Prepare For Instagram Marketing To Become Pay-To-Play

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instagram marketing pay to play

“Prepare for Instagram marketing to become pay-to-play.” I’ve said this to clients and friends alike since Facebook bought the visual platform back in 2012 for one billion dollars.

We only need to look to Facebook to understand the path that Instagram is sure to go down.

And many marketers are starting to take notice.

First up, here are the reasons you should formulate a plan to pay-to-play on Instagram.


Instagram Marketing = Safe Bet

We’re all familiar with Instagram’s growth. Even my generation (Gen X) uses the platform.

According to ClearVoice, Instagram growth looks like this, by generation

  • Gen X: Slight growth
  • Millennials: Moderate growth
  • Gen Z: Significant growth

Reading between the lines, this means that if your brand is marketing to any of the above-listed generations you should consider using Instagram marketing as a part of your social strategy.

And if you’re targeting the younger generations, this is the place to be.

With filters, stories, and now IGTV, younger generations are surely going to continue to spend their time there.


Much like Facebook, Instagram has an algorithm that helps the platform show users content they’ll most likely engage with.

This means your IG feed isn’t solely based on who you follow but includes what you like and comment on.

For instance, even if you followed the exact same accounts as I did, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts; our feeds will likely look completely different.

90% of posts you see are from what Instagram calls your “friends and family.” 

And that one’s a biggie. This is a major clue that IG is following the Facebook model of slowly declining reach to get to pay-to-play.

Another factor of this new Insta algorithm is timelines. You may need to boost your posts when they’re time sensitive.

For example, if you’re having an event or promoting or a product at a specific time, you’ll want to consider advertising on Instagram.

Like Facebook, Instagram constantly recalibrates its algorithm, so it will take testing to figure out what works best for you.

Other Clues

In late September of 2017, Instagram boasted two million advertisers (up from one million advertisers back in March).

In comparison, Facebook hit similar numbers in February 2015, and since then the advertising giant has tripled its number of advertisers.

Though Instagram has not updated their advertiser numbers in over a year, an estimated 25 million businesses use Instagram.

And if that’s not enough to convince you that IG is headed towards Facebook’s pay-to-play model, consider the following facts and stats.


[Image Source]

Lastly, if you’re still skeptical, remember that Instagram is owned by Facebook.

I know it seems silly to tell you that, but seriously, most Americans still don’t even know that!

Pay-To-Play Is Inevitable

Looking back at how pay-to-play happened for Facebook, it’s easy to spot a similar pattern.

Facebook used algorithm updates to start stifling organic reach, which forced businesses to pay for the reach they needed for a return on their efforts.


[Image Source]

Think about it. Facebook and Instagram would be stupid to do anything that would thwart the popularity of the platform. So instead of charging crazy expensive (because we know ads becoming more expensive on Facebook), the company can just start decreasing reach on IG knowing that businesses will move to advertise to keep numbers up.

This genus “freemium” model worked for Facebook marketing, and it’s likely to be a boon for Instagram marketing, too.

Since businesses have already spent time and money gaining followers, reasonable advertising rates will practically be a no-brainer.

So, What Can You Do?

The next question you should be asking yourself is how to prepare.

For one, if you haven’t already dabbled in Instagram advertising, do so. We’ve done a lot of testing in 2018 and oftentimes are pleasantly surprised at how well our ads do.

A key highlight of the Facebook/Instagram merger was the addition of Instagram ads to the Facebook ads system. You can create Instagram ads through the Power Editor or through the ads manager.

In laymen’s terms, advertising is extremely user-friendly and simple to figure out.

So my advice is to one of two things

  • Spend your time elsewhere
  • Get familiar (and good!) with Instagram advertising; don’t be boring!

Have you already started using IG ads? What’s your prediction on the platform going pay-to-play? Let us know in the comments section below!


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Instagram
Tags: , Instagram, Instagram advertising, Instagram algorithm, Instagram marketing, pay to play
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