My favourite social media app is Instagram… was Instagram… (I don’t know anymore). I’m a visual person. I like seeing things. Show me something and I will probably remember it. Tell me something and I probably won’t. (Plenty of people say I don’t listen, so…)
Thing is, the money people at Instagram (Facebook) have ruined it for me. There are too many adverts. I get one advert in every six posts. Nearly all of them for things I don’t want. One in six is very intrusive. Imagine one-minute ad breaks after every five minutes of TV or radio. How long would you stick around?
This isn’t just ruining Instagram for me as a user. It is also ruining Instagram for my business, Show & Tell—and for every business. Instagram is a popular platform for businesses to place their content marketing, which is a service Show & Tell offers. The idea behind content marketing is that you put up posts your target audience finds entertaining, enlightening or empowering (or a combination of those) and they might follow you, and eventually buy from you. The key point is that users choose to opt in to your marketing.
Businesses can also pay Instagram to ram an advert into your feed, whether you want it or not. There is no choice. You are opted in—no permission asked, no escape possible.
The forced-opt-in earns Instagram a lot of money, so it’s understandable that it wants to fill feeds with as many adverts as it can squeeze in.
But in doing so, they are wrecking the experience for the user. Well, for me anyway. Personally, I can only bare to see the first 10 posts in my feed anymore. I can’t suffer to look any further, in case I’m given yet another advert for a wedding photographer or an online course on how to take photographs—both of which are just so mistargeted, I can’t bring myself to get into it…
I think a lot of people will start avoiding their Instagram feeds when they hit the 1-in-6 mark. Also, how high will Instagram push the ratio? 1 in 5? 4? 3? Parity? Maybe the ratio will swing the other way—in favour of adverts?
If Advertagram continues to make using the app less pleasant (enabled by deluded marketers who think shoving their often lazy, boring adverts into people’s eyeballs is a great idea), people will switch off. Why bother opening the app on your phone?
That’s bad for everyone. Nobody wins. Users lose a fun platform. Businesses that rely on content marketing lose their audience. Businesses like mine that produce content marketing for clients lose a valuable platform. Businesses that paid to ruin Advertagram with their useless adverts lose their hostages. And Advertagram itself eventually loses its revenue stream as everyone goes off somewhere else to repeat the whole cycle again.
I don’t think social media platforms care about their users. I do think they care about money. It’s even fair that they care about money. Running a social media platform is expensive. Someone has to pay for that. It’s only fair that the users should. For me, the solution is simple:
I would pay for an advert-free Instagram.
I’d even pay as much as €0.99/month.
Instagram announced it had reached 800 million users in September last year. Let’s take that figure. If only 10% of those people were willing to pay for an ad-free Instagram and the rest abandoned the platform, they’d pay €80 million to Instagram. That’s close to €1 billion annually. Sustainable? You’d think so.
There is a big ‘But’. I couldn’t find any figures for Instagram’s earnings (they appear to be wrapped up in the profits of the Facebook mothership), but I the platform probably makes more than €1 billion a year through advertising. So Advertagram has no incentive to change.
Facebook is publicly listed and stock markets are ruled by short-term sentiment. Listed companies need to post quarterly profits (preferably larger than the last quarter) to keep their share price healthy. These aren’t conditions that favour a long-term plan based on an ad-free subscription model. Nor do they bode well for any kind of plan that recognises just how horrible advertising is making the platform. That’s a problem for the next quarter, not this one. Always the next quarter. By the time they realise next quarter’s problem is a problem for this quarter, it could be too late.
Question. Would you pay for an ad-free version of a social media platform you loved?
Final comment. If you search, you’ll find plenty of online advice put up in 2017 about how to permanently rid your Instagram feed of adverts. Simply report a bunch of them as inappropriate, preferably offensive. Then ads will stop appearing in your feed. I think Advertagram has got wise to that. It hasn’t worked for me so far.