Instagram's Hidden Advertisements

Instagram's Hidden Advertisements

So there was a big stink a few months ago when Instagram started using advertisements. I remember being angry and turned off when I saw an ad for whatever-it-was pop up in my feed (guess it didn't work). But that first ad is the only one I remember seeing, and I'm on Instagram more than I should be. As it turns out, Instagram is hiding those ads right in plain view. As it turns out, some big time Instagrammers with hundreds of thousand of followers get paid by companies to take photos and then tag that company in the photo. I wish that my old Brooklyn employer (and delicious cheese bar) Tuffet sponsored me to post the above photo and tag them, but such is not the case.

I've seen this many times, but I never really thought of it as an ad. Maybe it's just me, but if I see a photo of someone in jeans and the caption is "Looking great in my @levis" I'm not going to click on the @levis tag. It seems that some companies have a different view on this style of advertising, and they pay, probably big time, for people to tag them in photos.

Photographers like Michael O'Neal (@moneal) and Alice Gao (@alice_gao) have more than half a million followers, and most likely get paid big bucks to do these sly little ad campaigns in the middle of their Instagram feeds.

It's actually a genius way to advertise, and much less obtrusive than random adds popping up, so I can't complain. Especially when you can just unfollow whoever you want. Now if I could just get someone to sponsor my @reichbaum feed...

Story via Arts Technica

Log in or register to post comments


Sorry but who thought that these people with huge followings weren't being compensated for some of their photos?! Social media endorsements have been around for years, honestly I have no issue with this kind of advertisement because most people with a lot of followers value their following a lot and don't want to be too spammy or endorse something they don't actually think is pretty good.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Shocked it took this long for someone at Fstoppers to come to this news. There are a couple groups right now doing this, one being Mo's group with Tinker and then another with the Mobile Media Lab in NYC. Nothing new and its been going on since within the first few months of IG being around. I have been able to connect, meet and even become friends with some of these "big IG users" that have tens of thousands of followers which is really cool. In the end they are simply innovators in the industry that have found a great market and an even greater platform to push their own photography work to large brands that they had always dreamed of working with. If you guys at Fstoppers what a real scoop on the entire side of this mobile photography world and how these guys are making literally thousands per post hit me up. I would love to write for you guys and possibly push this sites views into the backdoors of the "iPhoneography" world as much as I hate that term because its simply photography but would love to work together and I am sure I can get some of the guys I have connected with to get on board to do some interviews and tutorials or something on tips and tricks on truly using Instagram as a powerful marketing tool for any business. I also have a couple connections at Instagram that I am sure we can get in on interviews to talk about their work and community outreach to create what I think is one of the greatest social media and community building platforms in the world. //cc: @the_gris (Instagram and Twitter)

YUP.... I'd say I agree with 70% of what you have up here. This isn't new news by any means. It's been happening for at least a year.

Where I think we disagree is on the assessment of many of these people being innovators. Most are posting the same photos as each other and just sticking to a formula, one that definitely works, but still not that innovative. And many as well are simply getting famous off of the fame of their IG friends... Truly unique personalities are out there, but I see very few. The innovation I see is culturing the opportunity to work with big brands and create novel content and events/meetups for a truly social experience, say the GE geek out photo contest...

Agree with Andrew below, and I'm totally going to be that person that says I wrote about that and here is that link: (it's a bit dramatized but the point is there.) There's an entire community of igers discussing this for some time now. It's a marketing marvel, quite ingenious and a innovative use of the tool- no argument there. It's simple product placement. And if the igers doing it are ok with that, then more power to them... but be transparent about it. I'm glad it's getting renewed notice. Let's keep the discussion going. There's a lot going on here. I just think there should be transparency in the fact that these people are marketing on their feeds and actually pitching their massive follower counts as a selling point. Where the issue arises, as I see it, is when Instagram continues to promote certain people (pretty much guaranteeing several thousand new followers each week — and therefore an increasing potential audience for those igers to present to brands as that selling point)... I think it's great that IG has a rotating suggested user base, but again some users have been on that list for years, in that sense having 500K followers doesn't seem so outlandish. Not saying they aren't innovators in mobile photography and marketing. But just to put things into perspective, when you get followed by Instagram, the base follow is for 2 weeks, which attracts on average, 10K new followers each week. Do the math... I'm speaking from both experience and research. That's a lotta enchilada...