explore tab it will look the same as usual. With Instagram serving up a grid of posts with high engagement, tailored to the user, based upon their interests/behaviour.

When the user taps on a post, they will first see that full-screen version of the original post, followed by a contextual feed of content similar, wherein it will insert photo and video ads.

Due to advances in machine learning, Instagram can extract meaning from an actual image. Therefore, the contextual feed should not just be drawing on copy/keywords, much like how visual search works within Pinterest and Google.

The Explore ads around this feed of contextual posts will also need to be contextually relevant, which throws up some interesting challenges on the creative front.

As per Google SEM, it may mean tailoring multiple creative iterations to boost relevancy/performance, rather than a more generic above the line, one-size-sits-all, approach to creative.  

The Rise Of Visual & ‘Queryless’ Search

Although Explore is ‘kind of’ a search engine, it is a search engine with a twist.

  • Explore results are currently visual and passive in nature
    • i.e. The user is often scrolling unpurposefully (probably out of habit or boredom), and Insta suggests content they might like and then sends the user down a rabbit-hole of discovery.
  • Google results, on the other hand, have historically been text heavy and with a stronger user intent
    • i.e. You search, and you get a result, based upon your intended purpose, for example, ‘cheap flights to London’.

Unlike traditional search, Explore marries two rapidly growing online trends:

  1. Visual search
  2. Queryless search

The rise of visual search has caught many unawares, given the marketing industry’s obsessions with voice search. However, in some ways, visual search is further along.

Likewise, visual search tends to be ‘queryless’ whereas traditional search needs keywords.

The rise of ‘queryless’ search is something which we covered in January, with the launch of Google’s 'Related Activity Cards', and will redefine search engine optimisation (SEO) in the coming years.

As such, the launch of Instagram Explore ads represents far more than just another Facebook ad placement.

Explore ads signal a significant evolution of search engine marketing, albeit, taking place in social channels….

 

 

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